LIVING in these parts for the past two-and-a-bit years evidently hasn’t made a blind bit of difference to Steven Gerrard’s loyalties ahead of the looming England versus Scotland clash at Wembley next June.

“I’m a proud Englishman,” smiled the Rangers manager. “I will be supporting England in the summer, don’t mistake me in that.”

That aside, however, it undoubtedly fills Gerrard with a sense of contentment to witness the joy that qualifying for Euro 2020 has given two of his Scottish players.

While goalkeeper Jon McLaughlin had to settle for a supporting role from the bench, Ryan Jack was thrust into the heart of the melee for the play-off final in Serbia and played his part as Scotland ended 22 years of hurt.

Jack lines up against former club Aberdeen today having become as vital for Steve Clarke’s Scotland side as he has been at Rangers for quite some time now.

In a squad where Gerrard has the luxury of rotating players in and out on a weekly basis, Jack remains one of those who, if fit and available, tends to start more often than not.

“Ryan deserves a lot of credit for how much he has improved and the work and application he has put in to try and improve the level of his game and his consistency,” said Gerrard.

“When we came in we inherited a good player, without a doubt. Aberdeen had done a really good job with Ryan in terms of his development and giving him the opportunity to play at the top level. He obviously became a leader.

“So there was coaching prior to us that deserves a lot of credit in Ryan’s development. We obviously saw a winner when we came in.

“Someone who was really keen and open to learn, grow and buy into what we were trying to do. His consistency has been fantastic to see and it’s no surprise with the way he goes about his daily routine and business.

“He does everything right at the gym, he eats well and he trains and prepares every single day for the game at the weekend or midweek. So it’s no surprise that Ryan finds that level of consistency because he does everything right.”

Nationality is somewhat far down the list of attributes when it comes to Rangers’ recruitment policy. But Gerrard likes having a Scot at the beating heart of his team and wouldn’t rule out adding more.

“We want as many home-grown players as possible involved in our squad,” added the man who won 114 caps for England.

“I think everyone will respect the fact that first and foremost they have to be good enough. We are under pressure here to deliver results at one of the world’s biggest clubs.

“But if we can keep good Scottish players around us, I welcome that for sure. We want Ryan here for the long term. We are happy and delighted to have him.

“He sets a standard and a bar here for the rest to follow in terms of his leave of consistency.”

If there is a downside to having a squad full of international players is that it leads to a challenging schedule with little respite.

Gerrard reveals the clubs were given little input in the decision to remove this season’s winter break but hoped his players would adapt to the demands.

“We weren’t asked for an opinion on that, the decision was made by the governing body,” he added.

“So we have to get on with that. I don’t think it will help the country in terms of the players playing here. The whole idea of a winter break is to maybe support summer tournaments moving forward.

“I certainly welcome the five substitutions up here because it’s a small way of helping manage the players’ load. It’s the reason why I want a big squad here at Rangers. Because the schedule is manic. Especially if you keep doing well from a European point of view.”

Aberdeen won’t finish this season as Scottish champions but they could have a big say in who eventually takes that mantle.

They travel to Ibrox for the high noon showdown undefeated in their last six league matches.

“It'll be a different challenge against Aberdeen,” added Gerrard. “They can go about their business quietly, find a level and try to stay with us for as long as they can.

“They and Hibs are both good teams who have started the season extremely well. We certainly won't be writing anyone off at this stage.

“We don't see it as a one, two or three horse race. That would be really disrespectful. There's too much football and too many big games to be played.

“It's an exciting time to be involved in this race and we're looking forward to the challenges ahead.”