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Giovanni Van Bronckhorst backs Rangers’ Jermain Defoe to play big role on pitch

Livingston v Rangers – cinch Premiership – Tony Macaroni Arena
(Image credit: Jeff Holmes)

Jermain Defoe has been backed to have a major role on the pitch after losing his Rangers coaching position.

Defoe became part of Steven Gerrard’s coaching staff in the summer and was among the caretaker management team when the former Liverpool captain left for Aston Villa.

The 39-year-old only played for eight minutes this season under Gerrard and was left out of Rangers’ Europa League squad.

The former England international last month appeared as a television pundit for the clash between former clubs West Ham and Tottenham while Rangers were playing St Mirren.

But he was back in action as a late substitute during Giovanni Van Bronckhorst’s first domestic match in charge, Sunday’s 3-1 victory at Livingston.

The Rangers manager said of the striker: “He has been really good. When I came here of course he was part of the coaching staff and also a player.

“He is also busy with his training badges, which is really good because he has started already thinking about team processes and tactical possibilities.

“For now Jermain is still a player and I will use him only as a player. The quality he has is sometimes needed in games.

“With Kemar (Roofe) out in the last two games, Jermain couldn’t play in Europe because he wasn’t eligible, but I think he can still have an important role in the season.”

Roofe could be back for Wednesday’s cinch Premiership clash with Hibernian at Easter Road while Filip Helander is also getting closer to a return following knee surgery in September.

“Filip is outside on the pitch again so we have to slowly bring him back to fitness levels which are required to play games but hopefully we expect him to take part in training some time (next) month,” Van Bronckhorst said.

“He has been an important player for the team and of course with him being fit I have more options at the back.”

With Leon Balogun still missing through injury and Niko Katic out on loan, Calvin Bassey has partnered Connor Goldson in central defence in Van Bronckhorst’s first two matches.

“I am really impressed because he is a very talented defender,” the Dutchman said of Bassey.

“He normally plays in the left-back position and didn’t have much experience in the central area so I’m really happy with his performances.

“I think he has the physical ability to play there and we will help him a lot in that position – when he has to pass, when he has to dribble, his position he has to take when the other defenders have got the ball. He is a player who is very open to learning.

“He gives a lot of energy to the team. I am very happy with the way he has played in the last two games.”

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