Jordan Jones paid a heavy price for his adrenaline-fuelled foul on Moritz Bauer in the dying seconds of Rangers’ 2-0 home defeat by Celtic on 1 September.
Not only did the wild lunge earn Jones a straight red card on his Old Firm debut, he also sustained a serious knee injury.
After almost four months on the sidelines, the Northern Ireland international winger is back in full training and could make his return to action against his former club Kilmarnock at Ibrox on Boxing Day.
Jones will also hope to put himself in contention for a place in Steven Gerrard’s plans for the trip to Celtic Park three days later as Rangers attempt to strike a telling blow in the title race before the winter break.
Rangers manager Gerrard is confident the 25-year-old, a boyhood Rangers fan, will have taken on board the painful lesson of his first Old Firm encounter.
“I think it would be very naive from a personal point of view if he hasn’t learned from that, because he has missed a big chunk of the season,” said Gerrard, pictured right.
“He knew himself, you only had to look at his face in the dressing room after that game against Celtic.
“Then in the weeks after it, when he got the news of the extent of the injury – it wasn’t the start to his Rangers career that he would have wanted. So he needs to make up for lost time.”
Jones, who signed a four-year contract with Rangers, made five starts and five more appearances from the bench before sustaining the knee injury.
Gerrard feels he has already seen glimpses of Jones’ potential as a key player for Rangers but is waiting to be convinced that he is ready for force his way back into the starting 11.
“Jordan has got more training under his belt now,” said Gerrard. “Last week he trained but I didn’t see the real Jordan Jones, the way he was before he got the injury. So if we see that in training this week, then he will give me something to think about for the games coming up.
“We have seen moments of the level of performance that we want from Jordan. The ball he put in for Alfredo Morelos’ header against Legia Warsaw in the Europa League play-off just before the Celtic game at Ibrox was the reason we brought him to the club.
“He can make the difference when games are tight. He is excellent in the one-versus-ones. We want him to be more aggressive and direct, get more numbers in his game. We are really looking forward to seeing that.
“But he’s certainly had a frustrating time in his Rangers career so far. We can’t wait to see the real Jordan Jones going forward. This was a huge move for Jordan, it was the move he had his eye on for a long time. So for it to come and then for him to miss a big chunk already, he’s got it all to do. So I’m really looking forward to welcoming him back and seeing his reaction from missing such a big part of the season.”
Gerrard also has Northern Ireland captain Steven Davis available again after the influential midfielder missed the last four games with a foot injury.
While Gerrard has been satisfied by the effectiveness of his midfield in Davis’ absence, he is eager to press the 35-year-old back into action as soon as he can.
“He’s training with the team again for the first time today,” said Gerrard. “Assuming he comes through the next couple of days, he will be available for selection.
“We look forward to welcoming him back. He’s been terrific for us this season. The injury was a blow for him and us because we all know the form he was in prior to it. If he can get that form back as quickly as possible, it will be very welcome.
“The midfield area has been very strong and consistent whoever we have put in there. With Scott Arfield dropping back a line, his last three or four performances have probably been his strongest of the season.
“But we can’t do it with just three players, that’s not enough over the course of 60 games. Touch wood, but during the course of 60 games they are all going to get an injury or suspension at some point.
“So I have to prepare for that. But it’s been really encouraging to know that even if someone is missing for two to three games, like Steven has, then we are capable of coping. It doesn’t have an effect on the team or performance.”
Gerrard is wary of the challenge Kilmarnock, under the interim charge of Alex Dyer following Angelo Alessio’s sacking last week, may pose his team on Boxing Day. He feels they will return to the tactics adopted under Steve Clarke last season when they drew twice at Ibrox in the league.
“Trying to think what they will do coming to Ibrox, I predict they will go back to the style which got them a lot of success in the past,” said Gerrard.
“That was a tight, really narrow team block with pace which can hit you on the counter attack. That’s what they have done previously at Ibrox and got a lot of success from it.
“So with Alex Dyer being around Clarkie for so long, and still working with him at the national team, it won’t surprise me if we see the best Kilmarnock and a really organised Kilmarnock at Ibrox.”