GERRARD, RANGERS & A SEASON THAT COULD CHANGE EVERYTHING
14 Games unbeaten, 14 consecutive wins, 13 points away from winning the Scottish Premier League…it’s fair to say that Glasgow Rangers are the top team in Scotland right now. In fact, I believe they are the team to watch in the UK right now (Yes, I’m aware of what Man City is doing. Thank you but my point still stands). As it stands, Steven Gerrard’s side are 18 points clear at the top of the table. Win 5 games more and they are champions of Scotland for the 1st time since 2011. Celtic will be stuck on 9 consecutive titles just like it was in 1974. Rangers and Celtic have a history of not letting each other enjoy a decade-long dominance; with this season being no different.
Last season, Celtic held a similar lead over Rangers as they stormed to a 9th title in 9 years. Rangers looked like challengers at the start of that season but suffered from inconsistency as the season reached its business end. A lot of criticism was thrown at the team for ‘bottling’ the opportunity to sit at the top of Scottish football. Personally, I felt that the team was improving under Gerrard. It was just a matter of time before everything came together…and now it has.
First of all, this is a team that has been well-assembled. There’s an amazing mix of experience and youth. You have Joe Aribo (24) alongside Steven Davis (36), Jack Simpson (24) alongside Leon Balogun (32), and Alfredo Morelos (24) alongside Jermaine Defoe (38). The group is vibrant and has a lot of players from various backgrounds who complement each other so well. You have a British core that is complemented by the finest talent from outside the UK. What’s interesting to note is that the English guys brought in are players who always had quality but required a bigger stage to prove their relevance. Arfield, Kent, Goldson, Kamara, Roofe…these guys are top players that went largely unnoticed in England but once they got into Scotland, their talents finally found the recognition they deserved. The likes of Hagi, Helander, and Morelos have brought commendable variety. When you add senior heads like Steven Davies, Jermaine Defoe, and Allan McGregor, you have a complete team.
Steven Gerrard deserves a lot of credit for putting this team together. As a former player, he has an eye for spotting strong characters who can control and motivate others in a dressing room. He also knows the kind of young players who would fit into a team that’s looking to challenge for silverware. I believe the decision to start his managerial career in Scotland was a good idea. He’s in a league that has given him time to develop his style and team. Now, Rangers are reaping the rewards of their patience.
There’s a sense of Déjà vu here. Back in the 1980’s, a certain Graeme Souness became the manager of Glasgow Rangers shortly after his playing career was over. Over the next few years, the team became successful; knocking Celtic off the top of Scottish football with a team that is similar to the one Gerrard has today (a British core that is complemented by the finest talent from outside the UK).
Souness eventually left Rangers to manage Liverpool; a club he had captained to a European title. Right now, Liverpool look like a team that needs a refresh, just like they did in 1991. Souness left Rangers with a Scottish Premier League title in the bag. See where I’m going with this? Maybe it’s too early to speculate but it won’t surprise me if that scenario plays out. After all, Lampard had no second thoughts about taking over at his beloved Chelsea (we know how that turned out but that’s a story for another time).
One thing is sure though, if Gerrard takes Rangers to the title, he will be hailed as the brightest young manager in Europe…and we know how club owners love bright young managers. The team is still in the Europa League; having gone through the group stage unbeaten so there is a lot to be excited about. A run to the semis or even the final will raise eyebrows. Could it happen? Could their season be more glamorous or could it come crashing down? I don’t know but I believe that it is make or break for Gerrard and Glasgow Rangers. Keep an eye on them.