IT is one thing to assess Fashion Sakala as a player but Steven Gerrard must think of the person. The two are, after all, intrinsically linked.

The beaming smile and natural lust for life that Sakala displays give an insight into his personality and he has already forged an affinity with fans following his move to Rangers this summer.

Goals will, of course, help his cause in that regard and the Zambian was serenaded - to the tune of Shakira's 'Waka Waka' - in the aftermath of his hat-trick against Motherwell at the weekend.

Gerrard spoke last week about how Sakala appeared more settled in his surroundings at Ibrox. The time, he felt, was coming for him to really show supporters what he can do.

Football has taken the 24-year-old from the city of Chipata in his homeland to Russia, Belgium and now to Scotland and his story is one which inspires his countrymen as they dare to dream of a career in the game.

Gerrard's squad is a multi-cultural, multi-lingual environment. The importance of time to become accustomed to a country and a club cannot be taken for granted.

“I think we all do," Gerrard said when asked if people underestimate how difficult it can be for players to settle. "I played for my local team, lived at home with my family for the majority of my career.

"It wasn’t until I went to LA and maybe tried a different experience, or maybe I was away with England, and it’s different because you’re not in your comfort zone if you like.

“These players are coming from different areas of the world. Some of them come with their families, some come without.

"Cedric [Itten] came during a pandemic, which came with numerous other challenges.

“Fashion was living in Belgium, and obviously it’s a different league. He’s coming to a different country again.

"He came without his family, his family are on the way. We’ve had some visa and passport issues.

"These are the little things that people don’t see, through no fault of their own.

“The good thing about Rangers is we have the right people who can give them support on and off the pitch. You do have to be patient and give these people enough time to feel at home and feel comfortable.

“It’s important that you don’t throw them in at the wrong time because you can also ruin someone if you throw them in at the deep end and they’re not ready, not settled, and not used to how you play, or the environment. Sometimes it can be too soon.

“Just a little bit patient with certain individuals, that’s how we need to be with them."

Sakala had scored just once in his previous 13 appearances for Rangers before he was given the opportunity to impress at Fir Park on Sunday. It was one he capitalised on.

His terrific hat-trick in a 6-1 victory has put him in line to start against Brondby this evening as Rangers target a hugely significant Europa League win.

Sakala's pace and directness could prove crucial in Denmark and such occasions are part of the reason why Gerrard was so keen to bring him on board from Oostende on a four-year deal.

Gerrard said: “Did you not watch our game away to Sparta Prague? That’s the reason we made that addition to our squad.

“It was an area where we felt we needed something different, something we could polish up and develop.

"Someone who could add a real strength to our attacking play with that raw pace, power and unpredictability.

“He’s an incredible human being. The way he has come into the club, his smile and demeanour, his attitude and energy, has lifted the whole place.

“We needed time to get him settled and used to us. We needed to get used to him.

"The signs are he is really starting to find his feet here at Rangers. He is a really exciting one for everyone to watch moving forward.

“There will be plenty of opportunities for Fashion, not just in Europe but domestically as well. We are really starting to see his strengths, his consistency from a training point of view.

"It was no surprise he put in the performance he did at the weekend."

Sakala could not have timed his hat-trick any better as he gave Rangers' title defence a timely shot in the arm and staked his claim for a Europa League spot.

He is one of three players - alongside Alfredo Morelos and Kemar Roofe - that Gerrard can utilise through the middle of his Ibrox attack but the striker has shown that he can flexible with his approach.

Gerrard said: “Part of our recruitment, with the system we play, is that it’s important some of the players in the front areas are comfortable in different positions.

“So some can play on the left and right, some are hybrid who can play as a ten or a nine. We do like that rotation and flexibility in the front positions.

“If you look at Kemar, Fashion, Ryan Kent, Scott Wright - outside of Alfredo, those players are all hybrids who can play in different positions and roles.

"That’s very important because we want to be flexible and be able to adapt within games.

“It’s an area of our team which is still developing and getting better. If you look at pace and goal threat, it’s probably the strongest that unit has been since I came into the club, for sure."

Rangers made the trip to Denmark on Wednesday with a spring in their step on the back of that emphatic Premiership win that moved them four points clear in the title race.

Gerrard had targeted six points against Brondby before their Ibrox victory a fortnight ago. That is now a very realistic aim for the champions.

"The mood is really good and confidence is high, as you can imagine, because it was a really important victory at the weekend," Gerrard said. "We did it in style.

"But there has to be a realisation that the Europa League is a different competition, on a different level – and almost a one-off game.

"Because it’s a must-win in terms of us keeping it in our own control, to get out of the group.

"We almost have to move on very quickly from the weekend, take the positives from it, and get the boys ready physically, mentally – and with a game plan that is going to be successful."