Sitting in a silent room of strangers, Stephen Gerrard’s birth was deafening to those who listen intently inward just as much as those flock gleefully into the streets and stand.
Still within the fledgling hours of his Rangers administration when asked about his message to the Rangers fans.
The former Liverpool captain held his breath for a while, before finding a two-word answer. It was all that was needed. “Let’s go.”
Back in May 2018, it was a bold statement from the man and the club given the reality facing the 37-year-old rookie coach. Celtic’s underworld-like grip of Scottish football has choked any life out of any title race for several years.
Brendan Rodgers was leading an almost inevitable march to 10 legendary leagues in a row. While at Ibrox, interim coach Graeme Murty has just been relieved of first-team duties after a tumultuous period following Pedro Caixinha’s exit.
Over the coming seasons, Celtic titles continued to emerge. One and then another. But the progress Gerrard made, buoyed by qualitative leaps in Europe that led to Rangers protesting from Caixinha with fans on hedging in Luxembourg to Ibrox raiding the knockout stages of the European League.
But this term, the young manager has come of age. The top ten was suspended, the league title was handed over, and the board’s belief was validated in a heady season.
“He has taken on a very difficult task,” Roy Hodgson, former Gerrard coach for Liverpool and England, told BBC Scotland. Especially for trying to break Celtic’s dominance over the past few years.
“He succeeded beyond anyone’s expectations or what people had a right to expect. He did so by bringing lots of good leadership and management skills to the business.
“So I am not surprised at all. I cannot congratulate him enough for taking on such a difficult job and succeeding in brilliantly. He was amazing.”
It says a lot about Gerrard’s standing and his relationship with Ibrox’s hierarchy that he has been in the club long enough to direct the balance of power across Glasgow.
In his first term, Rangers finished nine points behind Celtic. That gap was the 13th when the league was called up early last year. Only one appeared in a domestic final of four attempts added to his case.
“I knew what I was getting into,” said Gerrard, the club’s longest-serving coach since Allie Maquist. The Ruby Fowler Podcast Last month. “It was not something we would change overnight.
“The key was the conversation I had with the chairman, board and managing director to say, ‘Look, let’s be realistic. Where are we as a club? How big is the gap, what will it take to bridge, and how long ago I have.
“The key to all of that is this support, because they were true to their word.”
European pedigree offers promising
Not only did the European performances provide a ray of hope for the Rangers, but also indicated that Gerrard’s credentials as a player were transferable to bunker.
Rapid Vienna, Porto, Braga, Galatasaray, Standard Liege and Lech Poznan all lost under the former Champions League winner, and reliable draws against Feyenoord, Benfica and Villarreal were also achieved.
On the European stage, Gerrard’s leadership qualities for Hodgson have been validated. In 2010, inexperienced Liverpool trailed to Napoli at Anfield in the Europa League. The captain was relaxed at the first half, but immediately made his mark.
“He changed the game on his own,” said Hodgson of Gerrard. A hat-trick in the second half to win 3-1. “I thought at the time,“ This is what really great players can do. ”You can ask them to“ Help me and turn this around for me ”and they go to the field and do it.
“He had that determination, and it’s always essential, to make sure you can bring your talents for the team to carry and that others do the same.
“It was very clear to me when I first met him that he was a man of true leadership qualities and grandeur. Someone who had a deep knowledge of the game, not only in his role as a midfielder but how the saw pieces fit together.”
Finally in a league of its own
In the wake of Saturday’s 3–0 win over Saint-Mirren, Gerrard punched his head out of a cramped locker room window in light of the fact that the 55th league title was inevitable.
And so was the personal tutor that he achieved.
No doubt the smile on his face was caused by the success of Rangers, but he fulfilled a dream throughout his career of becoming a league winner that he eluded as a player. Two glasses. Three League Cups. Champions League. UEFA Cup. Super Cup. And now the Scottish Premier League.
“It would mean a lot,” Hodgson said. “When you have a career like Steven Gerrard, that indicates that not having a league title is going to affect it in some way. I find it hard to accept that.”
“I know he would have loved so much to win the title with Liverpool and he would have been very happy to be a part of the Liverpool team that has been performing very well in the last few years, but he was not so lucky.
“ But he had many other successes, not the least of which was winning the Champions League, which I can say is very similar to winning the league title.
“What this league will mean to him is that when you take on a job like the one in Rangers where expectations are enormous and the rivalry with Celtic is second to none in the world, beating them this season in such a comfortable second-place must be an incredible feeling.”
“The world is its oyster”
It would be naive to think that Gerrard’s achievement in Glasgow, coupled with the remarkable consistency in continental competition, will go unnoticed.
Liverpool academy coach before revealing at Ibrox, the current struggles of Premier League winners Jurgen Klopp offer an easy finale for the jump to where Liverpool will finally end up.
However, Gerrard’s behavior and narration suggest that any departure from Glasgow will not be anytime soon. The opportunity to build on domestic achievement matches the appeal of potential football in the Champions League, which is only two games away from the qualifiers.
But Hodgson has no doubts about Gerrard’s managerial future.
“He now knows that if he can use his management skills to hold the title and win it at Glasgow Rangers, you can go anywhere in the world and feel comfortable in what you believe in as a manager.
“It could be whatever he wanted. He clearly possesses the talent and skills to be a first-class manager at the highest level. In that respect, the world is his oyster.”
His record as a player and his reputation as a person, captain and captain will make him an incredibly attractive proposition for any club looking for a coach in the future.
“If his ambition is just ‘One day I would like to be coach of Liverpool, then I think what he is doing at the moment, and what he has to offer, will always put him in a good position when such a position becomes available.'”