THE focus for Steven Gerrard was all on the here and now as Rangers eased to a friendly victory over Lokomotiv Trashkent.

But there was a glimpse into the future for the Ibrox boss and the couple of thousand Gers fans that turned out at the Sevens Stadium in Dubai.

As matches go, it was all fairly low key as Rangers ran out comfortable 6-1 winners against the Uzbekistan Super League champions. The level of the opposition was modest, but it was a useful exercise as Rangers returned to action at the end of a demanding week on the training pitch.

Under dark skies and with a cold wind swirling around the stands, Rangers stepped up their preparations for the second half of the campaign. It is one that could deliver the title everyone at Ibrox has coveted for so long.

Three of the players on show are unlikely to play any part in that challenge but their respective appearances in the Middle East were proof of their progress to date and their potential for the future.

Nathan Patterson started the match and played the first 45 minutes, while James Maxwell and Kai Kennedy replaced James Tavernier and Ryan Kent just seconds after they had combined for Rangers’ fourth goal of the afternoon.

Striker Dapo Mebude, who made his first team debut at Kilmarnock at the end of last season, was also due to get another run out but a throat infection confined him to the team hotel while the Gers made the trip to the facility on the outskirts of Dubai.

Patterson has long been thought of as a kid with a real chance of making the grade at Ibrox and it is clear to see why given his physical stature and approach to the game.

He never shirked a challenge and was always looking to drive forward - both down the line and into more central areas - from his right-back berth.

Patterson signed a new deal that will keep him at Ibrox until 2022 last month and the 18-year-old could soon be pushing for a place in Gerrard’s first team squad.

There are high hopes for Maxwell, too. Able to operate at left-back or further forward, he has also recently committed his future to Rangers as he continues to grab the opportunity presented to him following his exit from Falkirk when the Bairns scrapped their youth department in 2017.

He was steady in the minutes he had on the park and more first team action will surely follow.

The same can be said of Kennedy. He is diminutive in size but plays with confidence and he showed some nice touches as the game developed more of an edge in the closing stages.

All three that featured on Saturday - and Lewis Mayo and Kieran Wright, who also travelled with the squad to the Middle East - are not ready for the demands of first team life at Ibrox just yet. But there will be further chances for them to catch Gerrard’s eye as he involves the best of the Academy kids in training sessions on a daily basis.

“I want to give them these opportunities because they are pushing really strong in the development team,” Gerrard said after the friendly victory. “They have had a decent week and I think it is very important for them to see how top players behave on and off the pitch and how they go about it.

“So for them to be around Davis, Defoe and Arfield has been invaluable for them all week and they deserve their little cameos today. But you can see they have still got development to do, they are still in boys bodies, if you like, and they still have to become men. But that experience and that little taste of it will do them the world of good.”

The investment - both in time and money - in the Academy has been significant in recent times as facilities have been upgraded at the Hummel Training Centre and staff have been added to aid the progression of those Rangers hope will make the grade.

Sporting Director Ross Wilson watched the action unfold at the Sevens and will oversee the development of the next generation of Ibrox stars. Rangers need them to shine sooner rather than later.

The talent is certainly there but the timing is always the difficult part when it comes to young players.

Rangers are heavily represented in Scotland youth squads, while the Development League and Under-18s title were won last term. In the Youth League, Atletico Madrid await after wins over Young Boys and Slovan Bratislava.

Rangers are rightly hopeful about their prospects of success this term. But they can also be optimistic about what lies ahead in the future.