Steven Gerrard must ensure Rangers buckle up next season
When Steven Gerrard openly criticized Rangers players' performance during his days as a television pundit, some fans considered it rash. The new ethos is to treat players like eggs. The new Gers boss knows how to make an omelette, however. Now that he's installed at Ibrox, his players will either buckle up or say their goodbyes.
If you watched the Light Blue close out the SPL season in spring, you would agree Gerrard was, as the saying goes, speaking truth to power. The new manager has made it clear there will be no room for slackers in the team while he is coach. Rangers players had best listen.
Gerrard is a goal getter. Leading Liverpool to Champions League glory and captaining the Three Lions are not casual pastimes. It is the kind of winning mentality his squad must adopt. If they don't, well I've already made that point and Stevie G doesn't seem the type who will enjoy repeating himself.
Ibrox has seemed an unhealthy dressing room filled with cliques for a while now. Their lack of spirit suggests as much. Sevco’s play has been uninspired despite their return to the Scottish Premier League. Gerrard saw it in the booth. He won't want to see it from the technical area.
The Champions League final in Istanbul, where he drove the team back from three goals down, attests to his competitive nature. A man like that doesn't tolerate the dismal performance Rangers produced at Easter Road in May. Throwing away a two-goal lead after a three-goal comeback? That's not on.
Rangers were obviously lacking mental and physical fitness last season, as was evidenced by taking a 5-3 lead against Hibs only to allow the Leith side to rescue a point. Gerrard will soon make it clear that's a thing of the past.
He has flown the team out to Spain with less than a month before his first competitive game as manager. The Andalusia camp is an excellent opportunity to take the squad away from the environment in which it grew complacent. Gerrard will have a look at his four new players, albeit while lobbying the board for more. Connor Goldson and Nikola Katic especially can become acquainted with their new teammates and learn what to watch out for at a club like Rangers.
The trip isn't a holiday, though. Players put in double sessions every day. Walter Smith used to take the club to a pre-season camp in Germany every year, somewhere out in no man’s land. He pushed them just as hard as Gerrard is the present-day squad, if not more. It was a tough slog but the benefits were evident during the season.
If Rangers hold any hope of challenging Celtic next season, hard work will be at the root of their success. They must prove they are willing to go the extra mile to their new boss. Then, when he is satisfied, they'll have to prove it all over again to end Celtic’s dominance in Scotland.