ALAN Stubbs is a bluenose in the Merseyside sense and it pains him to say but the St Mirren manager can admit now that Steven Gerrard was decent as a player.

Obviously no more than that...

The pair, who are friends, come from the opposite sides of their city, however, only a few yards will separate then when they stand on the touchline at Ibrox.

Stubbs came up against Gerrard many times in the derby and the leader of the Reds did tend to get the better of him and his team. Maybe things will change now both are managers in the Scottish Premiership – something neither of them would have guessed only a few years ago.

"I was the sick of the sight of him being honest,” admitted Stubbs about the player voted Liverpool’s second greatest ever after a certain Kenny Dalglish. “'There were times when he single-handedly drove Liverpool over the line.

"In terms of a midfield player he was better than anything I have ever played against and that doesn't sit well with me saying that as an Everton fan. He had everything and if he wasn't the best then he was very close to being the best all-round midfield player in England.

“Liverpool were better than Everton back then. There is no point in me saying that there wasn't much between the teams as Liverpool were better than Everton more often than not. The budgets then were not comparable and Everton have come into a bit more money now.

"It is not about myself and Stevie though but I did enjoy the Merseyside derbies and I am sure he did as well. I enjoyed the occasion and the rivalry of the derbies.

"Stevie was someone who epitomised Liverpool. He always looked like he was up for the challenge.

"He gives me the same sense and impression that he is exactly like that on the touchline as Rangers manager.”

Stubbs might not have had too many good days over Liverpool but his record against Rangers as player and manager isn’t bad at all.

His Hibs team won at Ibrox a few times and there was the small matter of the 2016 Scottish Cup final.

Stubbs loves these games. It is his hope and expectation that the St Mirren players sees Ibrox as a perfect platform to show all just how good a team they are.

“There is nothing better than going to these big clubs and getting results,” said Stubbs. “I want my players to sample that, not me, because if they can it can give them such a belief that they can go anywhere and win.

“The main focus is we perform well. We’re not going there to sit in and repel Rangers on the attack. We know we’ll have to defend well and be disciplined, but when we have the ball I expect us to be brave.

“I’ve told the player to enjoy it and go and play well. They’ve always wanted to play there so don’t let it pass you by. They won’t come away with a good experience if they don’t play well. It’s important they go there and embrace the atmosphere.

“Don’t be fearful of 50,000 fans – that’s a challenge. If I’ve got to motivate players for Sunday I’ve got a problem.”

Stubbs dismissed the notion that St Mirren had nothing against Rangers.

“I don’t think any game is a freebie even though there’s not a lot of people expecting us to get a result,” he said. “But we have standards and if it’s a freebie then that for me gives the players an excuse to not be at it 100 per cent.

“I can see the other side of it. But you don’t get anything in football for nothing. You have to earn everything you get and I certainly won’t be saying to the players: 'This is a free shot'. It’s not because places are on the line.”

And a bit of Liverpudlian pride as well.