Alan Kernaghan is the former Republic of Ireland defender with Ulster grandparents. He is now the coach of the Rangers youth team and took time out to speak exclusively to Frank Brownlow about the Northern Ireland stars at Ibrox, his country’s World Cup hopes and the future for Nigel Worthington’s men
Northern Ireland midfielder Steven Davis is one of Rangers’ best signings of the last few years.
And that’s according to someone in the know — Alan Kernaghan, Rangers youth team coach who has watched the 24-year-old at close quarters since his arrival from Fulham in January 2008.
The former Aston Villa starlet initially came to Ibrox on loan before securing a permanent switch in a £3m deal.
“Steven Davis is unbelievable. He’s been absolutely fantastic,” said Kernaghan (42), who has been at Rangers for three years.
“For the money Rangers paid for him he’s been an absolute steal. He’s definitely one of the big assets that Rangers have.
“Game after game his consistency is superb.”
Kernaghan feels that Davis’ Northern Ireland colleague Kyle Lafferty can go on to be a big hit at Ibrox over the next few years.
The 22-year-old striker has been hampered by injury since joining from Burnley for over £3m in June 2008.
“Kyle has been in and out of the team and has struggled to find a bit of consistency.
“But he has been unlucky with injuries and over the next two or three years we should see the best of him,” he said.
But the Northern Ireland player Kernaghan knows best of all is Andy Little, who came up through the ranks at Ibrox, making his first team and international debuts earlier this year.
“I have always kept tabs on Andy as he has progressed at Rangers and also when he was turning out for Northern Ireland under 19s and under 21s before he made his full international debut.
“Andy’s done very well. He’s got great attributes — he’s very athletic, has good pace and can play in a number of positions. He’s played centre forward, centre half, right back. When squads are getting smaller, that’s a huge bonus for a manager,” he said.
Kernaghan wasn’t surprised that the English Premier League clubs last week decided not to invite the Old Firm to join their lucrative set-up.
“There’s no doubt it would have been interesting to see the Old Firm in the English Premier League, and it would have been fantastic for the two clubs.
“But you rarely hear of clubs from one country going to play in another country’s league so you can’t really expect Rangers and Celtic to leave Scotland to play in England.
“And looking at it from an English perspective, two of their clubs would probably have missed out.
“So, all in all, it’s probably the right decision at the moment.
“The English Premier is attractive to the Old Firm and television money is the biggest draw. That money would allow the Old Firm to afford better players.
“Obviously the two clubs bolster Scottish football financially and if they left to go to England it would leave an enormous hole north of the border,” he said.
Kernaghan, who played in the infamous World Cup qualifier at Windsor Park that saw the Republic qualify for the 1994 World Cup Finals after a 1-1 draw, added: “It’s hard enough as it is to secure television deals in Scotland so if the Old Firm weren’t here that situation would get worse.”