Steven Davis ‘must earn right’ to play for Rangers - but Steven Gerrard expects midfielder to stay

Rangers manager Steven Gerrard fully expects Steven Davis to remain with the club beyond this summer despite the midfielder’s struggle to make the impact expected of him since his return to Ibrox.

Rangers' Steven Davis trains with Joe Worrall, Scot Arfield and Glen Kamara. Picture: SNS
Rangers' Steven Davis trains with Joe Worrall, Scot Arfield and Glen Kamara. Picture: SNS

Northern Ireland captain Davis, who won eight major honours during his first spell at Rangers from 2008 to 2012, was widely regarded as a marquee capture by Gerrard when he rejoined the club during the January transfer window. The 34-year-old signed an initial loan deal from Southampton where his contract is due to expire in June.

But Davis has made just four starting appearances under Gerrard so far and was not even named among the substitutes for last Sunday’s Scottish Cup quarter-final against Aberdeen.

Gerrard insists Davis must earn his place in a midfield where Ryan Jack, Scott Arfield and Glen Kamara have excelled recently, while 
Lassana Coulibaly and Ross McCrorie are also battling for inclusion.

Davis could return to the Rangers squad for tonight’s Premiership fixture against Hibs at Easter Road, with Jack doubtful because of an injury sustained against Aberdeen. Gerrard remains confident Davis will come good and is still likely to sign for Rangers on a permanent basis ahead of next season.

“I have got no doubt that he will be an amazing signing for us,” said Gerrard. “I have got every confidence in Steven and his ability. I believe he will be here next season.

“But I have to make decisions on the team right now and pick on form and from what I see on a daily basis. The midfield area has fierce competition right now. You have got Ryan Jack in very consistent form, probably playing the best football he has played in his career over the last seven or eight months.

“Scott Arfield contributes numbers in the final third of the pitch, whether it be assists or goals, and he plays as a leader. Glen Kamara has arguably been our best player over the last four games. We have also got Lassana and Ross making it very difficult for me in training. They are at it, they are fighting to be involved.

“So it is very tough and I have to pick players on form, players who deserve to be involved in the 18. Nobody gets special treatment and I don’t pick on reputation or name. I don’t think ‘He has got ‘x’ amount of appearances or experience’, I watch the training, analyse the training, watch it back, I analyse the games and speak to my staff and then I pick the best players on form to do the job. If that means a player misses out on the 11 or the 18, that is just the way it is and the way it is always going to be.

“I’ve had quite a few conversations with Steven since he arrived. He needs to keep pushing, keep fighting, keep earning the right to get an opportunity. Listen, no-one can knock on my door and say they haven’t had a fair crack at the whip.

“Sometimes it comes down to individuals to analyse their situation, self-reflect and basically find the answers to any questions themselves. I’ve got no doubts that if we get the best Steven Davis, there will be game-time and opportunities for him in the short, medium and long-term.

“Maybe we will just need to be a bit more patient and build his fitness up and build his confidence up. I’m sure being out of the frame at Southampton this season would have affected his mental thinking and also his physical condition.

“Because of the name, because he had a fantastic career at Rangers before and because we know the talent he has, everyone was expecting him to take to it like a duck to water because he’s been here and won before.

“But it changes. It’s a great challenge for the player to try and shift someone out of his way to get more opportunities. I don’t see it as a negative, I see it as a positive for the player, the team and for myself because I welcome people fighting for the shirt.”

Gerrard insists his team selection tonight will not be influenced by next Tuesday’s Scottish Cup replay against Aberdeen, a fixture many will consider more crucial to Rangers’ remaining hopes of lifting silverware this season.

“I never prioritise games that way,” said Gerrard. “That would be naive. Hibs is the next game for us, they’re a good team under a new manager in Paul Heckingbottom with a different way of playing. There are three important points 
at stake, so we’ll face that challenge first and then we’ll worry about the next game.”

Gerrard also confirmed he will not give any consideration to leaving top scorer Alfredo Morelos out of his starting line-up against Aberdeen next week. If the Colombian striker is booked in that match, he would be suspended for the semi-final against Celtic if Rangers progress.

“I’ll play the team I think is going to get the job done,” said Gerrard. “I won’t pick players
or leave players out on the basis of them being on yellow cards or the risk of suspension.

“We are not in a position where we can take that luxury because that can smack you in the face in the short term. As I said, the priority now is Hibs and trying to get the three points. Assuming everyone comes through that healthy and available, I will pick the best team I think can beat Aberdeen.”