Can Rangers dethrone Celtic under Steven Gerrard?
Background image: Johnelwaq, CC BY-SA 4.0
Celtic enjoyed complete domination of Scottish football for the better part of this decade. Seven successive Scottish Premier League titles attest. Meanwhile, Rangers reformed after administration. After being readmitted into the fourth tier of Scottish football, the Light Blues have fought their way back, winning three promotions in four years. When they arrived, Celtic acknowledged their presence with successive defeats in the Old Firm Derby. To rub salt in the wound, Brendan Rodgers’ side beat their bitter rivals last May to clinch the seventh title in the line.
The last side to lift the trophy aside from the Hoops was Rangers. No other club could replace them when they went down in 2012. Several managers passed through the Ibrox gates within that time frame. Failure to mount a serious challenge to their arch-rivals last season led to Graeme Murty's dismissal. Jimmy Nicholl saw out the final three matches. In the summer, Steven Gerrard was the surprise choice to replace Murty on a permanent basis.
Despite his inexperience, the former Liverpool captain has not done badly, securing 20 wins and 13 draws in 39 games across all competitions, the legendary midfielder is on his way to managerial greatness. Nothing has done more to strengthen that belief than the weekend's victory over former boss Brendan Rodgers in the Old Firm Derby.
The deserved 1-0 win was Rangers' in the 13 derbies since Rodgers took charge at Celtic Park. When the opposition manager admits to Sky Sports he deserves to lose, the victors didn't win by luck.
I thought the best team won.
For Gerrard, triumph arrived through hard work and determination to succeed.
I am desperate to be successful at Rangers. I understand the size of the club, and how much the fans want success.
Having moved level on points with the champions atop the table, Gers are poised for a title push. Celtic holds a game in hand but Rangers’ victory could provide a turning point in the title race.
With just 12 games remaining Rangers require an uncharacteristic capitulation by the serial champions as well as a perfect finish to the campaign to overtake their nemeses. While it's the best opportunity to get one over their rivals in a long time, it will prove very difficult.
However, the Teddy Bears can take inspiration from the fact the gap is closing. Celtic won the title by 13 points over third-place Rangers last term, losing just twice in 33 matches. On the other hand, Rodgers' side already suffers four defeats in 20 games this term. Rangers, who lost nine times in 2017/18, failed to take points in only three SPL matches to date under Gerrard.
As it stands, other sides also have a chance at the title. Kilmarnock sit a point behind the Old Firm, on 41. Aberdeen has 39. Gerrard must contend with more challenges beyond his former boss. A perfect end to the campaign will be required to not only topple Celtic but also beat the other contenders. It's a difficult task, but don't rule out the most successful club in Scotland from clinching a 55th league title. Rangers are back.