COMING through the ranks at Watford provided new Rangers recruit Rob Kiernan with a glimpse of English football at its most glittering. Pity for him is that he had to gaze at the glamour through a fence.
Watford’s training ground formerly was home to Arsenal, and it backs on to the plush centre in the Hertfordshire village of London Colney now used by Arsene Wenger’s squad. “I used to peak over and try to watch. I used to kick the ball over to go round,” the 24-year-old centre-back joked this week.
Kiernan endured a stop-start, start-somewhere-else-on-loan, existence in three years contracted to the Vicarage Road club, which gave way to four years with Wigan, from where he has decamped to Ibrox. Yet, despite nine loan spells dotted across the past five years, he cherishes one aspect of his early years with his hometown club. That is working with Brendan Rodgers, who had a seven-month spell in charge of the club that ended in June 2009.
“He actually gave me my debut at Watford,” said Kiernan. “He was a really good manager and I enjoyed working for him. Brendan was so detailed. Things you probably wouldn’t even think about, like your rest period on the stop watch. It would be like ‘you have 18 seconds to rest now’. It was all so detailed, every touch, every pass had to be perfect. Every manager is kind of the same but I think he was a bit different because he was so detailed and articulate.
“I was there as a youngster but unfortunately there has been a takeover now [the Pozzi family assuming control in 2012] which kind of restricts the young players coming through. But I owe everything really to them. I have moved around quite a lot and just tried to pick up what I can but Watford was brilliant.”
His time with Watford also brought him into contact with John Eustace. Rangers manager Mark Warburton had the 35-year-old midfielder in Scotland for talks this week as he seeks to persuade him to be senior counterbalance to – what is expected to be – largely a team of players in their early 20s. “John Eustace is a brilliant player,” added Kiernan. “He was Derby captain, and obviously has loads of experience.
“The gaffer is keen to get him in the building for his experience and his role in the team, and I think that would be really good in the changing room. A bit like Davie Weir, who has been there and done it. These kind of guys can offer something which youngsters might not be able to because they have got that head on them. Everyone can contribute in different ways.”