June 21, 2021

Merson: Rangers stay is Gerrard’s best path to Liverpool job

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Paul Merson says Steven Gerrard is a man in demand after Rangers were crowned Scottish champions, nine years after the club emerged from a liquidation crisis.

Gerrard celebrated winning his first managerial trophy on Sunday after Celtic’s goalless draw at Dundee United meant the Hoops were left 20 points adrift of their bitter rivals with six games in the season still to go.

Rangers found themselves in the lowest tier of Scottish football after Celtic won the first of their nine titles in a row.

Gerrard has his sights set on more silverware with Rangers and Merson believes that while the former Liverpool midfielder will undoubtedly have designs on managing at Anfield, he should remain at Ibrox for now.

Gerrard’s next step? ‘He will be in demand’

Rangers v St Mirren - Scottish Premiership - Ibrox Stadium
Rangers manager Steven Gerrard hangs out the window of the dressing room to cheer with fans gathered outside the stadium after the Scottish Premiership match at Ibrox Stadium, Glasgow. Picture date: Saturday March 6, 2021.
Image: Gerrard left Celtic 20 points adrift with six games in the season still to go

After a brilliant season at Rangers, I just can’t see how clubs won’t be coming after Steven Gerrard.

I look at teams like Crystal Palace, who are staying up, and Newcastle, if they stay up, and others, will they be knocking the door down for Gerrard?

It’s a different job at clubs like that. Rangers usually win around 75 per cent of their games and I know it is more than that this season, but at clubs in the lower half of the Premier League, you may only be winning 50 per cent of games.

Then you’ve got to change, you’ve got to change your way. You are not just putting a team out every week, sitting there and enjoying it. I had it for a little while at Walsall during a run of winning six on the trot.

Alfredo Morelos celebrates winning the league at Auchenhowie as Rangers are crowned Champions of Scotland
Image: Alfredo Morelos celebrates winning the league at Auchenhowie

You literally just sat there after three games and thought we won’t lose. I used to just pick the team, sit there and enjoy it. That was just the way it was and it’s been like that for Gerrard at Rangers this season.

But, if he goes somewhere else – and he will have to if he wants to test himself in the best league in the world in the Premier League, even though Rangers are a great club – it’s how he then copes with that.

He will be managing a team potentially that’s got to find a way to get to 40 points and he’s a winner. That’s where it is going to be hard for him because at the smaller clubs there are games where they don’t expect to win, and they don’t win.

If you are a winner like Gerrard is and you go to an environment where it’s just get to 40 points, and that’s a success, that’s going to be hard. Will that rock Gerrard’s boat? He won’t want to be taking a team to Manchester City and sitting with 10 men behind the ball. That will hurt him.

His next step will probably be that, and that will be a big challenge for him, unless, say in a year or two, he gets the Liverpool job.

‘Staying at Rangers best path to Liverpool job’

Rangers
Image: Merson says Gerrard has turned this Rangers team into winners

If it was me, I’d stay at Rangers.

If I want the Liverpool job, I stay at Ibrox. He’s taken this club forward; they play good football and they are all singing off the same hymn sheet. They are a good team.

In football, things can change very quickly. If you take a job at a bottom half Premier League side and all of a sudden you start losing games, and then the Liverpool job comes up, you only get that job if you are rolling. You don’t get it on what you did the year before. It doesn’t work like that.

Rangers fans have been criticised for breaking coronavirus restrictions in celebrating their side's title win. in George Square after Rangers win the Scottish Premiership title. Picture…
Image: Rangers now look forward to their Europa League showdown against Slavia Prague

It’s all about timing and if Gerrard wants the Liverpool job, I think he should stay at Rangers. He’s at a massive football club. He’s a winner and they are winners. Also, throw in the fact he’ll get some Champions League experience next season too.

If you want the Liverpool job you stay there but, if you want to push yourself to the next level as soon as possible then you take a Premier League job, but it will be a bottom half side to start with.

Whatever happens, he is a top manager.

Don’t let anyone tell you it is easy in Scotland. To dismantle a Celtic team that has dominated for that long, that takes some doing.

‘Rangers title win hard to top’

Steven Gerrard 1:03
Former Rangers striker Kris Boyd says Steven Gerrard will already be thinking about his squad for next season so that the side don’t stand still after winning the title.

Whatever Gerrard goes onto achieve in his managerial career, I don’t think he will do anything better [than guiding Rangers to the title].

The team they beat were dominant. Celtic were absolutely dominant and as long as they didn’t forget their boots, that was it.

We saw last year that Rangers went and beat Celtic away from home. They were outstanding and you started to think that it would be the year, but then, all of a sudden, they lost a couple of games and you worry about their inconsistency.

Rangers fans - Ibrox Stadium
Rangers fans celebrate outside of the Ibrox Stadium after Rangers win the Scottish Premiership title. Picture date: Sunday March 7, 2021.
Image: Rangers brought an end to a decade of despair last weekend

However, Gerrard has turned this team into winners.

People will underestimate it because it’s Scotland, but the hardest thing they don’t understand when you play for Celtic and Ranger is the fact you face a cup final every weekend. When you play St Mirren away, that’s a cup final for them. St Mirren aren’t fussed if they beat Hamilton the week after. They want to beat Rangers or Celtic.

The big two have to turn up every week to win football matches and to get up every week for a cup final is hard, but if you don’t turn up you will get beat.

‘They’ve blown everyone away’

Rangers
Image: Steven Gerrard has delivered what Rangers fans have been waiting for

I can’t talk highly enough of Rangers and Steven Gerrard.

He’s kept everybody happy and everyone respects him. He’s been absolutely outstanding.

To stop the rot of nine consecutive years of Celtic winning the league and being dominant, but also to do it in a fashion where they’ve blown everyone away, is incredible.

Fair play to him and everyone involved with the club.

‘Tough test to come in Europe’

Rangers players celebrate Ryan Kent's opener during a Scottish Premiership match between Rangers and St Mirren at Ibrox 2:26
Former Rangers striker Peter Lovenkrands believes Rangers are favourites for the Premiership title next season and thinks Steven Gerrard will remain at Ibrox.

This is a hard game against Slavia Prague.

I watched them against Leicester, they are not a bad team at all. It will be a really interesting game.

It should give you a proper idea as to how good Rangers are because to knock Leicester out, who are third in the Premier League, over two legs is no mean feat.

But if they get through, there will be plenty of teams not wanting to draw Rangers in the next round, that’s for sure.

What next for Gerrard and Rangers?

King oversaw the move to see Steven Gerrard become Rangers manager in 2018 2:06
Former Rangers owner Dave King reveals his conversations with Steven Gerrard when he took the manager’s job and why he will remain at Ibrox despite links with Liverpool.

By Sky Sports News’ Allan Valente…

Rangers brought an end to a decade of despair at the weekend as Steven Gerrard’s side secured their 55th top-flight Scottish title – but where do Rangers and their boss go next?

Since their demotion to the third division in 2012, it has been a long and, at most times, arduous return to the top of Scottish football for Rangers and their supporters.

However, in the midst of an undefeated league campaign so far following two false starts since his appointment in 2018, Gerrard has delivered what Rangers fans have been waiting for, stopping Celtic winning 10-in-a-row in the process.

But what comes next? Delicate contract talks, potential big-name sales and getting it right in domestic cups will all be part of Gerrard’s and Rangers’ thinking now.

Here, Sky Sports News looks at what new challenges may immediately present themselves, what needs to be done over the summer and what fans can expect from the title-winning manager and his Rangers team as they now aim to stay at the top of Scottish football.