Six of One – Should Gerrard take the Rangers job?
Six of One is our weekly look at a major talking point from the world of sport.
This week we’re asking – is Steven Gerrard taking on too much, too soon if he accepts the Rangers job?
The case against…
There’s few things fans and pundits dislike more than a famous player not earning their stripes when taking their first managerial job. If the likes of Mourinho, Ferguson and even Pep Guardiola – who started life in the Spanish third tier with Barcelona B – had the humility to start from a low base, why shouldn’t Gerrard?
Many will question whether Gerrard deserves such a high-profile role so soon into his coaching career purely due to his elevated status in the game. It didn’t work out well for John Barnes on the other side of Glasgow back in 1999. His supporters will point to the fact Gerrard has at least shown willing by coaching Liverpool’s U18 side this season, but that simply puts him on a par with the Gers’ recently departed boss Graeme Murty, often criticised by the fanbase for his naivety this season during his tenure in charge of the first team after a stint managing their development squad.
Of course, cutting your teeth at a lower level can have its risks if things quickly start to unravel – just look at Edgar Davids at Barnet – but at least taking small steps to begin with can give a rookie manager the chance to develop a philosophy, make mistakes and develop the art of man-management, particularly when faced with working with a less talented crop of players.
Whilst Rangers’ squad will be much weaker than a Champions League winner like Gerrard has been accustomed to during his career to date, the media glare will show no mercy if the Liverpudlian gets off to a slow start, regardless of how much the Ibrox side still need to play catch-up to rival Celtic.
For Gerrard’s own sake, perhaps one job currently available that he turned down earlier this season – MK Dons – now looks a much better fit. He would start with a healthy League Two budget, a team that have likely bottomed out after two quickfire relegations, and a low key local press that would give him the space to succeed. Why walk straight into the pressure-cooker world of Glaswegian football and set a ticking time bomb on his managerial fortunes if he fails to hit the ground running?
Taking the Rangers job would certainly suggest Gerrard believes he’s a natural born winner in both playing and managing.
But he’ll have to prove it quickly.
The case for…
Rangers may have experienced a challenging last couple of years, but bar their financial issues, they remain a club with plenty to attract any potential manager: a proud history, a fiercely passionate fanbase, and an iconic stadium. However, arguably the biggest pull factor for Gerrard at this juncture in Rangers’ story is one that could play right in to his hands: low expectations.
Gerrard will know he will ultimately be judged on the only one objective that matters to Rangers fans: finishing above Celtic. Any excitement about his appointment amongst the fanbase will dissipate within weeks if that target quickly looks beyond reach.
Perhaps the former Liverpool and England ace believes if he can just hang on the coattails of the Bhoys for two-thirds of the season, a perfect storm of cross-city complacency and a late season charge could see him snatch an unlikely title back from the other side of the city – and make him an instant hero at Ibrox. It’s a high risk, high reward strategy – and if Gerrard can break Celtic’s seven-year unbroken run of titles, he’ll instantly be in demand for many of Europe’s top jobs the following summer, justifying the decision to fast-track his managerial career.
Gerrard also knows he can cope with pressure, having lived in the public eye since being a teenager, so the tribalism and scrutiny that comes with managing one of the Glasgow clubs won’t overly phase him in the way it might have surprised the likes of Murty and Mark Warburton.
Much has also been made of the potential rivalry with his former manager Brendan Rodgers, but will the Northern Irishman still be in the Parkhead hotseat at the start of 2018-19? Even if Arsenal look elsewhere, has Rodgers got any more worlds left to conquer in Scottish football? If a move is in the offing for Rodgers this summer, Gerrard could exploit any uncertainty at Celtic to gain a pre-season advantage in terms of his recruitment and planning.
Gerrard will be arriving at Ibrox with his eyes fully open, with the club currently unable to compete with cross city rivals Celtic financially, and the Gers failing to re-assert themselves as one of the Big Two in the league since winning promotion back to the Scottish Premiership. The very fact he looks brave enough to take on what looks an extremely treacherous first managerial position suggests he doesn’t lack in self-confidence and has a philosophy in mind to turn the tide in the Glasgow power struggle.
A gutsy call – more for Gerrard than Rangers. If it works, he’ll instantly be in the running for every big job going. If it doesn’t, his career in the dugout could be dead in the water before it’s even begun.
Should Gerrard take the job?
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