Discussion in 'The Football Forum' started by King Binny, Aug 30, 2019.
Get the monkey off your back as a manager early.
A cup will do.
In plain fucking English, Dreamy!
It is a crisp afternoon in late September of last year, at a venue far removed from Steven Gerrard's elite experiences as a player.
The former Liverpool captain has just watched Rangers lose 1-0 on Livingston's plastic pitch thanks to a goal from a Belgian-Angolan striker by the name of Dolly Menga. Headline-writers are preparing for an easy shift.
Inside the 9,500-capacity Tony Macaroni Arena, a rudimentary media room has been flooded by the contents of a tea urn perched upon a folding table that eventually collapses under the weight of persistent attention.
The sorry sight could almost have been considered a visual metaphor for the performance of Gerrard's team. Scrutiny of their domestic away form was intensifying. Rangers had failed to win any of their four games on the road in the Scottish Premiership. They were slumped sixth in table after seven matches, eight points behind early leaders Hearts.
Between the artificial playing surface and relentless graft of the modestly-paid opposition, this was Scottish top-flight football as its rawest. And Rangers were the ones left nursing the scrapes of defeat.
It persists in the memory because Gerrard's response to journalists on that difficult day summed up one pillar of his managerial approach. An approach that, if Jurgen Klopp has his way, will be coming to Anfield at some point in the future given the German's recent comments about his preferred successor.
There were no excuses from Gerrard about the modest surroundings in West Lothian, no complaints about the result and no soft-soaping for those under his command. Blunt about a woeful lack of cutting edge, he warned his players they couldn't expect to figure in a title race if such an underwhelming display was repeated.
Gerrard had waited to shake hands with every Livingston player who made his way up the tunnel. He would later chastise two of his own - Alfredo Morelos and Daniel Candeias - for snubbing opponents following a little post-match flare-up.
This is how it tends to be. Win or lose, honesty is a hallmark. Unlike some of his recent predecessors at Ibrox, Gerrard has been a bulls***-free zone from day one in Glasgow.
There are times when he freely expresses emotion, warmly embracing his players after significant victories. The 39-year-old wants to be close to them - and be clear in his communication.
Everyone tends to know where they stand - even if they don't always like what they hear. It has helped create unity at a club previously no stranger to cliques.
That forthright style of leadership is one of the factors behind a clear, year-on-year improvement at Ibrox.
Last September's Livingston game was the 18th of Gerrard's debut campaign in charge after leaving his post as Liverpool's Under-18s coach. It left a record of nine wins, seven draws and two defeats across all competitions. The same period this season saw 15 wins, two draws and only one defeat. Getting the job done has become far more of a norm. Enough to have Rangers leading the Scottish Premiership table eight matches in.
Gerrard's personal development has followed a similarly upward path as his experience has grown. He has shown impressive nous at times, notably in twice steering Rangers through the four-tie qualification process for the Europa League.
The ultimate vindication of ending the club's eight-year wait for major silverware remains an ongoing project, however. And that is one reason why some eyebrows were raised - perhaps including Gerrard's himself - when Klopp publicly anointed him as his replacement in a magazine interview last month.
Gerrard responded to those 'flattering' comments by admitting such an outcome would be a 'dream' - while firmly stressing that his mind wasn't wandering from Ibrox. Speaking as a fan, he said he hoped Klopp remained at Anfield for 'many, many years'.
But Gerrard isn't just a fan, of course. He is Liverpool's greatest player since the golden age of the 1980s and it's only natural that succession talk has lurked in the background ever since he exited 17 months ago. It must be said that it is not a discussion he has ever personally encouraged, viewing it as disrespectful to his existing employers and the task he has taken on.
Gerrard's contract at Ibrox runs until 2022, the same length as Klopp's deal on Merseyside. If that might seem like the obvious point for change then Gerrard also recognises it is a lifetime away in football. Particularly in an Old Firm environment when any manager is only ever three games away from a crisis.
As it is, the Rangers hierarchy are untroubled by Klopp's comments and regard them as a compliment. There is logic in thinking that if they are to one day lose Gerrard to his first love then it would be on the back of tangible success in Scotland that stamps his managerial reputation. Regardless of Klopp's views, the Fenway Sports Group might be unlikely to make decisions based on solely emotional ties and hopeful promise.
Gerrard does, however, look firmly in the hunt for trophies in the months ahead. While adamant he isn't getting carried away by a two-point lead over Celtic in mid-October, he also feels he has moulded a stronger force than the one dogged by inconsistencies last term. A place in the League Cup semi-finals has already been secured.
Even so, overcoming Celtic's dominance remains a fearsome challenge. Chasing a ninth successive league title, the Parkhead club have both a proven pool of winners and the powerful financial advantage to spend big in January if needed. Their latest accounts show £38.9million in the bank – a great amount of spending money in Scottish terms.
Rangers are still supported by investors, but Gerrard has improved their position through money-spinning progress in Europe. He has also unquestionably raised the club's profile. Some 7,000 fans turned up at Ibrox for his unveiling last May, while the club's Twitter and Facebook engagements were measured in the millions.
Last season's Europa League play-off against Russian outfit Ufa was a wider case in point. After the team flight touched down in the Republic of Bashkortostan, Gerrard was summoned from the passport queue by a stern-looking guard.
He was taken to what appeared to be an interrogation room, yet any concern about his fate quickly disappeared. The space was lined with Liverpool jerseys of varying vintages. A polite request was made for them to be signed.
That level of fame brings some advantages. Not least in how Gerrard is able to cope with the Glasgow goldfish bowl. A city some outsiders find stifling is second-nature to him. Crucially, he gets it in the terms of the relentless demand for success. It's in his DNA.
A fluid, free-scoring 4-3-2-1 has become Gerrard's preferred system since the latter part of the season, but he is not a manager who tends to dwell on philosophies or grand visions.
'Football doesn't change,' he argued last season. 'It's exactly the same as it was 100 years ago. I'm telling these players now what I got told in 1999 by Gerard Houllier or by Rafa Benitez.
'Winning teams have the same principles, the same tempo, desire and commitment.
'Some coaches try to overcomplicate things, they've got the gift of the gab and the silver tongue, but I haven't.
'I just tell you how it is, I tell my team how it is and what's expected at this club, and we will go into these tests and give it a go.'
There can also be an old-school streak to the motivational techniques he deploys. Before the recent Europa League win over Feyenoord, Gerrard scoured newspapers and websites for quotes that portrayed over-confidence from their Dutch visitors.
Articles were pinned onto the dressing room wall. Others were projected onto a big screen. His search for 'marginal gains' isn't afraid to turn back the clock.
None of which is to suggest he is somehow stuck in the past. Freshly qualified on a UEFA Pro-License, Gerrard has dragged Rangers up to date by demanding more in sports science - recruiting former Anfield physio Jordan Milsom as head of performance - and analysis.
Standards were laid out from the very first meeting with the squad he inherited in June of last year.
Getting fitter was high on the list. After poring over previous matches, Gerrard was convinced Rangers were lacking. It had to improve to deal with the rigours of what he hoped would be a 60-game campaign - and the intense style of play wanted.
Pre-seasons under Gerrard's command have been brutal, but structured. Regular training tends to be sharp and acutely focused. The result has been even some of the more experienced players feeling in the best condition of their careers.
Another key influence is first team coach Michael Beale, who previously worked at youth level with both Liverpool and Chelsea. A deep thinker immersed in the latest methods to develop both player potential and team strategies, it is often to Beale whom Gerrard turns in technical area debates.
There has been physical change, too. The day Gerrard walked into the Hummel Training Centre, about eight miles north-west of central Glasgow, he decided it wouldn't do. State of the art when opened in 2001, the facility had suffered from a lack of investment over the past decade.
Improvements to the dressing rooms, dining room and several other areas were detailed. The aim was to try and encourage the players to spend more time in a welcoming environment.
A little too welcoming as it turned out. A fence was later constructed around the main training pitch after Gerrard was irked by certain team selections leaking out via onlookers.
An ability to pick his strongest team was hindered by a dreadful disciplinary record last season. Gerrard was guilty of over-indulging those flaws, but his patience finally snapped when 30-goal striker Morelos was sent off for the fifth time – albeit one dismissal was rescinded - in an Old Firm defeat at Celtic Park in March that ended Rangers' last hope of applying title pressure.
A tougher code of conduct including more stringent financial penalties was introduced. It has borne dividends with significantly improved numbers.
Morelos, to take the prime example, has only been booked four times in 19 appearances this season, yet lost none of his competitive edge by delivering 14 goals. Gerrard is reluctant to accept credit for that transformation, but the Colombian speaks warmly of their relationship.
There will be further lessons to be learned and many more problems to overcome. Gerrard knows it is his job to keep supplying the answers.
If he does, and the title comes to Ibrox, then he will have a legendary status among the blue half of Glasgow to go alongside the lasting adoration of Merseyside reds.
Gerrard actually played spells for both Liverpool and Rangers in a charity Legends match at Ibrox last Saturday, but any split-loyalty ended on the final whistle. For now, his managerial ambitions are being shaped solely in Scotland.
Kent > Barisic > Morelos
Besides silverware, player development & management is definitely something to judge a manager's success on. Alfredo Morelos and Ryan Jack have been superb this season.
Kent's assist for Morelos today
Should be a good cup final.
Gerrard after Klopp would be like turning the light on and off. From that smile to that frown. And from multiple tactical innovations to pretty much zero. Gerrard would need to win the Scottish title several years over, and then go over to England or Europe and make a major mark there, to even merit the slightest of chances at LFC. Anything else and it would be a huge step down after all Klopp's achieved.
Anyone remember how far we thought we were behind City and their gazillions?
We sold Coutiniho, and now we have the players to barely compete.
But compete we do because we have Captain "Mangers do matter" Klopp.
@Judge Jules Jesus would no doubt agree.
Could counsel please approach the bench?
[Whispers: "With what, counsellor?"]
Mangers matter, your honor.
Ah yes. Counsel may step back.
Court is hereby recessed to afford Hizzoner Judge van Winkel the opportunity to wake up.
It is Monday morning after all.
I find Mangers pretty trivial to be honest, but it seems you Christians have a thing for them.
That picture with him smiling...has a certain Paisley like .... look about it.