When Steven Gerrard arrived there was undoubtedly an air of expectation and excitement. Excitement to land one of the most famous names south of the border and expectation that he wasn’t coming just to be happy at the standards previously served up.
Rangers were in a bad way when Gerrard took over, a squad needing a massive overhaul and a team which has lacked a style and identity for many years. We lacked the basics to compete at the top level or even to begin to think about it. Gerrard somehow had to plug the gaps in defence, rejuvenate the midfield and get the forward line firing all on a modest (in today’s footballing word) £10m budget.
All this whilst we knew very little about Gerrard himself as a manager, so it was a gamble by not only the club but also us as fans as we had no choice but to trust the man. From the word go however Gerrard has spoken well and conducted himself with an authority and confidence you would expect from somebody who has played football at the top level. With the backroom team he craved Gerrard officially started at Rangers in early June, with the players arriving a short time later.
The squad was dismantled with a turnover of almost forty players in and out of the club. Gerrard quickly built a spine and has managed to upgrade every position in the team and give himself a squad we can now feel capable of, or at the very least, competing.
In Europe the club have shown real promise and real maturity bringing immediate success with Europa league group stage qualification, negotiating four qualifiers and surviving testing trips to Macedonia, Slovakia, Croatia and Russia. Rangers showed their new resolve in each game to come away unbeaten even surviving with 9 men for the final 40 minutes in Russia.
It’s fair to say that Europe is where the management team have excelled, the tactics have been on point and team fitness has really came through. Qualification to the groups has given the club and support a huge lift as we move forward, financially the club stand to benefit from between £8-10 million pounds depending on performance. In many ways Gerrard has funded his own transfer window in a small space of time.
In the league the team has stuttered picking up only 5 points from the opening 12. Three tough away fixtures throwing up an abundance of frustration and disappointment. In Aberdeen the team played very well and where unlucky to only grab a point after a last minute equaliser which was barely deserved. In Motherwell the team were uncharacteristically extremely poor defensively, whilst we showed resolve to come from behind twice the team once again conceded a poor last minute equaliser.
At Parkhead the team simply failed to perform and we were no where near the levels expected. Game 13 in the Gerrard regime was simply a game too many, especially days after the heroics of Russia. That was a huge disappointment but whilst there is no excuses, there is certainly circumstances.
Rangers also progressed away in the league cup, comfortably beating Kilmarnock at Rugby Park in their best domestic performance of the season. Unfortunately the real blip on the playing squad also came here when we lost Jamie Murphy for the season due to a horrible knee injury.
The huge high of Europe has been tempered by the frustration of silly points dropped domestically, that is undeniable.
But this is where Gerrard will now really be judged, whilst every game is tough and presents there own challenges, the team now have a run of games domestically where they will expect to go on a winning run. Every winning Rangers team has been able to do this and that’s what has made them successful.
The challenge for Gerrard now is to prove Europe wasn’t a fluke on the high of his appointment and guide the team on that much needed winning run, that will certainly put the club in a much stronger position heading into the festive season where we once again face the tougher teams in the league.
But this team has big players to come into it now, Gerrard also has the luxury of being able to rotate and also has had this international break to put across more of his ideas on the training pitch
He has been described as meticulous in his preparation and the players all speak glowingly of the management, many speaking about the good team spirit amongst the team. Recently Kyle Lafferty replied to a question about the squads thoughts on this season by saying they all believed they could win the league this season. I’d much rather have that than a collective bunch who are happy to play second fiddle as in seasons past.
In my opinion it has been a good promising start to the managers career at Rangers. Europe has been fantastic and the real plus but undeniably domestically we have been frustrating. We will hopefully see more of the managers style implemented into games now that knock out football is behind us for the moment.
Time now to really kick on domestically and put up a strong European performance at the same time, it’s a challenge certainly but we are an expectant bunch and I’m sure Gerrard would want it no other way.
In the words of the manager ‘Lets Go’
Ignore the nonsense, the irrelevant and the noise 🔴⚪️🔵