Why Jermain Defoe will be huge threat in Scottish football

Having bowed to Father Time and announced his own retirement at the age of 35 last summer, it's perhaps surprising to hear Scott McDonald predict that a player one year older than him is about to take Scottish football by storm.

Scott Mcdonald with the Scottish Cup at a William Hill media event.
Scott Mcdonald with the Scottish Cup at a William Hill media event.

But former Celtic striker McDonald is adamant that Jermain Defoe’s veteran status will prove no barrier to his prospects of enjoying a prolific loan spell at Rangers in the second half of this intriguing season.

Former Spurs and England front man Defoe is poised to make his debut for Steven Gerrard’s side in the unlikely surroundings of Central Park in the William Hill Scottish Cup fourth-round tie against 
Cowdenbeath on Friday night.

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McDonald is intrigued by the impact both Defoe and 34-year-old midfielder Steven
Davis can make for Rangers as they look to mount their most sustained and credible assault on Celtic’s dominance of domestic football since the Ibrox club’s financial collapse in 2012.

While Gerrard has opted for the vast experience and proven track records of Defoe and Davis, Celtic’s January transfer window business has so far focused on the youthful forward trio of Timothy Weah (18), Oliver Burke (21) and Vakoun Issouf Bayo (22).

The stakes have been raised ahead of the resumption of a campaign which McDonald believes is about to become a bout of “psychological warfare” as the Old Firm pursue the Premiership and Scottish Cup silverware.

“I’m really excited by the signings both clubs have made,” said McDonald. “In particular, having a player of Jermain Defoe’s calibre coming up to the Scottish game is great.

“People can say what they want about his age but it’s 
just a number. It’s been six months since he played a lot 
of football. It’s going to be different for him at Rangers than it was at Bournemouth in terms of the workrate he has to put in to get his chances.

“Playing at Ibrox, he can afford to wait for his chances
rather than the physical demands he would have to put in to go and get them at Bournemouth. It’s going to be a little bit different because he’s not going to get the same space, but Defoe is the type of player that, if you give him half a yard, then you are in trouble. He comes alive in the box.

“There’s no question for me he’s going to be a huge threat in the Scottish game. It’s just how quickly he can adapt to teams playing banks of four and five against Rangers. But that’s where Steven Davis comes into the equation as well. For me, what an exceptional talent
he is and what a boost it is for Rangers to get him back.

“At Celtic, we have seen them bring in unproven players before and be a huge success - Moussa Dembele was the biggest one. Odsonne Edouard took a little while to get his feet under the table, but he’s started to come good.

“That’s going to be the biggest challenge for Celtic,
bringing in a couple of unproven players to a new league and a different type of football. How will they adapt, can they hit the ground running? Whereas the likes of Defoe and Davis have got British football experience and that will go for them. But I’m excited to see Weah because he looks an exceptional talent and from what I have seen of Bayo he will give Celtic a different type of option.

“I think Celtic will focus a lot on him because of the different type of attributes he can bring. He’s certainly an aerial threat – he’s scored a lot of goals in his league.

“There’s no question Scottish football is going to be a lot more difficult for him, but, with the physical presence he has, I think he will be a very good addition to Celtic.

“Brendan Rodgers certainly has a huge array of attacking talent now – Oli Burke
could even play through the middle if not on the wing. So Celtic are going to carry a real threat.

“Losing at Ibrox at the end of the year was a huge wake-up call for them and I think they will come back and answer the questions.

“It’s going to be a great run-in now. There’s going to be a lot of psychological warfare from now until the end of the season. Both Old Firm teams are full of talent. It’s going to be about who can stand up best to the mental battle.”

l Scott McDonald was speaking at a William Hill media conference. William Hill is the proud sponsor of the Scottish Cup.