Celtic have just thrashed their bitter city rivals, Rangers, to clinch their seventh consecutive league title. Off the back of this latest setback, interim manager, Greame Murty, has been sacked, and is set to be replaced at Ibrox in the coming days by none other than Liverpool Youth Coach Steven Gerard. If it goes through, it will be the Liverpool legend’s first step in football management with many pundits encouraging him to take the reins at Rangers. However given his current situation and the plight of Rangers Football Club, it has the feel of a rather a risky step for Gerrard, who has ambitions for the top job at Anfield.
Too early or just right?
Gerrard turned down the MK Dons in 2016, before taking over at Liverpool’s youth academy. He said at the time that the job offer came too soon, before embarking on the same route trodden by Steve Heighway, who had such a big influence on Gerard’s youth career. Less than two years later, it appears he now feels ready and views the Scottish Premiership side as a good first job. He has some good people around him giving him solid advice, no doubt, but there should be some major concerns for Gerrard going into this high-profile role.
Yes, he can become a legend with the passionate fan base there if he somehow turns it around and is able to challenge Celtic’s monopoly on power. The prospect of some early trophies and success will be huge, boosting his CV early on, however it must be considered just how dominant Celtic are at the moment and just what a task he would have on his hands.
Brendan Rodgers is on the cusp of back to back trebles and has lifted Celtic into a position where there really is no competition for them in the league format. Yes, they may lose the odd cup game, but there really is no serious challenge to their status. They also have first dibs on the best talent in that country, something Gerrard could maybe remedy with the draw of his name and his Liverpool connection.
Rangers are currently closer to Kilmarnock in fifth than they are the champions, so there really is a huge mountain to climb. This is also coupled with the uncertainty over Dave King’s ownership, as unwanted courtroom battles once again attach themselves to this proud football institution. Despite rumours of a forthcoming cash injection, there is a huge lack of investment currently hurting the club, and it appears Gerrard would have to beg steal and borrow his way to signing players at Ibrox. The odd couple of Liverpool youngsters would not go very far towards pushing the club forwards. With many fans far from overjoyed at the prospect of landing Gerrardas their next manager, it shows just how much negativity there is at Ibrox currently. The consensus is that they need a generous owner and investment before any manager can build anything there.
Is there enough patience left at Ibrox?
Therein lies a key issue for Gerard, if he were to go to Rangers he would probably have to rebuild with youth and inexperienced players. There would also be a change in style with Gerrard no doubt keen to play on the ground with an attacking style. Pundits would cry patience in support of the former Liverpool man, but whether the fans would be happy to see yet another season written off before it’s even started is an entirely different question. Moreover, whether or not he’d be given the time to do anything meaningful up there remains to be seen. If Celtic waltz their way to another clean sweep of trophies it would be very painful indeed and the buck would stop with the manger, no doubt.
Further compounding Rangers’ problems is the fact that the Premiership itself is a league that struggles to attract big names. Celtic have had some success in using themselves as a feeder club to bigger leagues with Wanyama and Van Dijk recently graduating to the Premier League with considerable success. But few other sides with their minimal gates and stunted prospects can offer this platform. Gerrard may need to weigh up whether or not he is actually better staying at his current role rather than venturing out into a league bereft of investment and competition. Or perhaps he could follow in the recent footsteps of fellow Huytonian Joey Barton and take a decent League One or Two club with less expectation and build a base for himself there. It has certainly helped other managers in the past.
A new dimension to the Old Firm
If Gerrard does decide to take the plunge it will throw up a few interesting encounters with his former manager Brendan Rodgers. He always spoke highly of the Ulsterman during his three years as Liverpool manager so it would be fascinating to see how this dynamic played out in the broader context of the Old Firm rivalry. Rivalries are normally exacerbated by managers clashing off the pitch in the press conferences; however, Gerrard is likely to be polite and careful with his words when talking about Rodgers. Whether or not this would go down well with the Rangers fans remains to be seen, and it could take some of the heat out of the games next season in that regard.
It would also be of interest to see how Gerrard would approach management. There are legions of Liverpool supporters willing him to do well and keep alive the prospect of the scouser returning to the club as a manager at some point in the future. He can certainly draw from a wonderful football education, from Houllier and Benitez right through to Klopp, he has worked with some of the best. This will no doubt be a wonderful aid for him going forward into his career as a manager, and if he is successful at Rangers or any other club, it would certainly turn a few heads.
Rangers are a massive club and Gerrard is a huge name, it will be up to the former Reds captain ultimately to take his first job. It could one day lead him back to Anfield and glory once again.