Steven Gerrard lays 'gauntlet down' for Rangers players to make their pre-season mark against Partick Thistle

Rangers manager Steven Gerrard has challenged his academy players to seize their chance this month to follow the example of Nathan Patterson and graduate to his first team squad.

Steven Gerrard, manager of Rangers. (Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images)
Steven Gerrard, manager of Rangers. (Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images)

Several of the Ibrox club’s youth prospects have joined Gerrard’s senior professionals for pre-season training and some could feature in the Scottish champions’ opening friendly match against Partick Thistle at Firhill on Monday night.

The standard has been set by 19-year-old right-back Patterson whose first team breakthrough with Rangers last season saw him included in Scotland’s squad for the Euro 2020 finals.

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Those seeking to emulate him include highly-regarded 17-year-old defender Leon King and 20-year-old midfielder Stephen Kelly who are among the group of academy players Gerrard has involved in his pre-season plans.

Niko Katic. (Picture: SNS)

“We are throwing the ball in their court,” said Gerrard who wants to see “energy, personality and quality” from his younger players.

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“The gauntlet is down to them to show that they can handle themselves around top players, around players that have just won a championship.

“We will look after them in everything we do and we will be there to support them, but this is a perfect opportunity, like most pre-seasons are, to see half a dozen academy kids get an opportunity around the big players and the big personalities in our group.

“You see quite quickly whether they can handle it, it is a sink or swim situation and, to be fair to them, they have handled it ever so well (so far).”

Nikola Katic, the Croatian central defender who missed all of last season with a serious knee injury, is back in full training but his return to action, along with that of midfielder Ryan Jack who had surgery to repair a long-standing calf issue, may be delayed until later in the month.

“It’s important to be patient now and make sure we manoeuvre everyone through week one,” Gerrard told Rangers TV. “The majority will be involved in the first game against Partick Thistle but we’ll be careful with one or two.

“They could play if it was an important game but because it’s game one of pre-season, sometimes you take the more cautious approach with one or two and that’s the reason why one or two won’t be seen against Partick.”

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