When Rangers brought Steven Davis back in January, the accompanying fanfare was pretty significant. Maybe not quite the gravity of Jermain Defoe, but nevertheless echoes of Scott Arfield – a seasoned EPL pro who had plenty of experience of Scottish football. It was a good signing and one which inspired imaginations for sure.
Sadly, the first few months did not bear this out – off the pace, on the fringes of matches, and the fringes of the squad, Steven Davis looked finished. A shadow of his old self and surely exiting the club at the end of his loan in the summer.
Then Steven Gerrard had a brainwave. Not just for Davis but for everyone. That change in system, which began against Hearts some weeks ago. A few alterations in personnel, a few changes in where certain individuals lined up – but the most notable improvement was undeniably the former Southampton midfielder.
Davis was pulled back into the deep lying midfield role, a position we’d never seen from him before at Ibrox, not even his previous spell, and it was a true moment of managerial nous from his boss.
Instead of more advanced midfield where the game was too quick for him and he was required to work especially hard off the ball, Davis was in a position where he had help in front of him for the gritty work, and where he could play to his more mature strengths, rather than being exposed for his weaknesses.
And that switch has been key to Rangers’ recent run – and could certainly be key tomorrow.
Stevie has admitted it would be very, very hard to leave Davis out for the visit of Celtic, and while trying not to give his selection away, why would he want to omit the 34-year old anyway?
We felt the trip to Fir Park would be a big test for Davis – the frenetic pace in Motherwell has been the undoing of recent Rangers teams, and it would surely expose him too. Not a bit of it – thanks to the new system, Motherwell’s pace was doused hugely, especially after that opening goal, and Davis, as he has done since this change, thrived.
Indeed, he won a deserved MOTM against Hibs and has stood out in many matches these past few weeks since the split began.
Tomorrow? Well, he will be a target. Scott Brown, Callum McGregor and co will surely be trying to close him down – knowing he’s a huge source of Rangers’ forward moves now. But given we’re pretty sure recent opponents have all tried and failed to do the same thing, we’re really not that worried about their chances of success.
But then Celtic are quite an upgrade over Aberdeen and Hibs.
As Gerrard did say, the display v Hibs wasn’t enough to beat Celtic. But Davis can probably consider himself one of the few exceptions on the day over this.