Friday 23 August 2019

Jury still out on Gerrard's reign at Gers

Rangers manager Steven Gerrard. Photo: Lisi Niesner/Reuters
Rangers manager Steven Gerrard. Photo: Lisi Niesner/Reuters

Ewan Murray

Whether the Rangers support display appreciation towards Steven Gerrard after today's game or slink off quietly at the conclusion of their Ibrox season inevitably depends on the previous 90 minutes.

It is difficult to place a more irrelevant Old Firm contest - Rangers will be second in the Scottish Premiership and Celtic are the champions regardless of today's derby outcome - but so much of the Glasgow story is viewed through the prism of a single fixture. Gerrard does not seem to view 2018-19 as anything special for Rangers, which raises questions as to how to assess the manager appropriately.

He has wasted little time in glancing forward to next season. As Rangers confirmed the runners-up berth, he asserted that second place was "not enough". Yet it is the key indicator of Gerrard's positive influence that Rangers have separated themselves as a second force. Those who believe such a scenario should be a formality with a budget in excess of that of every team excluding Celtic paid little attention to the disastrous tenure of Pedro Caixinha in 2017.

Aberdeen's dismissals of Rangers in both domestic cups were the most damaging occasions of Gerrard's first season. The former England captain has been notably, sometimes brutally, critical of his squad. In the longer term, this will not prove a smart policy.

The arrival of Ryan Kent on loan from Liverpool has been a recruitment high point, alongside Scott Arfield and the returning Allan McGregor. Steven Davis and Jermain Defoe improved the side. But Umar Sadiq must be on any list of all-time Rangers flops, and Kyle Lafferty, Gareth McAuley, Eros Grezda and Borna Barisic all seem likely to vanish without trace.

Alfredo Morelos remains far too selfish and ill-tempered for his core ability to be represented by high value, and Gerrard appears to have lost patience with the Colombian. Yet, in general, Rangers have been ill-disciplined all season: last week's red card issued to McGregor was the team's 12th of the campaign.

On the plus side, the three Old Firm encounters have been decided by a single goal - with Rangers winning in December - where the previous two had seen an aggregate of 9-0 in Celtic's favour.

Gerrard must frequently wonder how well served he is by remaining in Glasgow. Whether or not he can build on progress, as unquestionably exists, into season two will determine how well served Rangers are by Gerrard.

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