Giovanni van Bronckhorst has dumped Jermain Defoe from his Ibrox backroom team – but insists the veteran poacher can still play a major role for Rangers on the pitch.
Departed boss Steven Gerrard handed his old England team-mate a coaching job to go with his first-team duties when Defoe signed a new one-year deal in the summer.
Yet before Sunday’s win at Livingston, the 39-year-old had only appeared on a team-sheet once this season.
Eyebrows were also raised when Defoe was allowed to skip Gers’ vital October trip to St Mirren so he could appear as a pundit for Sky Sports’ coverage of a Premier League clash involving former sides Tottenham and West Ham.
Gerrard had aimed to use Defoe’s expertise to bring the best out of the club’s frontmen but new boss Van Bronckhorst has brought in Holland legend Roy Makaay to do that job, with former Ajax youth expert Dave Vos, Yori Bosschaart and Arno Phillps making up the rest of his backroom team.
Now the Dutchman has decided Defoe is not required on his coaching staff.
But he is eager to get the striker more involved having given him a late cameo run out in the 3-1 win over Dave Martindale’s Lions.
Van Bronckhorst said: “Jermain’s been really good. When I came here of course he was part of the coaching staff but also a player.
“He’s also busy with his training badges, which is really good because we’ve already started thinking about team processes and tactical possibilities.
“But for now Jermain is still a player and we’ll use him only as a player.
“The quality that he has is sometimes needed in games.
“Of course, Kemar Roofe has been out for 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 this season.”
Roofe is set to return to the Ibrox squad for Gers’ trip to Easter Road tomorrow night.
And Van Bronckhorst hopes he will soon be welcoming Filip Helander back too.
The big Swede hasn’t featured since undergoing knee surgery back in September but Gio said: “Filip is outside on the pitch again, so we have to slowly bring him back to fitness levels required to play games.
“Hopefully, we expect him to take part in training some time this month.
“He’s been an important player for the team and with him being fit I have more options for the back.”
Left-back Calvin Bassey has filled in at the back alongside Connor Goldson this week against Sparta Prague and Livi with Leon Balogun also out.
And Van Bronckhorst reckons the young Nigeria international hasn’t put a foot wrong.
He said: “I’ve been really impressed. Calvin’s a really talented defender. Normally he plays in the left-back position but doesn’t have much experience in the centre back area.
“So I’m really happy with his performances so far.
“I think he has the physical ability to play there.
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“We will help him a lot in that position, when he has to pass, when he has to dribble, the positioning he has to take when the other defender has got the ball.
“He’s a player who is very open to learning and he gives a lot of energy to the team.
“The last two games, I’m really happy with the way he played.”