NIKOLA KATIC is 'desperate' to prove himself for Rangers this season after watching Steven Gerrard's side clinch a historic Premiership title from the sidelines.

The 24-year-old suffered a serious cruciate knee ligament injury last summer and was ruled out of the entire campaign as Rangers ultimately ended their decade-long wait for top flight silverware.

Katic has taken part in the first week of pre-season as Gerrard puts his players through their paces and continues his preparations for Rangers' title defence and return to the Champions League.

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And the Croatian stopper is determined to make up for lost time this term as he thanks his Ibrox team-mates for their help and support during a difficult year out of action.

Katic told RangersTV: "It has been such a long time out of the team and struggling with a really tough injury, but I am really happy that all of that is behind me now and I am ready to go with the team again.

"They were great, honestly, and I am very grateful for the staff, the medical, the team-mates, everyone was really good with me. They all knew that I was facing a really tough time but the club always tried to find the way to help me, to get me in a positive mind and connect me with my family.

"We all know it was really difficult last season. They always did their best to try and make me happy and I will always be grateful for that.

"In one side it was really difficult and painful to watch and not be part of that as much as you want to be.

"On the other side, I was truly happy for the team. I am already three years with them and I know how much effort they put in every day and how hard they work.

"I was really happy for them to achieve that and it was no more than they deserved.

"I am desperate, honestly, I am desperate [to get back playing]. I lost 12 months with my injury and now I am so desperate to play and so excited.

"Honestly, I am giving 24 hours per day to be as ready as possible to help the team and to prove to the manager, prove to the fans how ready I am."

Katic embarked on a gruelling rehabilitation programme during his time out and has returned to action in enhanced physical shape as he looks to make his mark at Ibrox this term.

The defender would spend time back in his homeland during the campaign and former Gers star Nikica Jelavic has been a source of encouragement throughout his recovery process.

Katic said: "Nikica is a really good friend of mine and every time I go to Zagreb I see him there.

"He always praised Rangers, he said it was the best club he played for ever, and we all know he played with really good clubs in his career.

"He always praised the fans and he said he really enjoyed his time here when they won the league.

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"He always tried to give me some advice on how to act here, how to play. We have a really good connection.

"It is good, in one side it is really good to have that [Croatian connection with Rangers]. In the other side, when I arrived and saw the names that were here before me, it puts you under some kind of pressure and you have to prove yourself the way they proved themselves here.

"But obviously we have a really good connection with Scotland and Croatian players enjoy it here. So do I."