FRANK McAvennie has admitted he is concerned by the arrival of Jermain Defoe at Rangers on an 18 month loan deal and predicted the England striker will help Rangers convert more of the chances they have been creating and maintain the pressure on his beloved Celtic in the Scottish title race.
McAvennie has been aware of Defoe since he broke through at his former club West Ham in the early 2000s and believes he can, despite turning 36 in October, score goals for Steven Gerrard’s side in the second half of the season and beyond.
The former Scotland centre forward feels the 57-times capped player can complement Alfredo Morelos, the temperamental Colombian who is the top scorer in the country with 20 goals in all competitions, up front and help his new team mate to mature.
“Steven Davis and Jermain Defoe are two experienced pros,” he said at Hampden earlier this week as Premier Sports unveiled their presenting team for the William Hill Scottish Cup. “But I am more concerned about Defoe to be honest. He is a good striker.
“Being a striker myself I notice certain things. He keeps himself very fit. He doesn’t drink or anything – I don’t know how he’s made it in football! Seriously, though, he has kept himself fit. He is a good lad as well. He will score goals, that’s for sure. Listen, he scores goals wherever he goes. Shame he’s going to the wrong team!
“Rangers need cover. I don’t know what’s wrong with Kyle Lafferty, but he’s not getting a game. They need somebody to come in. They are creating chances. The fact Morelos, who misses more than he scores, is the top goal scorer just shows you that. It is a concern.
“If he (Defoe) is working alongside him (Morelos) then that’s got to be helpful. They (Rangers) are doing the right thing.”
Gerrard has stuck rigidly to a 4-3-3 formation since taking charge at Ibrox in the summer, but, asked if he thought Defoe and Morelos could play in the same Rangers team, McAvennie said: “I think the two of them can work together.
“I am a great believer in two up front. Morelos puts a shift in. He is a bit of pest which is great in a striker. If Gerrard leaves Defoe up front and just lets him do his work in the box he will score goals, he will definitely score goals.
“I think it will work if they go 4-4-2. Myself and Tony Cottee (his West Ham strike partner) weren’t big guys, but we played together. I think these two guys can work together. They have got a good system. It is working well.
“We have been saying for years that we want a challenge and now we have got Celtic, Rangers, Kilmarnock and Aberdeen in the mix. It is great. It has got to be good for Scottish football, the supporters and the sponsors.”
The Ibrox club drew level on points with their Parkhead rivals, who still have a game in hand, in the Ladbrokes Premiership table with a 1-0 win over them in the final league game before the winter shutdown in Govan last month.
But McAvennie, who netted the goals that helped Celtic win the Premier League and Scottish Cup double in their centenary year in 1988, still feels Brendan Rodgers’ men are stronger and will win their eighth consecutive Scottish title come May.
He has been impressed with the business that Rodgers, who has brought in Ivorian striker Vakoun Issouf Bayo from Slovakian club Dunajska Streda in a £2 million move as well as Oliver Burke and Timothy Weah on loan from West Brom and Paris Saint-Germain respectively, during the January transfer window.
He is looking forward to seeing Weah in action in particular and feels the teenager, the son of former Ballon D’Or winner George, can add another dimension to the double treble winners’ play going forward.
“If you look at the two teams, I still think Celtic have a better squad,” he said. “If they turn up and play to their capabilities they will win more games than they will lose.
“I think Bayo looks a great player from what I have seen. And Weah reminds me a bit of myself. Apparently, Brendan is wanting to get things over the top. I haven’t seen that for years. I haven’t even heard anyone talk like that for years.
“I watch games and I say: ‘Look at that space in behind! Why does nobody turn the defence around?’ I know the game has changed, but when defenders push you up you have got all that space. With the pace of the game now everybody wants it in to feet. Why don’t they just get it over the top?
“This boy has come in and that is what he is talking about. Brendan thinks he has got the legs to go over the top and turn them around. Maybe he is going to play two. That might be a new thing for Scottish football – teams starting to play two strikers. That will be a change.”
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