What happened in Steven Gerrard’s first behind-closed-doors match as Rangers boss

Steven Gerrard has made the fitness levels of his new players at Rangers his number one priority ahead of his debut season in charge of the Scottish giants.

The Liverpool legend, who was appointed Rangers’ new manager in May, believes Celtic’s superior fitness is one of the main reasons they’ve finished to win seven league titles in a row.

Subsequently, the Rangers players have been subjected to a gruelling pre-season over the past couple of weeks.

“This is the hardest pre-season I have ever had, it is the first I have had where you just run and don’t touch the ball,” Daniel Candeias was quoted as saying by the Daily Record last month. “It is good for the physical resistance for the season coming up. I am so tired!

“Now is the time to work hard but the players are really enjoying the first few days with the new coaches.”

Josh Windass echoed his teammate’s sentiments: “It’s the toughest first day I’ve ever hard back in football. The coaching staff are pushing us every single day to get a lot fitter.

“I think we’re in quite good shape already. I think the lads are still really tired with all the runs that we’re doing, but hopefully if we keep doing them we’ll get a lot fitter and a lot better.”

Gerrard’s players take on Bury this Friday in their first official pre-season friendly – although they have already played their first game under their new manager.

Rangers took on Welsh champions The New Saints in a behind-closed-doors friendly at the Hummel Training Centre on Tuesday and Gerrard, per the Daily Record, issued a “go and impress me” challenge to his new charges ahead of the Europa League qualifier against FK Shkupi on July 12.

The result? A 3-1 victory for the Gers, with Serge Atakayi, Jamie Murphy and Ross McCrorie all getting themselves on the scoresheet.

The match provided opportunities for youngsters Glenn Middleton and Zak Rudden, plus new signings Connor Goldson, Nikola Katic and Jon Flanagan.

However, it was an inauspicious start for Gerrard’s men, who went 1-0 down in the first minute when Dean Ebbe headed past Jak Alnwick from close range.

Atakayi equalised three minutes later, however, and Rangers went on to record a 3-1 victory over their Welsh opponents.

A positive start for Gerrard, then, who will be largely encouraged by what he saw from his players.