Jon Flanagan has expressed a desire to leave the past behind as he bids to rehabilitate his career and reputation following his move to Rangers.
The former Liverpool and England full-back became the Ibrox club’s seventh summer signing yesterday, agreeing a two-year contract after joining his new team-mates at their training camp in Spain.
A free agent after being released by Liverpool, Flanagan is determined to seize the opportunity provided to him by Rangers manager Steven Gerrard, a former team-mate at Anfield.
The 25-year-old was sentenced to 40 hours of unpaid work and a 12-month community order in January this year after pleading guilty to the common assault of his girlfriend Rachael Wall in Liverpool city centre.
Rangers assistant manager Gary McAllister, another former Liverpool colleague of Flanagan’s, has vouched for his character and insists he should be allowed to rebuild his career.
It’s a chance Flanagan is grateful for as he relishes the prospect of playing a role in Gerrard’s bid to restore Rangers as a trophy-winning force in Scottish football.
“I think this is a fresh start and I think it is a platform for me just to build on,” said Flanagan. “The past is the past and this is now time for a fresh start, and that is at Rangers and I can’t wait to get going.
“I can’t wait [to get started] and I am so excited. I just want to get going – I am buzzing and I want to show to all the fans what I am about and put Rangers back up there.”
Flanagan made his Liverpool debut at the age of 18 under Kenny Dalglish’s management and was the club’s Young Player of the Year in the 2010-11 season.
He forced his way into the England set up ahead of the 2014 World Cup finals, winning his only cap in a pre-tournament friendly against Ecuador before having to settle for a place on the stand-by list when the final squad was named.
Flanagan’s career was hindered by two knee operations soon afterwards, which sidelined him for 20 months. He had a season-long loan at Burnley in 2016-17, then spent the second half of last season on loan at Bolton Wanderers in the Championship.
He can operate at either right-back or left-back and believes he is well-equipped to handle the challenges ahead of him at Rangers.
“I think I’m a no-nonsense footballer,” Flanagan told Rangers TV. “I think I keep it simple, I don’t mind a tackle, and when the going gets tough, I think I stick around and I am mentally strong. I think I am different to the full-backs we have got here now, so it will be exciting and there is a lot of competition for places.
“Rangers are massive, so I think I have experienced that before and that will help me coming in here and to bed in well. The pressure is massive at both clubs and I think I have dealt with that in the past at Liverpool and am more than willing to deal with it here.
“When I got the call from my agent and then spoke to Stevie [Gerrard], it was a no-brainer for me. The size of the club and what the fans are about – I’m just delighted to be here and hopefully I can show the fans what I’m all about. I played with the manager at Liverpool, and he was a big part of me coming here. I obviously know all about the club, but Stevie was a massive influence on me coming here as well.
“It is always good when you go to a new team if you know a few of the lads. But, I think, even if I didn’t know them, I’m a likeable character and I’ll bed in well with all the lads.
“European football is a big attraction as well, and it’s an extra bonus for the lads to work hard, to push on and get back into the European group stages. It is very exciting for Rangers now. There is the new manager, who has freshened things up, and he’s brought a lot of players in. It’s brilliant to be a Rangers fan now and to be a Rangers player. There are good times ahead, and hopefully we can push on now.”
l Dates have been confirmed for Rangers’ Europa League first qualifying round tie against Macedonian side Shkupi. The first leg will take place at Ibrox on Thursday 12 July with the second leg in the Macedonian capital Skopje on Tuesday 17 July.