STEVEN GERRARD has long admired Kyle Lafferty the player. Now he will get to know the person.

In both regards, the Northern Irishman is returning to Rangers older and wiser. Six years on from his Ibrox exit, Lafferty is back in blue and determined to make headlines for all the right reasons.

It is for the title winning goals and the Old Firm performances that the striker is most fondly remembered by Gers fans but controversy was never far away during his first stint with his boyhood heroes.

Back then, Walter Smith was the ideal man for Lafferty to work under and learn from and now it is Gerrard that will look to get the best out of the 30-year-old after he completed his move from Hearts.

The experience gained from spells in Italy with Sion and Palermo, in England at Norwich and Birmingham City, plus one on the books of Turkish side Çaykur Rizespor, have expanded Lafferty’s horizons. His goals for Hearts have shown he still has plenty to offer.

“I’ve made no secret how much I rate the player,” Gerrard said. “He’s someone players don’t like playing against and he knows what this club is all about in terms of success and what it takes to achieve it.

“I know he’s been a bit raw and a bit naive at times in his younger years but so was I, I have no problem with that. I love players that play on the edge but I want them to play on the edge when it’s right and not wrong.

“I’m still learning about the person and being educated about the person. Look, we’re all human beings and we all make mistakes - I’ve made plenty.

“However, with age and experience we mature, although I’m still trying to do that by the way! I have no problem with players who play on the edge, and now and again get it wrong.

“I’ll stick with those players all the time. I’d rather be surrounded by players who want to give you everything they’ve got and now and again get it wrong than players who are just not capable of playing on the edge and playing on a consistent basis for a top football club.”

One of Lafferty’s final acts for Hearts was to score the only goal of the game in their win over Celtic at Tynecastle earlier this month. On the big occasion, the giant striker came to the fore once again.

Like Allan McGregor, he brings a nous and a know-how to the Ibrox squad that has been lacking for some time and past title and cup successes will undoubtedly stand him in good stead.

“If you’re not a big game player you’ve got no right to be here,” Gerrard said. “If players are not big game players for me they won’t be around for long and won’t even come in the door.

“It was a very important part of my decision. I knew I would have to make a lot of changes to my squad in terms of personnel and I knew a lot of them would be young.

“The reason I wanted Connor (Goldson) and Allan McGregor was to have an experienced spine who know what winning football matches is all about and Kyle ticks those boxes.

“He’s proved that of late but also for many, many years. He’s an international footballer and I predict he’ll be a big player for Rangers.

“We’ve got a happy footballer who is desperate to contribute and as a manager that’s brilliant.”

If Lafferty can roll back the years, Gerrard will have a chance of taking Rangers to a brighter future.

The Ibrox boss had to be patient to get the deal over the line but his wait has proven worthwhile after Rangers finally reached an agreement with Hearts.

“I expected it, to be honest, because he’s a good player,” Gerrard said. “I knew it would be tough to prise him away. I’m sure Craig is a massive fan and wanted to keep hold of him. He’s a big strong player for Hearts and he has been for a while.

“It’s difficult to take people’s best players. I’ve said it before in terms of our own. You don’t want them to go out the door.

“You want to do everything you can to keep them. I can understand and respect that from Hearts’ point of view.”

It is what Lafferty is able to do on the park that is of most concern to Gerrard but off-field issues have never been far away at times.

He accepted a Football Association charge and was fined £23,000 after admitting breaching gambling rules in August 2016.

The Northern Ireland international has previously spoken about his demons and Gerrard will offer any support Lafferty feels is needed going forward.

“We do a lot of due diligence into players as human beings,” Gerrard said.

“I think it is important they come and represent the club professionally both on and off the pitch.

“It’s not something I’ve had a direct conversation with Kyle about. But I am here to help all the players behave both on and off the pitch.

“If Kyle has come out and been open about it, that is up to Kyle. At the moment it is none of my business. But if he needs any kind of help I am here for him.”

Lafferty has joined a squad in high spirits and a team in fine form as he gets set to make his second debut against Ufa in the Europa League this evening.

He will give Gerrard another much-needed option through the middle and his signing has been warmly welcomed by support that has been revitalised during an encouraging summer.

“Look it’s to the players credit why the fans are excited and there has been a change of atmosphere among the supporters and within the dressing room,” Gerrard said. “We believe we’ve created an environment where players want to come here and they are looking in, seeing what’s going on and they want to be part of it.

“Connor will back me with that, the atmosphere in the training ground, Ibrox and around the dressing room is superb and we’re still getting used to each other and growing and moving forward. If we can add people who are going to improve that and help us we’ll do our best to get them through the door.”