The Steven Gerrard / Rangers gamble has paid off for both


No matter what was said at the time, Rangers took a gamble in hiring Steven Gerrard as their new manager in the summer of 2018. The former England and Liverpool captain only had coaching experience at youth level and so the Ibrox club largely based their decision on a hunch that he was the right man for the job

Nearly two-and-a-half years later and that hunch looks to have been right. Rangers still aren’t where they want to be but, under Steven Gerrard, they have improved season-on-season to the point where they now stand as favourites to win the 2020/21 Scottish Premiership title. The improvement has been remarkable.

Rangers are unbeaten in 14 league games this season having dropped points only twice. They have kept 12 clean sheets and are scoring goals for fun, sticking eight past Hamilton Accies on Sunday. With Celtic somewhat inconsistent in recent weeks, it’s becoming increasingly difficult to envisage how Gerrard’s side will be caught.

It’s not just domestically that Rangers have impressed. Just days before mauling Hamilton, Gerrard took his side to Lisbon to take on Benfica in the Europa League and came within minutes of pulling off a victory. In the end, Rangers had to settle for a 3-3 draw, but this came after victories over Standard Liege and Lech Poznan.

Europe provides the starkest illustration of how Steven Gerrard has taken Rangers that little bit further every season he has been in charge. He led the club back to the group stages of a continental competition for the first time in years at the first attempt. He took them into the last 16 at his second attempt. This season, Gerrard’s third attempt, Rangers look well equipped to go even further.

This pattern of gradual improvement bodes well for the rest of Gerrard’s managerial career. He took a risk by taking his first senior job at a club where success is judged purely on silverware. Gerrard has yet to achieve this, so far missing out on a major honour to symbolise the progress made, but what he has experienced in Glasgow will harden him for any future challenges.

At first, Gerrard was found to be vulnerable to the pressures of the Rangers job. More than once, he publicly questioned the mentality of his players, warning them that if they didn’t shape up they would be shipped out. Like so many great players who turn their hand to management, Gerrard seemed frustrated that his squad was unable to do what he was able to with ease.

It should be noted Gerrard has a good team around him. Gary McAllister brings experience to the fold while first team coach Michael Beale is widely suspected to be the tactical mastermind behind the operation. Gerrard spends much of his time on the bench in conference with Beale, who followed the former midfielder to Ibrox from Liverpool

Gerrard, however, deserves great credit for the way his Rangers team is coached. They are well drilled in every area of the pitch. While Rangers’ defence was somewhat vulnerable and prone to errors in Gerrard’s first two seasons, they are now solid. Each player is aware of their duties and responsibilities. There’s an effortless confidence to Rangers’ play right now.

The packed schedule over Christmas and into the new year has the potential to shake this confidence. Rangers were in a similar position this time last year only to suffer a collapse after the winter break. Gerrard and his players now appear mentality strengthened by this experience. The proof will be in what happens in the new year, but Rangers might just have learned from past mistakes.

From the moment Steven Gerrard took the manager’s job at Ibrox, the idea was that he would use Rangers to prove his value as a top level manager. He is doing that and while a major trophy would underline this, there is already enough in his track record to suggest there is future elite level manager learning his trade north of the border.

 


 

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