Jermain Defoe hails 'special' Rangers dressing room as he begins player-coach role with Scottish champions

As he starts his 22nd season as a senior professional footballer, Jermain Defoe’s enthusiasm remains as keen as it was when he scored on his debut as a 17-year-old for West Ham United.

Jermain Defoe finishes off a fine individual goal to complete the scoring in Rangers' 4-1 win over Celtic at Ibrox on May 2. (Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images)
Jermain Defoe finishes off a fine individual goal to complete the scoring in Rangers' 4-1 win over Celtic at Ibrox on May 2. (Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images)

Now just three months away from his 39th birthday, the veteran striker will start his new role as player-coach with Rangers when they kick off their schedule of pre-season friendlies against Partick Thistle at Firhill on Monday night.

Defoe’s storied career has taken him on a journey from West Ham to stops at Tottenham, Portsmouth, Toronto, Sunderland and Bournemouth with 57 caps for England along the way.

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But he regards his time at Ibrox, which began on an initial loan deal in January 2019 and saw him become a permanent member of Steven Gerrard’s squad which secured the Premiership title for Rangers last season, as the most satisfying he has known.

Jermain Defoe celebrating when Rangers clinched the Premiership title in March. (Photo by Ross MacDonald / SNS Group)

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“I’ve been in many dressing rooms but I think this one is special at Rangers,” said Defoe. “I think what the manager and the club have done and the people they have brought into the club, they are all good characters and we have young players who want to learn and improve.

“We have players who know the importance of playing for this football club and who want to buy into how we play, in and out of possession. Credit to the manager and the recruitment has been fantastic.”

Rangers’ 55th domestic title win was the first of Defoe’s career and he cherishes the memories of a season which also saw him score in an Old Firm match for the first time.

Jermain Defoe (Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images)

“It is very pleasing because winning silverware was one of the main reasons that I came here,” he told Champions, Rangers’ official souvenir magazine.

“When I sat down with the manager, he spoke about the main objective which was to obviously win the league title.

“It’s been many years for Rangers to have to wait and 55 league titles is something that we spoke about in that initial meeting.

“As soon as he said that to me, I wanted to be a part of it. I knew that to do that together would be special and we’ve managed to do it. I can’t put into words how much it means to me.

Rangers boss Steven Gerrard has recently been linked with a move to Everton. Picture: SNS

The celebrations were mental and I did feel really emotional because on a personal level it is special for me but it is also special for my family – my mum, my sister and everyone that has been with me from the beginning.

“My family has always known that it means so much to me and I always wanted to win a league title. You can win cups here and there but to win a league title and be the best team, that is just so special.

“Again (when I scored against Celtic) I was emotional and I had tears in my eyes. When you sign for this club that is the fixture you look for.

“I remember I bumped into Graeme Souness at the airport when I signed for Rangers and he said it is the best game in the world. I’ve always wanted to score in it. I have scored in other derbies but I just thought that I need to score in this game.”

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