IT is a summer of opportunity at Ibrox. It is one that Zak Rudden is determined to make the most of under the guidance of Steven Gerrard.

The Liverpool legend will put his squad through their paces for the first time on Friday as the Light Blues return to pre-season action. Rudden has already been racking up the hours, though.

The striker was an integral part of the Under-20 side that produced polished performances, and earned eye-catching results, during their Games Programme last term.

Read more: Working with Peter Lovenkrands has been the best thing to happen to me at Rangers, says Ibrox kid Zak Rudden​

Now he has his sights set on a place in Gerrard’s Ibrox blueprint. For Rudden, the first impression could lead to the first team.

“I have been doing a lot by myself at a park near my house and I have been in at the training ground when there have been sessions on,” he told SportTimes.

“I want to show that I am willing to work and make sure I improve. We are due back on Friday and I am hoping to go away to Spain with the squad so I am really looking forward to it.

“I had two weeks off and then I have been working hard, going out in the mornings and at night and doing some runs and going to the gym. I need to be in the best shape possible.

“I need to work hard and stand out and show the manager that I am capable of playing in the first team.

“We have an amazing opportunity to learn from someone like the manager but you need to take it as he is just another boss as well.

“You can’t get uptight and think ‘that is Steven Gerrard’. He is the manager and I need to impress him.”

With the clock ticking towards the Europa League qualifiers and new Premiership campaign, time is of the essence for Gerrard as he looks to hit the ground running.

His forays into the transfer market have been productive so far but the coming days will see Gers careers end as well as start as a number of players are told they have no future at Ibrox.

Read more: Rangers set to rename Murray Park after Hummel deal

Attacking reinforcements will arrive sooner rather than later but Rudden hopes the former Liverpool youth boss will cast an eye over the Auchenhowie Academy as well.

“The manager will bring players but I am fine with that and I need to rise to that challenge,” he said. “I need to prove that he doesn’t need to bring a player in in my position.

“The youth boys know that he will look at our level because of the background that he has and that is very positive for us all.

“If it doesn’t work for me this year then I have still got next year. But I want to be around the first team, I want to show what I can do and have the manager make a decision on me.

“If it is not right for me to be in the first team then I might need to go and get first team experience on loan.

“I would be disappointed if I never got in but I have still got time to improve. I am only 18 and I know where I need to work on my game and where I need to get better.”

Rudden is one of a handful of Auchenhowie prospects that are knocking on the first team door at Ibrox but the challenge of making the breakthrough is as tough as ever.

In pictures: Steven Gerrard arrives at Rangers training ground

Few of those that have made the transition in recent years have been strikers as, for some reason, Rangers have struggled to produce homemade forwards.

But Rudden, who has been capped at various youth levels for Scotland, is determined to buck the trend and hit the goal trail for the Gers.

He said: “I want to be the first person to seal it because it has been a long time.

“It has been midfielders or defenders that have come through, there haven’t been many strikers.

“I want to be the first in a long time to come through. I started when I was nine so it has been a long time but I never thought I would be in the position that I am today.

“When I first started, I wanted to get full-time. Now I want to make my debut and keep progressing.

“I haven’t had the opportunity yet but now I feel I am in a better position than I have ever been before and I want to make the most of that chance.”

It will take time for Gerrard to fully familiarise himself with his new squad and his new surroundings but he has already seen some of his players in action at close hand.

He led his Reds kids to a 4-1 win at Ibrox in October as Rangers hosted their Anfield counterparts in a friendly.

The Light Blues did not take part in the Development League last term as they lined up a series of matches with top teams from England and Europe.

Read more: Working with Peter Lovenkrands has been the best thing to happen to me at Rangers, says Ibrox kid Zak Rudden​

And the progression over the course of the season was clear to see as the likes of Bayern Munich, Villarreal and Valencia were beaten.

Rudden said: “It did help and you could see the progression in the performances and the results over the course of the season.

“At the start, we were drawing or losing games and by the end we were winning a lot. I felt it helped my development a lot playing against quicker and smarter defenders and it helped me realise what I need to do to outsmart them.

“The one for me is Leicester. We got beat 6-1 at Ibrox and then went down there later on and beat them 6-0 and battered them.

“We deserved to beat them and really outplayed them all over the park and that showed how far we have come over the season.”

*Rangers Academy striker Zak Rudden is pictured promoting the Rangers Youth Development Company.

Since 2002 RYDC profits have been directed to Rangers Football Club’s youth programme - with more than £7.5 million provided in the last 16 years. RYDC also donated £250,000 to the Rangers Academy in January.

For full details on their portfolio of products – Rangers Lotto, Rising Stars, Scratchcards, Stadium Bricks and the Youth Members Club - or call 0141 427 4914.