STEVEN GERRARD has branded the Academy players who joined his pre-season training camp in Spain as ‘fantastic.’

Matty Shiels, Serge Atakayi, Aidan Wilson, Glenn Middleton, Zak Rudden and Stephen Kelly have all played their part in the first-team preparations for their new campaign in the Spanish sunshine.

And boss Gerrard has been delighted by the contribution they have made.

Speaking to RangersTV in Spain, he said: “They have been fantastic. They have been professional, they have given everything they have got and I am really excited by a few of them too.

“I think some of them will have a part to play in the short, medium and long-term, but in terms of all of them, we are delighted with what they have given.

“It is probably their first tough pre-season, and it has been tough. There have been days where we have had to pull one or two of them out and leave them to the side to let them catch their breath.

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“But they will be in a better place for this pre-season tactically and also physically. Craig Mulholland, if he gets any of these players in the coming months, he should see a difference in their fitness levels but also in their quality as well as they have been around good players.”

Gerrard is very much looking forward to returning to Glasgow now to seeing what the rest of the Academy has to offer, and added: “In time we will watch the games, watch the training and we will get regular updates from Craig and his staff on how they are doing.

“We have had six really good ones with us here and I have a bit of thinking to do in terms if I keep a few of them around the first team squad.

“That is something my staff and I will discuss over the next few days when we debrief the whole trip, but there are one or two of them really knocking on the door to be a part of the first-team squad, and that is what I am really happy about.”

For the squad traveling back to Glasgow, Gerrard has outlined how the next week or-so is shaping up for them

“It is important we now give the players a bit of time,” he said. “They have been away doing double sessions and it has been intense, and I think it is important they go home, see their families, see their kids and enjoy a bit of free-time.

“So we will give them a day or two to gather their thoughts and then on Friday, we are back on it and we go again.

“Now it starts for real. The in-house game we played [in Spain] was Rangers v Rangers, and that’s difficult as players know each other and know tactically what each side is going to do.

“We had two makeshift back fours, so it is very important we don’t take too much out of the game. I think against Bury, we get going for real, and the players are starting now to really play for their positions.

“It is important they bring their best over the next week as you don’t want to be left behind – the squad is too big for that.”

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