The Vincent Kompany lowdown which helped Steven Gerrard push the Kemar Roofe deal over the line for Rangers
Low maintenance, high quality. In Kemar Roofe, Rangers have got plenty of bang for their buck as far as Steven Gerrard is concerned.
The £3.5 million fee agreed with Anderlecht for Roofe last August was the single biggest investment made by the Ibrox club during a busy transfer window.
The English forward took time to get fully up and running with Rangers, an initial lack of match fitness then compounded by a calf injury which saw him miss seven games, including the 2-0 win at Celtic Park in October.
But as Roofe prepares to make his Old Firm debut at Ibrox on Saturday, he does so in a prolific vein of form which has seen him score nine goals in his last 11 appearances.
The 27-year-old had a proven pedigree from his time at Leeds United under Marcelo Bielsa, the renowned Argentinian coach reluctantly agreeing to his sale to Anderlecht in the summer of 2019.
When Roofe made it clear 12 months down the line that he wanted to take the opportunity to return to the UK and join Steven Gerrard’s rebuild of Rangers’ squad, Anderlecht manager Vincent Kompany was similarly disappointed to see him leave.
For Gerrard, the testimony he received from his old Premier League rival Kompany during the negotiations helped validate his belief Roofe could raise the standard of his team in their quest to land Rangers a first title in a decade this season.
A goal scorer and a workaholic
But Gerrard admits that Roofe has even exceeded his expectations of him, both on and off the pitch.
“Before we make signings, we do a lot of due diligence into their characters, what they are like as people and as players,” said Gerrard.
“We ask ex-players who have played with them or been around them, ex-managers and coaches. We get a lot of information before we actually press the green button and say ‘yes, we want to do this’.
“Everyone spoke extremely well about Kemar and I obviously had a lot of dialogue with Vincent Kompany about the player as well. Vincent didn’t want to lose Kemar.
“That is the reality of it and tells a story but certain managers and certain clubs maybe have to make certain decisions that are out of your control.
“I knew before I went to Vincent that we were dealing with a top player, a goal scorer and a workaholic, someone who is relentless in terms of regaining the ball and had loads and loads of quality.
“To add a leader in the group, and someone who is low maintenance, are two major bonuses from a managers’ point of view.
“Kemar has been a pleasure to coach and to manage. He’s very low maintenance. He comes in and does everything that’s asked of him.
“He’s very thorough in his preparation, he works extremely hard and he trains the way he plays. He’s always preparing himself for matchday so it’s no surprise he’s in such fantastic form.
“He’s a leader in the way he goes about it, not necessarily in the vocal sense, but he’s definitely someone you want alongside you. He’s an example to everyone else and the goals speak for themselves.
“He’s done that throughout his career but it’s been a real eye opener to be around him. We have been surprised by his leadership skills and qualities and to appreciate how much of a winner he is.
“So to have him available as part of our squad now that he’s fully fit is really exciting going into this game.”
Joe raring to go
While Gerrard will hope Roofe can continue to provide a cutting edge in attack for Rangers as they look to extend their lead over Celtic at the top of the table to 19 points, he is also enthused by the potential contribution of another player who was not able to influence the first Old Firm game of the campaign.
Joe Aribo was only fit enough to appear as a stoppage-time substitute at Celtic Park but the Nigerian midfielder seems certain to start this time around.
“Joe has played in this fixture before and done ever so well but he was a miss earlier in the season,” said Gerrard.
“He had an injury that kept him out for 12 weeks and that was tough. It was a process where the staff worked ever so hard to get Joe ready but then he had an illness that stretched that from 12 weeks to closer to 16 weeks.
“You are looking at someone who has missed four months of football and it was always going to take five or six weeks to get him back to his best.
“But what he has done in his last two or three fixtures is that he has announced to everyone that he is back in a good place. He is really close to his best and he is smiling again.
“In his first few games back I think he was a bit frustrated because his form wasn’t there because he hadn’t experienced that kind of lay-off before.
“We had to get around Joe and tell him it was a process and that it took time to get back to your best.
“But, without a doubt, he has really taken the shackles off of late and he is a joy to coach when he is using all his attributes. For me, when he is at his best, 100 per cent he is one of the best players in the league.”
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