'It's his main job': Steven Gerrard on Jermaine Defoe's coaching influence with Fashion Sakala and 'stand-out' Cedric Itten
There's still work to be done yet on the forward, a summer signing from Oostende, but the early signs are promising – just like the pre-season indicators from fellow striker Cedric Itten.
Neither are the finished article, but each willing to learn the manager has said at various times of the respective Rangers careers and Gerrard has just the right man to make them better, in an ideal master and apprentice scenario. Retaining Jermain Defoe as a player coach could reap dividends for Rangers this season.
The veteran limped off against Arsenal last week and suffered injuries for spells last season, but he’s still available to be called upon when fit – and when needed to step into the striking boots of those whose skills he is honing on the training field. Helping the likes of Sakala and Itten improve is “the main job for Jermaine,” Gerrard told Rangers TV.
"We want him first and foremost as a player because he can still do those bits of magic himself and be a big help over the course of a season. But I am no expert in the striking department and neither is Michael Beale or Gary McAllister. We can help and support but we have got an absolute expert around the box, we've got an expert who has done it for many, many years and if he can be a help to us as a staff then that's the reason I want him alongside us.”
The able master has a willing apprentice. Smiling Sakala has pleased his new manager and found the net against Real Madrid on his first start in front of a growing crowd at Ibrox. More will filter in against Livingston as the season begins on Saturday lunchtime and the early signs have been good.
"There is still loads to come in terms of fitness, getting him up to speed and the information we are giving him but one thing that I will say for him as he is coming with an incredible attitude. He has been bright, wanting to learn and pick up every bit of information – he is smiling, enjoying it and he is grateful to be here.
“He’s been an absolute pleasure to work with and you can see he is exciting. We still need to help him and polish the diamond but hopefully he will go on to become the player that we expect.”
Another shining light this pre-season has been Cedric Itten who hit the winner against Carlo Ancelotti’s side after six goals last season – mostly from the bench.
“He's probably been the stand-out attacking player over the pre-season,” added Gerrard. “He has been available for the most minutes and hasn't missed a training session and seems more settled in the city now that he and his girlfriend can get about and socialise a bit more. You can see that in his training performances and his playing minutes. He has scored three goals and he certainly looks ready.”