‘I’ll be surprised if I EVER beat this feeling’: Steven Gerrard led Rangers to the promised land after a decade in the wilderness… now he opens up on the challenge of de-throning Celtic and building a legacy at Ibrox
- Rangers did not win the Scottish Premiership title for 10 years before this season
- Boss Steven Gerrard has transformed their fortunes since taking over in 2018
- The Liverpool legend has opened up on the highest of highs at the Glasgow club
- He wants to build a legacy at Ibrox after finally dethroning Celtic in the league
‘Winning a trophy as a player is incredible. As a manager? I tell you what. We can come back to this. I can’t answer that question, not at the minute. I hope I get the chance to one day try.’ Steven Gerrard — November 14, 2018.
It is two and a half years since a conversation with the then fledgling manager of Glasgow Rangers ended with his wish to resume at a later date.
He was still getting used to his new life then — dealing with being away from his family, coping with the expectation of reviving a football institution.
Steven Gerrard has admitted he is unlikely to beat the feeling he gets from Rangers’ title win
But now the opportunity has arrived to pick that discussion up once more. It is 13 days since Rangers were crowned champions of Scotland and the twinkle in Gerrard’s eye confirms how the hard work and personal sacrifice has reaped dividends.
So here’s the question again: how does winning a trophy as a player or a manager compare?
‘I can certainly answer it now,’ says Gerrard, smiling.
‘I’d never, ever change anything I did with Liverpool. Winning the Champions League in 2005 was the best place I ever went as a player. Emotionally — the buzz, the satisfaction, the pride. Relief as well.
‘I’m hoping I go on to achieve many more things as a manager. But I’ll be surprised if go to many higher places.
‘You have to be in this job, in my shoes; you have to be part of this club to realise the size, the pressure and responsibility on this season to make it a success.’
The legendary Liverpool midfielder led his Glasgow-based side to their first title in a decade
It is some statement. In time, there will be a discussion about what detractors will say about the achievement — he’s familiar with the criticism ‘it’s only Scotland’ — but first to the moment when Rangers’ coronation was confirmed on March 7, witnessed over a Sunday roast in a canteen.
Here marked the end of a crusade, halting Celtic’s quest to win 10 consecutive titles. Here, also, was the chance for Gerrard to banish demons that had gnawed away at him since April 27, 2014. This will be the last time he introduces Liverpool 0 Chelsea 2 — and the fateful day he slipped — into a conversation.
‘It was the first bit of success since the lowest point I’d been at,’ says Gerrard. ‘I’m refusing to speak about the Chelsea situation moving forward, but it’s been well documented the emotional journey that game and that setback took me on.
‘To be in the place that I was in, in the canteen watching the Celtic game (as they drew 0-0 with Dundee United) was the complete opposite end of the scale.
‘I’ll never compare what I’ve done as a player and as a manager, but the emotional high is one I will cherish forever.’
Gerrard has transformed the fortunes of the side since taking over in the summer of 2018
With good reason. You may look from afar and think progress has been linear but there have been different challenges, particularly last season when a couple of defeats at Hearts and Hamilton Academical before Covid struck led to a certain amount of soul-searching.
Could he do the job? Could he turn this great big ocean liner around? Reassurance arrived from those around him — his staff, Gary McAllister, Tom Culshaw and Michael Beale, are invaluable crutches — while experience told him to be patient.
‘In the second year we wanted to win a trophy and compete for the title,’ says Gerrard.
‘The bumps felt more painful (they lost the League Cup final 1-0 to Celtic and fell away in the title race) because you are into the job and there is more pressure and expectation.’
The good times, then, must be appreciated because he knows better than anyone that a twist can come at any given moment. To put this into context, we speak Friday lunchtime. The previous 14 hours had been consumed by an incident with midfielder Glen Kamara that sickened him.
He has led his side 20 points clear of rivals Celtic, and they have only conceded nine all season
Kamara reported he had been racially abused during the 2-0 defeat by Slavia Prague that ended Rangers’ run in the Europa League. This is the other side of the job, for which there is no kind of training, and it is a constant challenge — not to mention an education.
‘The last two weeks have been some journey,’ Gerrard says. ‘You could write a book on it. There’s never a quiet day at Rangers.
‘You’re always dealing with something, even if it isn’t as high profile as the last two weeks. It comes with the territory and the job description, you have to be prepared and ready.
‘It’s my remit to make sure I’m there for the players. It’s about managing all sorts of different situations and challenges. That’s why it’s important you have trustworthy staff around you that are on the same page as you. I knew I had loads to learn. That will continue all of the time.
‘That has been the biggest thing for me over the last three years, the strength of my staff. What I would say, though, is I feel I’m in a much better position now than I was when I first walked into it. I knew I was going into a massive job and would make mistakes.’
Rangers went out of the Europa League round of 16 on Thursday night against Slavia Prague
Rangers’ Glen Kamara (centre) accused defender Ondrej Kudela (right) of racially abusing him
Whatever mistakes there have been were corrected spectacularly this season. Rangers head into Sunday’s Old Firm date unbeaten, having scored 77 goals and conceded nine. A victory could set the tone for a period of domination and Gerrard is certainly not interested in relaxing.
His progress inevitably means there will be admirers on this side of the border, but he is paying no attention to it.
Destiny says he will one day manage Liverpool but, before then, his ambition is to create a legacy at Ibrox. Now he has started winning he doesn’t intend to stop.
‘I cannot control people’s opinions on Scottish football, he says. ‘I think opinions on the league or certain clubs up here come from people who are uneducated on the real world.
‘In terms of interest around me, I don’t think I have to talk about where that comes from. All that tells me is I’m on the right lines, doing a decent job; my players are doing a decent job. I take it as a compliment.
‘But the feeling of getting the title over the line has made me even hungrier and determined to add to that in the short and medium term. And who knows what comes after that?’
Share this article
Source: Read Full Article