'He's an incredible human being' - Steven Gerrard on why Rangers player needed time before making his mark for Scottish champions

It wasn’t until Steven Gerrard made the 5000 mile relocation from Liverpool to Los Angeles at the end of his own on-field career that he fully appreciated the time it can take for foreign players to become accustomed to an unfamiliar environment.

Rangers striker Fashion Sakala battles with Brondby captain Andreas Maxso during the Europa League match between the teams at Ibrox a fortnight ago. (Photo by ANDY BUCHANAN/AFP via Getty Images)
Rangers striker Fashion Sakala battles with Brondby captain Andreas Maxso during the Europa League match between the teams at Ibrox a fortnight ago. (Photo by ANDY BUCHANAN/AFP via Getty Images)

So the Rangers manager had no problem in having to wait three months before starting to see the best of Fashion Sakala.

The Zambian international striker’s hat-trick in last Sunday’s 6-1 win at Motherwell saw him match the kind of positive impact which Gerrard says he has made off the pitch ever since joining his squad from Belgian club Oostende in the summer.

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Gerrard feels it is an object lesson in why too much can be expected too soon from players arriving from overseas.

Rangers manager Steven Gerrard hugs Fashion Sakala in celebration after the striker scored a hat-trick in the 6-1 win over Motherwell at Fir Park on Sunday. (Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images)

“Just be a little bit patient with certain individuals, that’s how we need to be with them,” said Gerrard. “I think we can all underestimate how difficult it is to settle in a new country.

“I played for my local team, lived at home with my family in Liverpool for the majority of my career. It wasn’t until I went to LA and maybe tried a different experience, or maybe I was away with England, that it was different because you’re not in your comfort zone, if you like.

“Fashion was living in Belgium and he’s coming to a different country again. He came without his family, his family are now on the way. We’ve had some visa and passport issues with that. These are the little things that people on the outside don’t see, through no fault of their own.

“The good thing about Rangers is we have the right people who can give them support on and off the pitch. You do have to be patient and give these people enough time to feel at home and feel comfortable.

“It’s important that you don’t throw them in at the wrong time because you can also ruin someone if you throw them in at the deep end and they’re not ready, not settled, and not used to how you play, or the environment. Sometimes it can be too soon.

“Fashion is an incredible human being. The way he has come into the club, his smile and demeanour, his attitude and energy, has lifted the whole place.

“We needed time to get him settled and used to us. We needed to get used to him. The signs are he is really starting to find his feet here at Rangers. He is a really exciting one for everyone to watch moving forward.”

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Sakala could have a key role to play in Thursday’s Europa League match against Brondby in Denmark as Gerrard looks to the 24-year-old to provide variety to his team’s work in the final third of the pitch.

“That’s the reason we made that addition to our squad,” added Gerrard. “It was an area where we felt we needed something different, something we could polish up and develop. Someone who could add a real strength to our attacking play with that raw pace, power and unpredictability.

“There will be plenty of opportunities for Fashion. We are really starting to see his strengths, his consistency from a training point of view. It was no surprise he put in the performance he did at the weekend.”

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