Wed, Jul

Can Gerrard 'make us dream'?

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Finally, during a rare day off work, I managed to view the recently released Amazon documentary about Steven Gerrard. It’s important to note right away, there’s nothing about Rangers in it. Instead it’s a biography of our manager’s playing career – specifically at Liverpool – and the incredible highs and cruel lows within it. It’s an essential watch for any football fan about the loyalty and drive of a legendary player in the modern era. And its relevance to Rangers isn’t just noteworthy but timely.

The similarities between Rangers and Liverpool are obvious. They reside within working class cities with two primary clubs. They’ve suffered stadium disasters of the kind that no-one should experience in sport. The demands of the support are huge and, given it’s been seven years since Rangers last won the SPFL title, the expectations may be considered identical. Even down to the iconic gates at each stadium and huge stands such as the Kop and the Copland, I doubt there would have been a better managerial fit for Steven Gerrard outside the Merseyside club he will always love.

Of course, the appointment of Gerrard was always going to be a risk. It’s his first big managerial job and there are never any guarantees about playing legends transferring their talents to the dugout. It doesn’t always work and, as much as our supporters were excited about the appointment, there were (and still are) doubts. Yet, this documentary is the perfect antidote for those who have concerns and, so far at least, Gerrard is doing what he did as a player and making a step-by-step transition into becoming a successful manager.

On Sunday afternoon when Rangers went top of the league for the first time in god knows how long, Rangers fans started to get excited again. Yes, we’ve only played 14 games of a 38-game league season and, sure, Celtic – still the dominant side in the country – have played once game less but after watching Gerrard’s Liverpool side overturn a 0-3 deficit against AC Milan to win the Champions League against all odds in 2005, surely anything is possible?

Interesting, throughout the documentary, the commentary from various relevant people was at pains to point out that ever since their period of dominance in the 1980s, Liverpool were for most of Gerrard’s time considered the underdog. The riches of Sky TV deals, as well as the influence of billionaire Russians and Arabs means Liverpool struggle to compete financially and, again like Rangers, have had their problems in that regard. Gerrard played in the Gillett/Hicks era and that experience may well have proved part of the conversation ahead of him joining Rangers – a club not without their own fiscal travails.

Recently published accounts of Old Firm AGMs show Celtic to have the upper hand over Rangers off the park as well as on, so Gerrard will have been consciously aware of the battle he was going to have before he took over. It’s fair to say the Scottish Premiership doesn’t have as many big clubs challenging for the title like the EPL but Gerrard set himself a high bar at Liverpool and will be doing the same here.

In that sense, his team’s progress so far will have enthused him. A fine run in the Europa League is perhaps an unexpected bonus but, just like his playing career, the league will be the priority. And the immediate challenge is as tough as they come with another eight games still to play this year – culminating with the visit of Celtic to Ibrox at the end of December. Our position then ahead of the winter break will be telling and there is an opportunity now to lay down further markers before the New Year Derby.

First up is a match against an Aberdeen side whom we’ve yet to beat this season and one would hope both the manager and players are still hurting from a League Cup defeat at Hampden in October. Suffice to say the Dons will be just as hungry to repeat that feat on Wednesday night. With two games against Hibs and a tough away match to an in-form St Johnstone side still to come as well, this is a crucial month for Gerrard but his experiences we seen put under the documentary microscope (warts, slips and all) are worthy of comparison.

Despite this, some suggest the capture of Gerrard as manager was a PR stunt, or worse, he’s ‘quietly terrified of’ or unqualified for the job in front of him. In fact, any football person worth their salt after viewing the Amazon film will see Gerrard and the Rangers job were the perfect fit.

That’s not to say he will bring back trophies to Ibrox. No-one can promise that, just as Gerrard couldn’t when he broke into the Liverpool side as a raw and inexperienced teenager. Yet, just like then, the early signs are positive and going by what he achieved as player and the type of professional, driven character he is Steven Gerrard can most definitely ‘Make Us Dream’. As Liverpool challenge again down south and their fans begin to believe once more, could we about to witness the ultimate football irony? Or perhaps it’s just a glimpse into an ordinary slim lad’s destiny?

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