Could Gary Rowett, Mark Warburton spark transfer tug-of-war between Derby County, Nottingham Forest?

Birmingham City manager Gary Rowett before the match

Rangers defender Rob Kiernan is a firm favourite of the new bosses at Derby County and Nottingham Forest.

Rangers' Rob Kiernan (R) in action with Hibernian's Daniel Carmichael

The fact that most Rangers fans would be willing to pack Rob Kiernan’s belongings and give him a free lift to the airport should act as a warning to potential suitors hoping to land the much-maligned defender in the summer.

Yet, with two keen admirers set to take up new posts in the Championship, Kiernan could soon become a surprise object of affection for two of the second tier’s biggest clubs.

The Daily Mail reported in December that Fulham were prepared to pay £2 million for the 26-year-old and, although losing one of the first names on the team-sheet elicited some concern from Rangers fans at the time, a torrid two months means the majority would snap your hand off for half that fee in the summer.

It’s surely no coincidence that Rangers kept a clean sheet against Hamilton and produced arguably their most impressive defensive performance of the season in Sunday’s derby draw with Celtic while Kiernan has been kept on the sidelines after a harsh red card against St Johnstone.

However, with Gary Rowett, his former manager at Birmingham, and Mark Warburton, who brought him to Ibrox, taking over at Derby and Nottingham Forest, the ball-playing centre-back could be handed an escape route.

“Rob Kiernan is an excellent player,” Rowett, who signed the former Wigan youngster on loan at both Burton Albion and Birmingham, told the Birmingham Mail in 2015. “I think he has got massive potential.

Birmingham City Manager Gary Rowett ahead of the match

“He has got a great range of passing off both feet, he heads the ball well, defends really, really well. And most of all for me, he is a young player but he is a leader. He talks and he’s aggressive and I really like Rob.”

The 43-year-old took over at Derby on Tuesday and will be aiming to revitalise an underperforming squad, in particular a defence that has conceded too many sloppy goals in recent weeks. Kiernan, a trusted lieutenant, could be high on his list.

Warburton, meanwhile, admired Kiernan’s composure in possession and remained unmoved in his belief in the defender, even in the face of criticism. Forest have endured a debilitating injury crisis at the back recently while it would be no surprise to see Thomas Lam and Damien Perquis depart in the summer, meaning they too could be in the market for a central defender.

Rangers manager Mark Warburton during the match

Derby and Forest went head to head in a dramatic East Midlands clash on Saturday but perhaps another battle will take place in the summer.

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