BURY players have endured a gruelling start to pre-season as manager Ryan Lowe bids to draw a line under last season’s relegation.

The Shakers returned to the fourth tier after a dismal campaign saw them finish bottom of League One.

Lowe was then named Bury’s permanent manager and has set about overhauling the personnel and the mentality at Gigg Lane.

The players reported back for training last Thursday, having only Sunday off, and have already done hill runs around Heaton Park and a session at Amir Khan’s Gloves ABC gym in Bolton.

Club captain Stephen Dawson said: “From day one up to now, it’s probably been one of the toughest pre-seasons I’ve done.

“I had to stay fit over the summer and I’m glad I did because I tell you what, there were no hiding places for the first couple of days.

“The gaffer’s message has basically been to forget about everything from last season – what went on off the pitch and on it.

“We’ve got to put it right and the only way we’re going to win back the trust of everyone is to start it off well.

“With the friendlies coming up, they’re some great pre-season games to be involved in and we’re looking forward to the season ahead.”

Lowe’s friendship with Liverpool legend Steven Gerrard saw him ensure Bury are the opponents for Gerrard’s first game as Rangers manager tomorrow – and Lowe’s first as permanent boss.

The Shakers travel to Ibrox, where a large crowd is expected for the Gers’ only official friendly before hosting Macedonian side FK Shkupi in the Europa League next Thursday.

“It’s great to go to a stadium like Ibrox,” said Dawson. “There could be the best part of 30,000 there, I believe we’re taking a load of fans as well, so it probably won’t feel like a pre-season game.

“We just want to enjoy the occasion and test ourselves against some good players.

“Rangers will probably be ahead of us in terms of fitness because they’ve got the Europa League next week.

“But it’s pre-season so win, lose or draw, it doesn’t matter. It’s all geared to being fit and ready for Yeovil on the opening day.”

Bury then host Premier League clubs Huddersfield (July 10), Liverpool (July 14) and Everton (July 18) in the space of eight days.

Lowe trimmed his squad further this week by offloading another of the players that joined on a two-year contract last summer and started the opening game of last season.

After Chris Maguire left for Sunderland last week, midfielder Callum Reilly has signed a two-year contract with League One Gillingham, where he ended last season on loan.

Out-of-contract left-back Greg Leigh had been offered a new deal but the 23-year-old has turned it down to join Dutch top-flight side NAC Breda on a three-year contract.