Rangers’ Return to Glory Under Steven Gerrard
After the darkest period of the club’s history, Rangers are currently on track to wrap up their first league title in 10 years and are currently sitting in the last 16 of the Europa League, with much of the recent success lying with Steven Gerrard. Taylor Murray looks at the club’s progression leading up to Gerrard’s appointment, and how they have strengthened since.
The 14th of February 2012 is a date that would make any Rangers fan shudder. The date brings back memories that fans will have buried deep down, as the club was placed into administration due to poor handling of finances from former chairman David Murray. While describing the events that lead to this unfortunate result would be a long and arduous story, one definitive conclusion is that Rangers were massively in the wrong and were fairly punished. Starting from the 2012/13 season, Rangers fans would have to endure a steady climb through the Scottish football pyramid to return to a division that had yielded much success in the past.
I don’t think that Rangers fans will need to be reminded about every aspect of “The Journey”, as it came to be known. The Journey remains divisive – some fans will remember each individual detail, while others have done their best to forget the time spent away from the Premiership. Both stances are fair, as it was a long process spanning five years before Rangers returned to the top flight. The club was in disarray from top to bottom, and many people feared that the club were never going to get back to the force that they once were. Throughout the years in the lower divisions, Rangers had a succession of mangers, with some faring better than others – with the likes of Mark Warburton and Ally McCoist, to Pedro Caixinha and Graeme Murty, fans saw both good and bad in the Ibrox dugout. Regardless of their reputation amongst the fan base, each manager did what they could to bring Rangers back to the top of the Scottish football pyramid once again.
Some of these men brought in certain players that were – or still are – a big part of the club. Warburton brought in James Tavernier, now club captain, and goalkeeper Wes Foderingham, who only left the club this past summer. Furthermore, Caixinha arguably recruited Rangers’ most important player in recent seasons, Alfredo Morelos, with the Columbian striker being the club’s main source of goals during his time in Glasgow. The Portuguese manager also brought in Ryan Jack from Aberdeen, so while he wasn’t the most popular figure at Ibrox, elements of Caixinha’s Rangers still remain within the team today.
Each manager has added to Rangers in some way, helping them get back to the top, but a special mention should go to the people at the top of the club for making this return possible. The likes of Dave King and Douglas Park have ploughed millions of pounds into the club without any guarantee of a return on their investment, but their love for the club made it worth the risk. While there are far too many contributors to name individually, one decision that the Rangers hierarchy have made will trump the rest – bringing Steven Gerrard to Ibrox.
In 2018, Graeme Murty had been sacked and Rangers needed someone with a big reputation to appease the fans, with a knowledge of winning trophies. As a player, Gerrard ticked those boxes convincingly and although his managerial experience started and ended with Liverpool’s under-18s, he was a man that Rangers had identified as the right fit for the club. It can be said one of the biggest travesties in football was that Gerrard had never won a league title as a player – he had managed to win every other domestic trophy with Liverpool, while also having European success with that Champions League in 2005. Despite being a high-risk appointment, Rangers knew that Gerrard would bring in a fresh set of ideas and would be able to attract a wide range of young talent due to his glowing reputation as a player.
Gerrard joined Rangers in a time when the club had one aim – stop arch-rivals Celtic winning “The 10.” Since the beginning of their rivalry, Celtic and Rangers have both had opportunities to win 10 league titles in a row, but neither one has succeeded. With Rangers out of the Premiership for so many seasons, Celtic had a free run at building momentum and even upon Rangers’ return to the top flight, Celtic continued their dominance and were on course to complete The 10 this season. Since Gerrard’s arrival, he has been tasked with building a team that could not only compete with Celtic for the first time in a decade, but eventually overthrow them at the top of the table. There were early signs that this was possible, as Gerrard secured Rangers’ first Old Firm win in eight years during his first season, while also earning Rangers’ first win at Celtic Park since 2010 the following season. It was a sure sign of progression that Gerrard had managed to build a team that could match – and beat – Celtic in 90 minutes, but having to remain dominant over a 38 game season was another challenge.
Furthermore, in the building process of trying to win the league, Gerrard had another project to work on, in consistently getting Rangers into European competition. While group stage qualification would be excellent in terms of raising the team’s profile, the financial revenue was the real prize for Rangers, especially after years of hard times. Trying to maintain a sustainable business model would be massively helped with the revenue earned from European competition, with Gerrard more than willing to take on the challenge.
Now, let’s fast forward to 2021 and see how Rangers are getting on. In the past three seasons, Gerrard has guided Rangers through the group stages of the Europa League three times, making into the round of 16 twice – including this season. It is safe to say that Gerrard has moulded Rangers into a team that compete in Europe, with the club showcasing eye-catching attacking football while posting massive results against clubs with established European pedigree, such as Galatasaray, Porto and Benfica. While some may have expected Gerrard to be slightly fearful of such a task, he has been able to prove his doubters wrong and give Rangers a real boost across the continent.
While a few European trips have been very well received and have more than balanced the books, Gerrard’s main aim was to end Celtic’s dominance and stop The 10. As of March 2021, Rangers sit 15 points clear of Celtic at the top of the league and look set to win their first Premiership title in over a decade in a matter of weeks. Gerrard has managed to transform a Rangers side that was going nowhere fast into a team that have gone 30 games unbeaten in the league, while also maintaining an unbeaten record in this season’s Europa League.
The job that Steven Gerrard has done is beyond phenomenal, especially considering that this is his first senior management job. There has been talk of the Liverpool legend returning to Anfield and with his Rangers contract running out at the same time as Jurgen Klopp’s in 2024, it seems like destiny. While he may have a love for Rangers, should his boyhood club come calling early, no-one could blame Gerrard if he were to leave Ibrox before 2024. This does seem unrealistic, with Klopp unlikely to go anywhere, but stranger things have happened in football. Regardless, he has completed what Rangers tasked him with back in 2018 and has written his name into the history books at Ibrox as a legend.