So, aren’t Rangers.... a complete and utter shambles?
Well, yes and no. This might be the second season in a couple of years where we’ve had a caretaker manager resign before the end of the campaign, but things are a little different than they used to be. The era since financial armageddon in 2012, affectionately known as ‘The Banter Years’ may still be in full swing, but there’s nowhere near the gloom of those early days. The club was once run by a sort of actively hostile group of crooks ready to bleed us dry for every penny, while it’s now run by a well-meaning board who are ready to back their managers. The problem is, they’ve done a pretty disastrous job of picking those managers, who have also wasted the money on a lot of dross. Enter Steven Gerrard.
Will he be backed by the board?
Even among the section of the support who thought the appointment of Gerrard was lunacy, there was at least excitement for the amount of money that might be made available, since he would certainly have demanded some serious backing in the transfer market. The board backed both Mark Warburton and Pedro Caixinha, his two predecessors, and with Scott Arfield and Allan McGregor already signed, it looks as though they’ll be ready to do so again.
Aren’t Celtic completely unstoppable?
Not really. They were in Brendan Rodgers’ first season, but have stagnated a little since then and have had a fairly mixed record in the transfer market. The problem is that Champions League money gives them a huge financial advantage over Rangers - but that’s only four games a season. Rangers themselves have an even bigger financial advantage over the rest of the league, and competently batting away the poorer sides should at least see Rangers come close to challenging. Even after this disaster of a season, Rangers went into the penultimate Old Firm game of the season with an outside bet of pushing Celtic all the way - unfortunately, they lost, and then proceeded to completely fall apart. That’s what Gerrard will have to avoid.
So, it’s win-win for Gerrard? If he does OK, it’s much better than before, and if he beats Celtic, he’s an all-time legend?
The latter part may certainly be true. There are a lot of envisioned parallels between the current situation and when Graeme Souness took over in the 80s and was given vast amounts of money to spend to immediately construct one of the best squads in Britain. While those days are long gone, it certainly feels similar in spirit.
The problem is that Celtic have won seven titles in a row. The most anybody has managed is nine, a record famously equalled by Rangers in the 90s by one of our most legendary teams. Ten in a row is unthinkable and the mentality at Ibrox is that it must be stopped at all costs.
Secondly, Rangers is pretty much the hardest possible job to start off in management with. The pressure is not really comparable to any club in Britain, even the likes of Manchester United and Arsenal. Gerrard can expect fan opinion to very quickly turn on him if he has a bad run, or the team to be routinely booed off after poor performances regardless of context. It’s a tough, tough environment. His experience at winning sides should help - Mark Warburton always seemed to struggle to understand that drawing a couple of games in a row was really a complete disaster here. Gerrard’s desire for perfection should stand him in good stead.
What does he have to work with?
As well as a sizeable budget, Gerrard will have the backing of the board, an excellent academy and first team training facilities, a fantastic stadium, a huge support, and a well-connected and knowledgeable Director of Football to back him.
In terms of the team, he’ll already find that Rangers have an excellent right-back in James Tavernier, two very good wingers in Daniel Candeias and Jamie Murphy, a handful of exciting youngsters like Ross McCrorie and Greg Docherty in midfield, the young Colombian striker Alfredo Morelos, and Josh Windass, who is an, erm, divisive player. All of those are certainly good enough to take up their mantle in Gerrard’s revolution, or of course he could cash in to fund other purchases. His first two signings, Scott Arfield and Allan McGregor, will also both bring in some instant Premier League quality to the team.
What doesn’t he have? A defence, a squad with a winning mentality, and time. He’ll need to build the former two as soon as possible, and make do without the latter.
So, it’s worth tuning in to see how he gets on?
Yes! Scottish fitbaw is great. It might not have the raw quality of bigger leagues, but the games are exciting, there are some good teams, and it’s the most fun league in Europe. You might be able to watch Kevin de Bruyne, Mo Salah and, eh, Paul Pogba in England. But can you watch games in a hot tub, watch playoffs end in a mass brawl, and just forget about defending? No. You cannot.