The Rangers players call him “Uncle” and Steven Gerrard admitted he has a crucial role to play as the father figure of the Ibrox dressing room.

But Steve Lomas insists Jermain Defoe will still believe he is the daddy of all the Light Blues strikers and should be the No. 1 choice.

Lomas watched Defoe roll back the years to net his landmark 300th club goal against Livingston on Sunday - 20 years after playing alongside the veteran striker when he scored his very first in the claret and blue of West Ham United.

Walsall’s Bescot Stadium on a rain-lashed night in the Worthington Cup is as far removed from the glamour of scoring for England in the World Cup, Spurs in the Premier League and now Ibrox.

But that’s where Defoe got off and running when he netted the only goal six minutes from time in the first leg of the second round tie and it proved decisive after a 1-1 draw in the return at Upton Park as the Hammers avoided an upset.

Ex-St Johnstone boss Lomas knew the pint-sized poacher was a star in the making and backed him to play at the top for another couple of years.

And Lomas believes he could play a crucial role in Rangers’ title bid this season rather than just a bit-part player who settles for being an off-field influence.

Steve Lomas

Gers gaffer Steven Gerrard revealed the 38-year-old has been angry at his lack of chances and grabbed his opportunity with a sublime goal on the half volley from James Tavernier’s brilliant pass.

It was his 27th strike since moving north of the border from Bournemouth and Lomas fancies him to keep adding to that tally if Gerrard gives him game time.

Defoe is in a battle with Alfredo Morelos, Kemar Roofe and Cedric Itten for a place in the starting XI as they prepare to head to Kilmarnock on Sunday where victory would move them nine points clear of Celtic at the top of the table.

Lomas - who spent five years with Defoe in east London - said: “Jermain can can go on and play at least until his 40 and the good thing just now is that with Rangers in Europe they have a lot of games and they’ve got strikers to choose from.

“I don’t want to be disrespectful to Livingston but in that type of fixture at Ibrox they can play JD and give Alfredo Morelos a rest.

“But Jermain won’t want to settle just for that and he’ll think he’s the best striker at the club. And you’ve got to have that mindset.

“If he played 30 games then Jermain would back himself to score 20 goals but even if gets you 10 in 20 appearances then that’s invaluable.

“It allows Alfredo Morelos, Kemar Roofe and Cedric Itten to be rotated and they haven’t had that luxury for a long time.

“And if Morelos picked up an injury then you’ve got Defoe to come in whereas in the last couple of years if Morelos was out it would have been catastrophic.

“They have relied heavily on Alfredo Morelos so keeping JD around is great and you hope the younger ones are looking at him and saying ‘How’s he living his life to be able to play at 38?’.

“He’s great for Rangers to have around and it’s funny because his 300th goal was just as crucial as his first because on Sunday it gave Rangers breathing space while 20 years ago he got us the win.

“We went to Walsall on a rainy night and it was a typical away League Cup tie against lower league opposition where it was tough.

“The Bescot Stadium is just one of those tough venues and it was heading for a goalless draw until he came off the bench and scored the winner with six minutes left.

“When we finished seventh in the league he came off the bench a lot and was so sharp. The good thing when he comes off the bench is that he’s ready - it doesn’t take him long.”

Lomas marvelled at the way Defoe executed his strike against Livingston and admitted he was born with a natural instinct for scoring goals.

The 46-year-old former Northern Ireland international said: “It was a fantastic ball first and foremost from James Tavernier and then Jermain rolled back the years by spinning in behind because normally he gets a lot of balls into feet.

“His finish just typified what he’s all about. He just knew instinctively what sort of finish was needed and took it on the half volley and stroked it home.

“Tavernier’s ball was fantastic and it was something they’d obviously worked on. But it was great movement from Jermain showing the eyes, drawing the defender underneath the ball and spinning in behind and the finish was sublime - ice cool.

“As that ball came over a lot of players might have considered taking it on the volley or chest but he made a very hard skill look easy.
“As that’s coming over your shoulder when you’re on the run with a defender chasing you he knew he had to take it first time and the technique to caress it is fantastic.

“It’s just instinctive and Ian Wright was the same. He knew what sort of finish was required. That’s something you’re born with and Jermain was always like that.

“The thing we really noticed about Jermain early on is that he had very little back-lift to get a shot away and probably 30 to 40 per cent of his goals come from him being in the box and the defender doesn’t have time to set his feet to try and block.

“He just goes touch-touch-bang. He scores all types of goals but he made the on against Livingston look so easy - it was like a playground kickabout.”