Much was made of Jon Flanagan’s signing during the summer. Most of the dissent was things that had happened in his personal life, and rightly so. However, In a footballing sense, I have been pleased with what the Scouser has contributed when he’s been given the chance to play.
That came as a surprise somewhat – he had been released by Liverpool in the summer and had a bad knee injury, which it appeared when you read about it that he hadn’t managed to recapture the form that saw him make 51 appearances for Liverpool, whilst earning the nickname “the Red Cafu.”
It’s not been plain sailing for Flanagan since his move, though. He’s had to play a bit part in recent months due to the arrival of Borna Barisic. On his performances, he could have felt a bit unlucky to be left out for that prolonged period.
Having said that, most fans thought he may have been a direct replacement for James Tavernier. However, with Tavernier being handed the captain’s armband by Gerrard, that particular scenario was never likely to come to pass. Instead, Flanagan, in reality, has become the direct replacement for Lee Hodson. For the many Rangers fans, who used to moan and groan whenever Hodson played, it’s a definite upgrade.
Flanagan has played 14 times thus far for Rangers, and on the whole, he’s been solid and dependable. Most of those appearances have been at left-back with a few at right back and the one at centre-back in the 3-3 draw at Motherwell.
That got me thinking. Will Jon Flanagan become to Steven Gerrard what Sasa Papac was to Walter Smith and even Ally McCoist? For me, that’s the role he is fulfilling at this moment in time. He does his job with minimal fuss; not a lot of fanfare and is one who will slip under the radar but he will do his job to an effective level which will allow the winger in front of him to go on and flourish.
Papac was a solid 7/10 performer most weeks, a centre-back playing at left-back, but his inclusion gave the team a wonderful balance at times, with the likes of Steven Whittaker and Alan Hutton, who would go forward and he would stay back creating a three-man backline with Carlos Cuellar/Madjid Bougherra and Davie Weir. Not forgetting that Ally tried him in centre midfield and left midfield. Let’s hope Stevie Gerrard doesn’t take that one on board!
Flanagan’s performances the last two matches have been excellent. The pattern of his general play, though, would remain similar. He would tuck in and allow Tavernier and Barisic to bomb forward. However, it may just be his wholehearted approach and his willingness to get stuck in that will endear him to the fans. During the recent win over Hearts, he smashed into Arnoud Djoum and it got the fans on their feet. It may not seem like a big deal but incidents like that can swing momentum. Flanagan will find himself unlucky if he’s back on the bench for Sunday after his quietly effective, no-nonsense displays. Additionally, that aforementioned approach is mirrored in his defensive work. He may not be Sasa Papac in the eyes of the fans, but right now he’s as close as Steven Gerrard is going to get.