Scott Arfield was so impressed by Steven Gerrard that a photograph of him and the Anfield legend took pride of place in his home in West Yorkshire.
Gerrard was quite literally Arfield’s idol. Now the 29-year-old wants to be one of his leaders on the field having become the first signing of the Gerrard era at Rangers.
It was Mark Allen, the Ibrox club’s director of football, who instigated the recruitment of the midfielder, who helped Burnley to seventh place in the Premier League and qualification for next season’s Europa League having spent five years at Turfmoor.
However, he was personally welcomed by the new Ibrox manager, over the phone, yesterday and feels he is the first piece in what could be a dynamic re-birth of the club.
“It is just an absolute dream,” Arfield said. “If you talk to any midfielder, everyone wants to be like that [Gerrard]. He was my hero, his driving from midfield. I was fortunate enough to play against him and getting that different aspect of off-the-field advice now as well as the on-the-field experience can only enhance you as a player and a person.”
“It was at Turf Moor,” he added, referring to the picture. “I’m sure it was Raheem Sterling that scored and we lost 1-0. I was given a picture of it afterwards and I put it up in the house.
“He was tackling me and I was jumping out of the way!
“Of course there is pride that I am his first signing,
“Obviously, with someone with his credentials coming up here, it’s so much more appealing for players to come up to this league. I hope to soak up as much as I can from Steven Gerrard. I will listen to everything he and his staff tell me and hopefully take it all in and take things to the next level.
“He is easily in the top two or three players that have been in my generation. It’s great that he had green-lighted the signing – I’m buzzing.”
Arfield left Falkirk for Huddersfield Town eight years ago before joining Burnley in 2013 where he won promotion to the Premier League twice.
He said: “I’m coming back as a natural leader. When I went down there I was almost like a wee boy. If you can’t handle the expectation at a club like this then it’s not for you but I believe that I can do that.
“Mates of mine have played at Rangers and I have current mates here like Graham Dorrans and Jamie Murphy so I know the level of expectation and responsibility. I’m ready for it and I hope it’s as successful as my time in England.”
The Canadian international feels it is written in the stars that Rangers will meet Burnley in Europe in a matter of months, such is the karma of football. The Lancashire side will enter the competition at a later stage but Arfield would love to come up against his former club.
He said: “It would be unbelievable, wouldn’t it? I feel it is inevitable. It is one of those things in football. It is the only profession where you think these things are going to happen. First of all, though, we have to get through that first tie when it comes around. That is where our focus will be and we have to do that to make it a possibility. But if it happens? They probably thought they had seen the back of me but I’ll be back waving a few weeks later.”
Just as he did at Burnley, Arfield will wear the No 37 shirt at Rangers in recognition of his late friend Craig Gowans, who had that number when the pair of them were youngsters together at Falkirk. Gowans, pictured, died in tragic circumstances in 2005 at the age of 17 when training poles he was carrying hit electrical cables.
Arfield said: “I spoke to Craig’s family, his siblings and his mum and dad. They were ecstatic that I still want to take that on.
“I feel as if when I wear it there is a sentimental factor that kind of gives you a peace of mind. You feel as if your mate is looking down and you are carrying on things not just for you, but also Craig’s legacy as well as his family.”
Gerrard expressed his satisfaction that the first deal of his reign had been completed. He told the Rangers web site: “I am delighted to have added Scott Arfield to the squad for next season. He is a talented and competitive midfielder who has competed at a high level in the English Premiership and internationally for Canada.
“It’s pleasing also that we have been able to start our rebuilding process so quickly after the end of the season. There is much more to be done of course as we look to build towards our Europa League campaign which will start in early July.
“Scott is the first one in and I look forward to working with him and the others who will be coming in to strengthen the squad.”