Scottish Daily Mail

De­foe ea­ger to cor­rect his mea­gre medal tally

- By MARK WIL­SON Sports · Soccer · Rangers · Falkirk · Ibrox Stadium · Tottenham Hotspur Football Club · Portsmouth F.C. · Portsmouth · Chelsea F.C. · Wembley · A.F.C. Bournemouth · The Football League · Portsmouth · The Football Association · Steven Gerrard · Celtic F.C. · Christopher Jullien · R.S.C. Anderlecht · S.L. Benfica · Standard Liège · Liege · Falkirk F.C. · Bournemouth · Harry Redknapp · Bongani Zungu · Joe Aribo

JER­MAIN DE­FOE had to wait ten years to get his hands on the League Cup medal he earned in English foot­ball. That cu­ri­ous tale aside, it’s been the only adorn­ment of silver on his long and glit­ter­ing ca­reer... so far.

For the 38-year- old striker, the start of an­other Bet­fred Cup cam­paign with Rangers is a source of al­most youth­ful ex­cite­ment.

The first tro­phy up for grabs in a cam­paign full of prom­ise, he hopes to­mor­row evening’s trip to Falkirk can mark the start of a jour­ney back to Ham­p­den — and an op­por­tu­nity to make up for last year’s near-miss.

This season’s f i nal f alls on Fe­bru­ary 28, by which time it will have been al­most a decade since the Ibrox club last claimed a ma­jor prize in the shape of the 2010-11 league ti­tle.

De­foe is un­der­stand­ably ea­ger to amend that record. And to add more medals to a per­sonal CV packed full of goalscor­ing achieve­ment.

One thing is cer­tain. Suc­cess with Rangers will have to come through more ortho­dox means than his me­mento of Tot­ten­ham’s 2008 League Cup tri­umph.

De­foe played in five ties to help Spurs reach the fi­nal, but left for Portsmouth a month be­fore they de­feated Chelsea at Wem­b­ley.

It wasn’t un­til 2018, with the striker then at Bournemout­h, that the English Foot­ball League de­cided to act and present him with a medal.

‘ That was weird be­cause I re­mem­ber at the time at Tot­ten­ham, I played in all the rounds and was scor­ing goals up un­til the fi­nal,’ re­flected De­foe.

‘ That Jan­uary, I signed f or Portsmouth. Juande Ramos came to Tot­ten­ham, I de­cided to leave and I went to Portsmouth un­der Harry Redknapp.

‘They ac­tu­ally won the FA Cup but I couldn’t play. And I missed the fi­nal at Tot­ten­ham.

‘I man­aged to get my medal years later. Of course it would be great to have played in the fi­nal, but I sup­pose even the lads on the bench who didn’t get to play got their medals. It was good be­cause, lead­ing up to the fi­nal, I made a con­tri­bu­tion. Hope­fully, this time round will be a lot dif­fer­ent.’

De­foe is likely to start at Falkirk as Steven Ger­rard’s side aim to make it 23 games un­beaten in all com­pe­ti­tions and reach the quar­ter-fi­nals.

Last season, they dom­i­nated Celtic in the fi­nal, yet still ended up los­ing 1-0. Al­fredo More­los missed a num­ber of chances — in­clud­ing a sec­ond-half penalty — as their ten-man ri­vals held on for a win se­cured by Christo­pher Jul­lien’s goal.

De­foe, who came off the bench for the fi­nal 20 min­utes, ad­mits the painful mem­ory will be used as ad­di­tional mo­ti­va­tion.

‘We want to com­pete in ev­ery com­pe­ti­tion. This is the first bit of sil­ver­ware we can go for this season so, of course, we are go­ing to try and do that.

‘That’s why you come to Rangers as a player. You come here to win tro­phies. It’s a lot of pres­sure, but it’s good pres­sure.

‘I’m look­ing for­ward to the game and the com­pe­ti­tion, es­pe­cially with what hap­pened last season. There is t hat sort of ex­tra in­cen­tive.’

De­foe (be­low) feels ev­ery­one at Rangers is on the same page. In­ten­sity be­hind the scenes is be­ing mir­rored on the pitch.

‘First, it’s prob­a­bly the fo­cus and the men­tal­ity of keep­ing those high stan­dards in train­ing — train­ing well ev­ery sin­gle day, not wast­ing a ses­sion,’ he said. ‘I think we have taken that into the games. The men­tal­ity has al­ways been good but, at the end of the day, we’re hu­man.

‘There are times where you are play­ing well and, nat­u­rally, you take your foot off the gas a lit­tle bit or go through the mo­tion sin train­ing.

‘But I’ ve seen a dif­fer­ent kind of fo­cus. Ev­ery sin­gle day is just re­lent­less. The in­ten­sity in train­ing, the hard work.

‘Even the younger play­ers are com­ing into the gym af­ter train­ing, lads do­ing yoga, just tick­ing ev­ery box. I hope this con­tin­ues f or the whole season be­cause you never know what we could achieve. So far, it’s been good.’ Ger­rard has given De­foe ex­tra breath­ing space in terms of free mid­weeks by leav­ing him out of the club’s Europa League squad. ‘The man­ager will al­ways be hon­est with me,’ he said. ‘ A lot of the time he looks at it and puts him­self in the po­si­tion of what could have helped him at the back end of his ca­reer. ‘It’s helped me be­cause in the two games I’ve started I’ve felt re­ally sharp. ‘At first, you have to put your ego to the side a lit­tle bit and think about the big­ger pic­ture and why the man­ager is do­ing it. ‘I asked: “Is it go­ing to help me in the long run?”. And I think it has.’ Mean­while, Ger­rard be­lieves Ke­mar Roofe is clos­ing in on peak form with Rangers af­ter his lat­est s pec­tac­u­lar Europa League strike. The £ 3.5mil­lion sign­ing from An­der­lecht scored his sev­enth goal of the season by smash­ing a shot high into the net from the edge of the box in Thurs­day night’s 2-2 draw with Ben­fica. Roofe’s in­tro­duc­tion to life at Ibrox was in­ter­rupted by a calf in­jury that side­lined him for a month prior to his i ncred­i­ble 50-yard fin­ish against Stan­dard Liege in Oc­to­ber. Af­ter start­ing each of Rangers’ last three games — scor­ing four times — Roofe may now be rested to­mor­row. The Ibrox man­ager be­lieves, how­ever, that the 27-year- old is now show­ing just why the club in­vested in him. ‘He is re­peat­ing train­ing ses­sions now and he is avail­able for games,’ said Ger­rard. ‘ He’s got no nig­gles, pains or dis­rup­tions to his train­ing. ‘I think you can see signs he is get­ting close to his best.’ Rangers hope to have Bon­gani Zungu avail­able to f ace Falkirk. Joe Aribo could also re­turn but Ryan Jack re­mains side­lined.

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