Declan John relishing chance to work with Steven Gerrard and Ryan Giggs for Rangers and Wales
THEY are captains, leaders and legends. For Declan John, they are also gaffers.
Steven Gerrard and Ryan Giggs became heroes to a generation of Liverpool and Manchester United supporters and wrote their names in Anfield and Old Trafford folklore during their trophy-laden careers.
Now they are embarking on fresh challenges and taking steps into the unknown as they look to continue their legacy in the game from the other side of the white line.
John spent the final days of his season learning from Giggs as he led Wales to a draw with Mexico in Pasadena. On his return to Rangers, he got his first taste of life under Gerrard.
The chance to work alongside two iconic figures is one that rarely comes around, but it is an opportunity that the left-back is eager to make the most of.
John said: “It was nice to get some minutes it and it was nice for them as well because they are at the World Cup so it was a good test for them. I played the second half and got 45 minutes.
“That is the last two camps I have been in now under the manager so I am really happy about that. There is nothing better than pulling on that shirt for your country.
“It is quite something [having Gerrard and Giggs as your managers] and it does take you a while to get used to it.
“Ryan Giggs at Wales is someone that I have always looked up to and idolised as a player and that is what I want to do in my game.
“The gaffer coming here now, he has obviously had an amazing career and I am sure all the boys are looking forward to working with him.
“It does take you a couple of times to get used to it. They are telling you stuff on the pitch and you are thinking ‘that is Steven Gerrard talking’.
“But he is your boss at the end of the day so it is something you have to deal with and the training has been good.”
What Gerrard and Giggs lack in experience as managers, they more than make up for with their CVs from hugely successful playing careers.
The Ibrox boss has already made his mark on his side as he puts the Gers through their paces at their Spanish training camp.
And John admits the lure and attraction of working with a legend of the game can be enough to inspire players to strive for success.
He said: “I think the last two or three days, the tempo has been really high considering it is only pre-season so everyone is trying to impress. That is only good for the manager going into the season.
“It was the same sort of thing with Wales. We had done really well under Chris Coleman during the two or three years he was there and then with Ryan coming in the training and the tempo went up.
“Both of them through their careers have been tremendous, played in Champions League finals and for their country and have a lot of caps. To have those sort of players becoming managers, you can learn a lot from them.
“When you are a playing like that going into management, you will have a lot of respect from players. They both had amazing careers.”
Gerrard has already had a considerable impact off the field at Ibrox as supporters have sold out season tickets and been given a much-needed shot in the arm after two lacklustre and unacceptable campaigns.
It is on the park where the former England star will be judged, though, and the countdown is on to the opening Europa League qualifier next month.
The ten-day stint in Andalusia will give the Light Blues squad a chance to make a positive first impression as they look to catch Gerrard’s eye.
And John admits there has already been a shift and a step forward as Rangers enter a new era with the 38-year-old at the helm.
He said: “I’ve noticed a change big time in the tempo. In the sessions we’ve had so far you can see in the running that people giving it absolutely everything because they want a chance to play under a person like Steven Gerrard.
“At times last season I felt in certain games we did run out of steam. It’s hard because obviously I wasn’t here for pre-season at the start of last season so I don’t really know what went on at that point.
“But the boys have said the training tempo has been raised a lot already and it’s noticeable. That’s what we need - everyone working hard on the pitch and in training to get ready to go into the games.”
Gerrard will discover his first competitive opponents when the draw for the first qualifying round is made in Nyon this afternoon.
Rangers were humiliated last term as Pedro Caixinha’s side fell at the same hurdle and were beaten by Progres Niederkorn.
That night in Luxembourg came a couple of weeks before John signed on at Ibrox and the Welshman is relishing the chance to shine on the continental stage.
John said: “European football is going to be massive. A few of the boys have obviously played in a few over the last few years but it would be a first me and a good experience.
“I’ve only watched European club games on TV - Cardiff City never managed to get into anything like that!
“When I came in I didn’t really hear a lot about last season’s European defeat. I didn’t detect a hangover, but if you ask those who were involved they might say something different.”