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Steven Davis: Rangers know exactly why this season is so important

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Rangers midfielder Steven Davis.

Rangers midfielder Steven Davis.

Getty Images

Rangers midfielder Steven Davis.

Steven Davis has been there before, winning titles with Rangers when Walter Smith was at the helm, and he wants to be there again under Steven Gerrard.

The Northern Ireland captain and lover of all things Rangers man and boy knows how important this season is to the Ibrox club ahead of tomorrow's Scottish Premiership kick-off.

They are desperate to win their first top flight league title since 2011, when Davis was in inspirational form in his first spell at the club, and stop fierce rivals Celtic making it an historic 10 championships in-a-row.

The midfield maestro will be key to that. As Northern Ireland supporters know all too well, even at 35, at his best, Davis can dictate games and show the composure and class in tight corners to help his side to vital results.

Between his move from Fulham to Rangers in 2008 to the time he left in for Southampton in 2012, he had collected three titles, two Scottish Cups and three League Cups. Whenever he departs Rangers second time around, he will be keen to have some more silverware to take with him.

While Davis enjoyed his family time on the south coast of England during lockdown, he was also happy to return to training in the middle of June, relishing the Scottish Premiership battle ahead after last term was curtailed due to the coronavirus pandemic with table-topping Celtic - 13 points clear of Rangers - handed the title on a points per game basis.

The 117-times capped midfielder says Rangers will have to cope with the pressure that is sure to hit both Old Firm sides in the weeks and months ahead.

"We were disappointed the season was curtailed, but now we have a massive season ahead and we have been building towards that since we returned to training and working really hard," says Davis.

"The season ahead is going to be huge. We know the importance of it and we know it is important that we deal with that pressure.

"In the first half of last season we were excellent and we need to figure out why and improve in terms of what happened in the second half of the season. We cannot continue that form.

"I believe we already have ability in our squad and I am sure the manager will be looking to add more quality which will give everyone a lift for the title race."

Davis has played under some top class managers ranging from Smith to Mauricio Pochettino and Ronald Koeman to Michael O'Neill. He rates Rangers boss Gerrard who is, of course, a legendary figure from his years as Liverpool captain.

"I have been impressed with the manager. You can see why he has achieved so much in the game because he has a great work ethic," explains Davis. "He goes into a lot of detail and I can see how he has grown in the time I have been there.

"I have no doubt he can go on to be a top, top manager and achieve big things like he did in his playing career."

In an interesting insight into what it was like returning to training ahead of the big kick-off, Davis reveals: "Everybody had looked after themselves over lockdown. We were given programmes by the club. They were tough programmes and the boys came back in good shape.

"Early on, it was about getting as fit as possible and trying to be as well prepared as possible in terms of how we were going to play tactically.

"During last season, it was difficult to do that because of the number of the games that we were involved in. We didn't have much preparation time in between games so this pre-season has given us a real chance to put down some markers in terms of how we want to play and the different systems we might use so everybody knows their roles."

Rangers don't just have domestic matters on their minds. They also have to finish their Europa League tie from the 2019-20 campaign, trailing Bayer Leverkusen 3-1 from the first leg at Ibrox. That match is scheduled for Thursday and while it appears mission impossible, Davis, who has inspired his country to a number of shock results down the years, is not giving up hope.

"Leverkusen have had the benefit of finishing their league so I am not sure what their programme will be in terms of being back for the game with us and where they will be at in terms of fitness," says Davis. "It will be a tough task going away being two goals behind, but you never know what could happen."

Belfast Telegraph