Dominant in Scotland, Rangers may offer the happy ending Gerrard never had at Liverpool

With 20 wins from 22 games, Gerrard has swept away the team’s culture of mediocrity. 

A couple of years ago, his own career at Liverpool long behind him, Steven Gerrard returned to Anfield as a spectator. It was the second leg of the Champions League semi-final, and Liverpool were 3-0 down to Barcelona from the first.

You may remember what happened next. Liverpool scored four goals to pull off one of the most startling comebacks in the history of modern football. Only, Gerrard wasn’t around to see it. As soon as his boyhood club went 4-0 up, he became haunted by visions: the utter certainty that somehow, something would go wrong. The spectre of victory being snatched away at the death ­began to consume him. And so, a few ­minutes before the final whistle, he got in his car and left.

For those who followed Gerrard closely during his playing days, this will come as little surprise. Over nearly two decades with Liverpool and England, Gerrard’s innately fatalistic nature drove him to some of his greatest triumphs and fuelled some of his most dramatic failures. Anxiety, fear, trauma real or anticipated: these were the defining themes of Gerrard’s career, as much as anything he ever did with a ball. Gerrard didn’t just dwell on defeat. He signed the deeds, bought the freehold and moved his entire family in.

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Now, as manager of Rangers, these same traits have followed him into ­coaching. “I wasn’t happy with our organisation,” Gerrard grumbled at the conclusion of the Old Firm derby on 2 January. “We couldn’t really get a foothold in the game. But you’ve got to credit Celtic. I thought they were ­really good.”

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A fairly standard lamentation, you might think, from a beaten manager still stinging from defeat. But here’s the thing: Gerrard’s team had won 1-0. Not only that, in doing so they opened up an astonishing 19-point lead over their bitter rivals. After a decade of turbulence and turmoil, liquidation and disgrace, relegation and renaissance, Rangers are about to be champions again.

The irony is that for much of his tenure since taking over in 2018, Gerrard’s characteristic air of despondency has been entirely appropriate. He began by overseeing their worst start to a league season in 29 years. Last season saw a dramatic collapse in form that was curtailed only by a global ­pandemic. By the start of his third season, he was already the holder of a dubious ­record: the first Rangers manager since the 1950s to survive two full seasons without winning a trophy.

But slowly and by degrees, Gerrard was beginning to sweep away the culture of mediocrity that had been weighing Rangers down for a decade. The training ground and facilities were overhauled. Cut free from the grumbling, fidgety Ibrox crowd, an experienced, battle hardened squad could ignore the neuroses and expectation, and simply play. With 20 wins from 22 games, bookmakers and pundits agree that the Scottish Premiership is over as a meaningful ­contest. …read more

Source:: New Statesman


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