The Rude Health of Gerrard's Rangers

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Good health is something to be cherished and appreciated, and that is as true in football as it in life. Always be grateful for the good times that come from health and strength - enjoy those moments.

As things stand, our club appears to be well managed across its many components and that’s a credit to everyone involved. Their work is paying dividends and the raised standards, success and good vibes are, in turn, feeding in to and strengthening all aspects of the club. Ultimately and most importantly this is being transferred to the pitch. High standards, good recruitment, effective coaching, exciting, winning football - repeat and improve.

I’ve been guilty of getting my hopes up before. I thought Warburton could be onto something. I even imagined that Caixinha could somehow work. In both of those seasons the sea came in and when it retreated it left nothing but wet sand. It was a harsh reminder of where we were at. I thought we could really challenge last year too. But it in the final wash it couldn’t quite hold together. It was simply too soon, and the challenge still too great. There were highlights, there was tangible progress but more importantly there was a plan. Gerrard and his team had been putting down a real base to build on, ideologies to upload and work on, the right players to implement it. They’ve took their knocks, and learned, adapted and kept building.

Of course, in a few months’ time, or even just a few games’ time, this article could be obsolete. You don’t get guarantees where other people are fighting for the same, singular thing. It might simply not be for us this year either. The challenge could still be too great, we are still running at an appreciably lower financial level than our main competitors. They still have that advantage. But this feels different, it feels like were getting closer. The walls of the castle are deeper and higher this time.

Perhaps as mitigation for the last few seasons we have had hurdles to overcome and none more so than some questionable decisions against us on and off the park. Many have always said that if we’re good enough then that stuff doesn’t matter. That’s not untrue but I just disagree with these hurdles having to exist in the first place. However, it seems Gerrard has worked towards that state regardless. He has set his sights on creating a side that will give teams like Galatasaray or Benfica a real game - achieve that and the SPFL should follow?

It took long enough for us to be able to attract and sign quality again. Tavernier being the one success story from more difficult days - a time when it would be a challenge to choose a name to put on the back of your shirt. His progress and resilience is really something to be applauded. Then came Morelos and again he very much the exception that proves the rule of our recruitment at that time – with the other players lost to the fog of time. The Gerrard era marked a step change and the hit rate improved, dramatically. We’ve had our failures (not every player can cope with Rangers) but quality (and value) has been added at almost every window. The one hallmark of the last two years has been erratic results and performances when it really mattered - perhaps a reminder of our diminished starting point, with a lack of real options and the load and fatigue taking its toll. But the squad this year has been fortified by strength in depth, the hope is that this will solve any previous issues with consistency or longevity.

As things stand, we are top of the league and have punched hard in Europe. It cannot be over-looked how much of this is down to Gerrard and his team. His name alone has opened doors to players that others would not have even been able to talk with, let alone sign. Can we imagine Kemar Roofe or Bongani Zungu picking up the phone to Derek McInnes? Beyond that, the results and progress in Europe have had the effect of multiplying any transfer budget and each advancement in Europe is yet another selling point to any ambitious player. It’s all positive and it’s feeding back and strengthening all areas.

Gerrard and his team saw the potential and value in the likes of Goldson, Kamara, Barisic or Aribo and crucially his coaching team has had the ability to help grow that potential. When people talked about our rivals being years ahead, they weren’t wrong, but our Europa runs hit the fast-forward button and teleported us years into the future. You could easily argue that we are currently at a place as a club that we could never have realistically envisioned back in early 2018 - not in 5 years and let’s be honest maybe not in any number of years. That’s how capricious football can be and a wrong move can take years to correct.

The graphic above (from Kieran Maguire at the Price of Football) shows the revenues of Rangers and our rivals. The contrast in 2017/2018 is stark (quietly terrifying even). They had back to back Champions’ League group stages and player sales of roughly £20m per annum saw them turnover more than £100m at one point. As a club we had only recently broke through the £20m total revenue mark. The fact the gap is closing so quickly is credit to Gerrard’s work, the work of others at the club, the commercial department, the investors, and the biggest investors of all – us the support. This all adds to the feel-good factor around Rangers and the lasting afterglow from every good result is more than pleasant. It’s good to see our support really enjoy itself, and not just the gallows humour we’ve perfected in recent times. Solid results are becoming the new norm. And on top of that we’re getting truly remarkable moments from our players. And with that plaudits and good press.

One pleasing aspect has been a perceptible thawing across (much of) the media. Our haters are real, no doubt, and I have felt praise has been due before now. But whatever the reasons, we now seem to have exceeded the critical threshold for praise and good exposure to apply. We’ve had to really earn it and maybe that’s the way it always had to be? Are we finally picking off the last of the tar and feathers from 2011?

Gerrard is obviously a well-respected figure in football. Defoe and others brought more of that. An increasing frequency of very good football has seen the electricity and positivity heading in the right direction for a while. Somehow the time just felt right for Kemar Roofe’s wonder goal. The worldwide praise and exposure marked another step in the clubs’ journey back. Rangers are providing a platform for Gerrard and the players, and they are giving so much back to the club. It’s a simple equation and one where everybody can win.

Of course, welcome contrast has been added to the picture by cracks appearing in our rival’s façade. Our recent rise has been accompanied by a perceptible waning of Celtic's reign of terror. Their last few years have seen some costly decisions, poor results in key European games and apparently poor recruitment. Their advantage isn’t what it once was. Does all of this explain the shift in coverage? Who knows, either way, it is a most enjoyable change. Continuing on this theme, another positive of our improvement is that it has left the entrenched exposed. BBC Scotland’s boycott of Ibrox looks less clever with every passing week. Their doubling down on their correspondent’s premeditated bias is as indefensible as it always was, only now increasingly apparent to everyone. From some sectors their content has been fairer and almost conciliatory, whilst others remain defiantly rebellious (does that include the new director Steve Carson?). I cannot see how they can escape without apologising for four years of editorial bias and the short-changing of the fee-paying public.

Of course, we haven’t won anything yet. Benfica away showed how important concentration is and how nothing is won until it is won. We have to keep this going and keep building. So savour the moments and appreciate the good health of the club - whilst remembering the good practise, hard-work and dedication that underpins it all.

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