Hearts boss Daniel Stendel reckons Steven Gerrard is on his way to becoming “a special coach”.
But the German is determined to dent the Rangers manager’s title aspirations by leading the Jambos to victory this afternoon.
The 45-year-old admits he admired Gerrard from afar when he was carving out his own playing career at home in Germany.
The Liverpool legend’s Champions League exploits and his eye-catching displays with England left an impression on Stendel
But by the time he took a greater interest in English football as head coach at Barnsley, Liverpool were more of an interest because of countryman Jurgen Klopp.
Stendel is fully aware of the much-vaunted theory that Gerrard will one day succeed Klopp in the Anfield hot- seat.
But, for now, the Hearts manager is desperate to prove his own dugout credentials by pulling off a shock victory at Tynecastle.
He said: “I like a player in his position who pushes the teams and works hard, and can also score goals from midfield.
“I think he was a special player. He is on his way to being a special coach.
“We were both professional footballers, although he was on a different level than I, and I watched some of his games in the past, especially some of the Champions League games and England games.
“I think we had some very good central midfielders in Germany who played very similarly, but Gerrard is Gerrard.
“He is a legend with Liverpool and in England also.
“But today is a competition between two teams, two managers. This is my first game against Rangers and I expect that we have a chance.
“The favourites are not us, it is Rangers. But I say to my players: ‘Why can’t we win? I think we have a chance to win’.
“We need to believe that we can do it, when we play to our plan in the right way and we take our chances. Yes, we can win.
“I can see Steven Gerrard is doing a good job at Rangers and they have a good chance of winning the title this year after a long time.
“But it might be difficult when they are not going to win against us!”
Stendel has been content to have witnessed some positives from his side since they resumed action after the winter break.
Having had the opportunity to work at length with his squad on the training pitch, the Gorgie men have returned with a 5-0 hammering of Airdrie in the Scottish Cup last weekend, followed by the midweek stalemate away to Ross County.
This afternoon’s encounter will be an altogether sterner test for the Jambos.But constant improvement is what the German is striving for as he attempts to lift his side off the bottom of the Premiership.
He has closely studied the methods of the likes of Klopp, Pep Guardiola and Arsene Wenger in recent times, but insists he will be his own man at Hearts.
He added: “My experience, gained over the last 12 or 13 years, when I have coached teams, tells me it is very important you have your own way and your own ideas.
“It’s not so special, but it’s your ideas.
“It’s important when you are training players and speaking with players that you can convince them to do what you want when you can feel what you want, when you are really convinced in your own ideas.
“This, for me, is the main thing.
“Sometimes I look at games from the best coaches in the world and maybe I can take some little things for my game and for our game. This is important for every coach.
“But I have said to the players I want to improve every player in every training session and every game.
“It is the same for me, that I can improve from every training session and every game, every day, every experience.
“That is what I try to do.”