'Once you've experienced an Old Firm game you can handle anything' Trevor Steven backs Jelavic to thrive against Liverpool

Former Everton, Rangers and England midfielder believes the experience of Rangers vs Celtic Old Firm derbies will stand Croatian in good stead for Anfield clash

By Rob Stewart

Former Everton and Rangers star Trevor Steven is backing Nikica Jelavic to take Tuesday night’s Merseyside derby with Liverpool in his stride due to his experience of Old Firm games in Glasgow.

Steven is relishing the prospect of seeing Jelavic get his first taste of the local rivalries at Anfield following his £7 million move from Rangers and he is convinced that the Croatian will be unfazed by the red-hot atmosphere.

“He has played in the Old Firm derbies and so once you can handle that occasion you can handle anything,” Steven told Goal.com.

“Everton versus Liverpool has always been one of the great derbies worldwide but once you have played in the Old Firm games nothing is daunting after that.

“Although I believe on Merseyside that it has become more of an aggressive clash you don’t get anything more volatile than a Rangers-Celtic game. It is just non-stop anger and hatred coming from the opposition supporters.

“Whether it is at Celtic Park or Ibrox, they do give a lot of tickets to the away fans so it is fervent and definitely an experience to have in your football career if you can get it.”

Glasgow-based Steven is certain that David Moyes made a smart move in bringing the 26-year-old Jelavic, who scored his first goal in English football in last weekend’s 1-0 win over Tottenham, to Goodison Park in January.

“He adapted very quickly and very well to Rangers which is a very big club where there is a lot of expectation,” added Steven.

“The quality of defenders is not as good in Scotland as it is in the English Premier League but he is quick, he is not technically gifted but he does like scoring goals.

“That is exactly what Everton need – someone who stays in the width of the penalty area and is looking for balls to be threaded through or looking to get across defenders and is decent in the air – someone who just wants opportunities and chances and of course he got lots of that at Rangers because they would dominate most teams in Scotland but he certainly looks clinical

“He has a few games under his belt now and he may have been daunted if he did not have any form going into the game because then you are more aware of your surroundings but is you are cocooned in good form then you can take on anything.

“He has had a good start so hopefully he will feel ready for the challenge at Anfield and he is in good hands with David Moyes because he is a top-class manager.”

Everton could move above their neighbours in the Premier League should they win at Anfield and Steven, who helped the club win the Football League twice in the mid-80s before joining Rangers, believes Moyes deserves immense credit for the club’s upward mobility.

“I don’t know why it happens but it seems to be an annual event at Everton hat they hit form and loft their game to top-six level at a certain point in the season but sometimes it just happens too late and the points difference is too much for them to make up,” Steven continued.

“It would be great to think that next season they can get themselves into that top six group by October or November and then push on from that point rather than pushing on form 14th or 15th.

“There has always been the shadow of Liverpool’s successes in the past and it doesn’t help when they are financially more capable than Everton but that doesn’t put the supporters off too much and they will still turn up and give 100 per cent support.

“It is just a shame he has not had the funds to do what he would really like to do with the club but he doesn’t complain, he still looks around and spots the top players but unfortunately he can’t always buy them. He ends up generally doing last-minute shopping rounds which is a shame for him and the Everton support.”

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