Gary McAllister struggled to understand some of the criticism Rangers’ January signings Jermain Defoe and Steven Davis received following their failure to deliver immediately upon their arrival at the club.
Northern Ireland midfielder Davis celebrated his 34th birthday shortly before joining, initially on loan, from Southampton while Defoe, who agreed an 18-month loan from Bournemouth, will be 37 in October.
Both players struggled to find their feet but McAllister knows as well as anyone that form is temporary while class is permanent and he had no doubts that they would add value to the group.
“You can see why we brought them here,” said the Ibrox No 2. “Yes, they are at the end of their career but you can see their quality. Jermain in front of goal is superb and he’s been excellent for us in and around the club.
“The two of them are adding a lot of value to the youngsters as well. When you sign these players, people see them coming from big clubs and they expect big things from them.
“But neither of them had played a lot of football before they arrived. Now they’ve had a few games under their belt you can see their qualities are coming to the fore.”
McAllister suffered his share of ageist abuse when Liverpool manager Gerard Houllier signed him from Coventry in 2000 but he more than repaid the Frenchman’s faith in him, playing the best football of his career as the Reds won the FA Cup, League Cup, the Uefa Cup, the European Super Cup and the Charity Shield in his 37th year.
Not only that, he scored the winning goal, having earlier claimed three assists, in the 5-4 win over Alaves in the European final.
“I signed for Liverpool at 35 and they are similar [in stature] to Rangers,” he said. “Steven [Davis] has been here before and knows the club; he knows that two draws are a crisis. Not only are players signing for a club that needs to win every week, they’re also under the microscope but that’s what you need to keep pushing yourself. I’ve loved this season and I loved the prolonged run in Europe.
“The big European nights under the floodlights at Ibrox are special. The games against Villarreal, Rapid Vienna and Dynamo Moscow were huge nights. The Old Firm matches haven’t let us down either and there have been great games against Aberdeen. They were always competitive, although there were a few red cards we wished never happened.”
Rangers will wind up the current campaign by hosting Celtic on Sunday and finishing away to Kilmarnock on 19 May but, as far as McAllister is concerned, the hard work for the following campaign is already underway.
“If we finish the season pulling away from Aberdeen and close the gap on Celtic a little bit that would be a plus for us,” he claimed.
“If we can finish with two good performances and get two positive results then that would give us a big high going into the summer.
“The players would go away feeling good about themselves. Then it’s up to us as coaches to bolster the squad.
“Next season starts now; in fact, our plans for it have started already,” he said. [New signings] Jordan Jones and Jake Hastie know where their future lies and they’ll be excited about coming to a massive club like Rangers.
“We’re excited they’ve joined and are making the step up to us and we can’t wait to work with them and try and make them better. Jake is a young Scottish player and I’m a big believer that young Scots should have a pathway to the Old Firm. “That, in turn, helps the national team. I know that sounds a bit romantic but that’s a fact.”