It seems like a lifetime ago when Rangers Football Club were winning titles, but many fans will still remember the glory days, days when two Northern Irish men were the centre of attention. Steve Davis and Kyle Lafferty were central to the phenomenal success at Ibrox throughout their years at Rangers, winning three consecutive Scottish Premier League titles, along with countless other trophies including both the Scottish Cup and the Scottish League Cup. Both Northern Ireland internationals joined the club in 2008 at a stage when Celtic had won three consecutive titles themselves; while both left the club in 2012 after the nightmare scenario began, before Celtic went on to win six consecutive titles and counting.
In a move that will suit the former Rangers target man perfectly, Lafferty has recently signed a two-year-deal with Edinburgh side Hearts, and will meet up with his old club on numerous occasions this season as the two clubs aim to knock Champions Celtic off their perch. The formidable front man is the ideal striker for a club that have failed to find the back of the net in recent times, and it will undoubtedly benefit Lafferty himself as he aims to fight for a place in his country’s squad for the remaining 2018 World Cup Qualifying campaign games. He will also join fellow Northern Irishman Aaron Hughes at the club, with countless other stars representing the green and white throughout Scotland.
Lafferty will be welcomed with open arms when Hearts and Rangers meet at Ibrox in mid-August, yet the forward will only have one thing on his mind; finding the back of the net. The then-20-year old arrived in Scotland from Burnley with two other forwards at the time – Kenny Miller and Andrius Velicka – yet his £3m price tag was the most expensive of the lot, proving just how highly rated the youngster was. Lafferty went on to make over 100 appearances for the boys in blue, and amid controversial on-field antics and off field bust ups, the forward remains one of the key reasons that the club enjoyed so much success in the last decade.
The story of Steve Davis at Rangers witnessed much more personal success, yet he left the club at the same time as his international team-mate in similar circumstances, having had even more success due to a loan spell at the club before signing permanently. The midfield maestro made a name for himself at the club he supported as a boy, and proved so popular and influential that he was temporarily given the captain’s armband in David Weir’s absence as well as signing a new five-year contract in the summer of 2011.
His highly successful stint in Glasgow kicked off with a UEFA Cup debut, a debut goal against German side Werder Bremen that eventually saw Rangers reach the 2008 final, along with a vital penalty in the League Cup shootout win against Dundee United, also winning the Scottish Cup in May of the same year. Davis was not used to the silverware and the inevitable spotlight that shone brightly on him, but he embraced the pressure and captured further trophies the following season, scoring the only goal in the final Old Firm of the 2008/09 campaign as Rangers won both the SPL title and the Scottish Cup.
More league and cup joy followed in 2010, while the playmaker was also named SPFA Players’ Player of the Year, while his presence in the middle of the park proved vital for a third year running as he picked up a third consecutive SPL title and yet another Scottish League Cup, scoring in the final as his side defeated bitter rivals Celtic 2-1.
The Ballymena man went on to captain both Southampton, when in 2016 he signed a new three-year contract to extend his stay with the club until 2019, and Northern Ireland, when in 2006 he became Northern Ireland’s youngest modern day captain, before scoring twice in a 3–1 victory over Greece to help Northern Ireland qualify for the final tournament of Euro 2016, their first ever European Championship tournament.
Lafferty managed 38 goals in 138 appearances, while compatriot Davis bagged 22 in 210, but both players enjoyed huge success in the blue of Rangers. Both club and country benefitted from the excellent link up play between Davis and Lafferty, and despite going on to have entirely differing careers, the two continue to play a pivotal role in what has been a sensational run of form for the national side.
They join a long list of the Northern Ireland contingent to have crossed the Irish Sea and featured for the club, including top goal scorer David Healy, Dean Shiels, Lee Hodson, Andrew Little and Billy Simpson all the way back in the 1980s. Many will remember both Lafferty’s and Davis’s contributions to The Gers, with both players leaving as fan favourites in their somewhat short stay at the club. It may have ended in anger and angst given the circumstances at Ibrox at the time, but the Rangers faithful will never forget the impact that these two stars had on their beloved club.