It was an exercise in diplomacy that would’ve earned him a post at the UN. When it was put to Steven Gerrard that Steven Naismith, the combative and newly-installed Hearts captain, could be viewed as something of a “pest”, the Rangers manager didn’t quite rise to the bait. “I'd like to use the word busy,” responded Gerrard with a wry smile.

In the heated cut-and-thrust on the pitch, Naismith can often perform more wind-ups than the fellow who replaces watch batteries at Timpsons. He’s a player who’s right up Gerrard’s street. As Rangers continue their pursuit of the Ladbrokes Premiership title with a trip to bottom-of-the-table Heart today, Gerrard remains highly complimentary of the qualities the 33-year-old Naismith has in his armoury.

Having crossed swords with the former Rangers forward in one or two Merseyside derbies during Naismith’s stint at Everton, Gerrard is well-versed in the menace and mischief he poses.

“We've had a few run ins on the pitch and those Merseyside derbies were right up his street and right up my street,” reflected Gerrard with the kind of cooing nostalgia you’d get in one of those Hovis bread adverts. “I saw a picture (from 2015) and either he's got hold of my shirt or I've got hold of his shirt.


“We were two fiery characters on a football pitch. He's the type of player that you could wipe out, either accidentally or meaning to do it, and after the game he would shake your hand, hug, there would be no problem and you’d move on.

“That's the way I try to be and that is the way it should be. Every time we've come up against him, as a player or as a coach, he's certainly someone you have to make the players aware of because he's a clever footballer.

“He's full of energy and still has that energy he had as a younger player. He makes Hearts better. Obviously, he's had a few injuries of late, but he doesn't change the way he plays; he's right up for it. I'm sure he'll be the same at the weekend, especially now he is the captain of the team.”

Naismith’s experience and general nous will be a vital part of Hearts' battle to beat the drop. Jermain Defoe, meanwhile, remains a key cog in Rangers’ push for the title. The veteran striker put the tin lid on a permanent deal at Ibrox yesterday and Gerrard couldn’t be happier.


At 37, Defoe has plenty of footballing miles on the clock but there’s plenty left in the tank too. "On the evidence of what I see, the shape of his body, the goals he's scoring, his movement and how he lives his life, he could go on and on,” enthused Gerrard of the kind of longevity that used to be the reserve of the Duracell bunny.

“Even when I played with him in our mid-20s, I knew he'd play longer than most because of his professionalism, his diet, he's relentlessness in terms of his gym work He has that first in, last out mentality. I always predicted he'd be one that would go to the end, somebody, who, touch wood, doesn't pick up many injuries.

“He's certainly not doing this for financial reasons and that’s what I admire about him. He's as hungry as he ever was, he loves the game more than anyone. You can talk about football at any level to Jermain Defoe. He rarely misses a session and doesn't want any preferential treatment. I admire his hunger and his dedication and that's why it'd good news (if he stays at Rangers) because he contributes and makes this team and squad a lot stronger.”

It will be all hands to the pump over the next few weeks as Rangers fight on a variety of fronts. After a couple of dogged rather than dazzling wins over Stranraer and St Mirren recently, Gerrard is anticipating a different style of tussle at Tynecastle.

“We expect more of an exciting game, more of an end to end game,” he said. “The players will be well prepared for whatever comes our way. Whether it is direct or a more pressing style. We will make sure the players are ready for both.”

The pest, sorry, busy Naismith, meanwhile, will no doubt keep Rangers on their toes.