Steven Gerrard could help Celtic as he is still driven to succeed says Owen Coyle

THE Parkhead club are the bookies’ favourites to snap up the Liverpool legend and the Blackburn Rovers boss reckons the man he faced in America is still able to play at a high level.

Steven Gerrard is being linked with Celtic
OWEN COYLE reckons Stevie Gerrard would hit the ground running at Celtic because the demands of America’s league has made him fitter than ever.

The Parkhead club are the bookies’ favourites to snap up the Liverpool legend after he posted a message yesterday hinting that his 18-month Stateside stint with LA Galaxy is over.

Gerrard is not expected to sign a new deal, sparking a rush for the 36-year-old’s signature if he chooses to continue his playing career.

Ladbrokes are pricing a reunion with Brendan Rodgers , his former boss at Liverpool, at 7-2 ahead of an emotional return to Anfield.

It’s believed that being a self-confessed lifelong Celtic fan could be the clincher that convinces Gerrard to finish his career in Scottish football – but Coyle insists that the midfield stalwart is far from finished

Owen Coyle faced Gerrard during his time with Houston
 Although currently boss of Blackburn Rovers, Coyle has an in-depth knowledge of America’s MLS after spending a year-and-a-half managing Houston Dynamo.

During his time in Texas he came up against Gerrard and watched as he went from a player struggling in the stifling heat to an assured, super-fit inspiration.

Coyle said: “One of Steven’s first games for LA Galaxy was against ourselves at Houston in July 2015.

“We won 3-0, ran over the top of them as they toiled in the heat and humidity of a Texas summer. I remember him coming off the pitch and saying to me ‘Coyley, tell me it’s not like that every week.’

“The next time he came to Houston he ran the show. He was outstanding.

Could Steven Gerrard join Rodgers at Celtic?
 “We scored early to go 1-0 up but I’ve got to say that from that moment on Stevie ran the game.

“They won 4-1 and he was so influential picking passes, playing people in. I think he had a couple of assists for their goals.

“What that showed me was from his difficult experience in that first game in Houston he had learned quickly what the league was all about.

“That tells me you’re dealing with someone who actually cares about himself, his team-mates and about the game. It would have been easy for him to say I’m only going to play the odd time here and he’d have come back and done the same thing again.

“But he’d learned so quickly what it demanded to play in Houston and from that game we dominated he was able to come back a few months later and turn the tables on us to get his side a win.”

Gerrard is a Liverpool legend
Yet it’s not just for games in Texas that Gerrard had to apply himself physically to cope with a league that Coyle believes is more demanding than anything you will find in Europe.

So those who still buy into the outdated notion of American soccer being a cosy place where top players go to feather their nest and wind down their career, Coyle has a revelation.

Celtic – or whoever else secures his services – will probably be getting a player even fitter than the guy who swapped Liverpool for LA in May 2015.

Coyle said: “There’s no doubt that Steven would be physically ready to come back to Europe.

“I can tell you from experience that the MLS is far more demanding in terms of what’s involved physically and mentally because of the sheer size of the country.

“Every second game is like an away game in Europe because you’re flying three, four or five hours. You’re leaving on a Thursday and not returning home until Sunday.

Owen Coyle is now with Blackburn Rovers

“When we play in Scotland there’s only the odd overnight stay at Aberdeen or Inverness and Ross County. Whereas every away game in the MLS is a flight.

“That’s a big physical demand but not only are you flying to those games you are changing time zone and often you’re playing at altitude.

“There are so many variables that a player has to acclimatise to.

“So I would say that wherever Stevie goes, be it Scotland, England or elsewhere in Europe, he’s actually going to come back in better physical shape because of the demands of the MLS.

“The demands in terms of the standard are very high too. The players that
now operate at that level are top internationalists right throughout most of the teams and the league improves with every year.
Giovinco is a star for Toronto
 “The difference between now and five years ago is immeasurably stronger and in five years’ time it will have strengthened even more.

“People used to look at the MLS and think it was simply a place for people to end their careers but all of a sudden we’re seeing Toronto sign Sebastian Giovinco from Juventus.

“They’ve also brought all the American internationalists back in their prime such as Michael Bradley and Jozy Altidore. These weren’t guys at 33 and 34, they were in their 20s.

“So this league is strengthening and the standard is rising.

“Is it the equivalent of the English Premier League? No, not yet.

“But it would be fair to say the comparison would be up there with the better teams in the English Championship.

“So Steven has been far from wasting away out there.
Brendan Rodgers and Steven Gerrard
“He did very well for LA Galaxy. He picked up one or two knocks and that’s a concern with any player regardless of their age – but when he played he had a huge impact on the team.

“He’s a guy I’ve come up against over a number of years in England and the States and I’ve been fortunate enough to bump into him a few times off the park.

“He’s a class act, the way he goes about his training every day is superb. He is known for being one of those boys who is first on to the training pitch and last off it. He works his socks off.

“Obviously Brendan and Stevie worked together at Liverpool so they know exactly how each other thinks and how they work.

“He’s a proper football person – he loves the game, obviously loves Liverpool and of course it’s well documented that his other team was Glasgow Celtic.

“Whether joining Celtic is viable, only time will tell. But what I do know is that he is an outstanding professional and if he wants to continue playing then he’s going to do somebody a very good turn.”
Source: Daily Record

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