What's in store for Steven Gerrard at Rangers?
On Tuesday evening, Steven Gerrard confirmed to football fans all over the world that rumours linking him with a move to Scottish giants Rangers were more than just tabloid speculation. He has, in fact, had positive discussions with the Ibrox bosses about the possibility of taking over the Ibrox hot seat this summer.
Rangers started this season with Pedro Caixinha in charge. The Portuguese coach was sacked in late October, replaced by Englishman Graeme Murty, firstly as a caretaker, then on an interim contract until season's end. However, Murty left the club on Tuesday after two heavy defeats to Celtic in a matter of weeks. Rangers are now officially looking for a new manager. It appears they believe Gerrard is their man.
Rolling the dice
Appointing an untested manager is a gamble. Gerrard's only coaching experience has been with Liverpool's youth teams.
That said, there are positive aspects to appointing the former Liverpool star. Straightaway, Gerrard should be able to provide the club with a huge boost. He is the biggest name to be associated with the club in decades [sit down, Mr Barton] which should at the very least have people talking about Rangers in a positive light for the first time in years.
While we don't know a lot about Gerrard the coach, we saw enough of Gerrard the player and the man to know he will bring a winning attitude to the club. As a player, Gerrard was extremely talented but never afraid to dig in when needed. The current Rangers team have had absolutely no fight in them during the last two Glasgow derbies. Gerrard is exactly the type of man who will demand that his side at least battle to get results even if they aren't good enough technically.
Gerrard's appointment will no doubt excite the Rangers fan base. For everything they have been through in the last six years, the one thing you have to say is Gers fans have stood by their club. Despite multiple setbacks, they constantly talk the team up and will come out in their numbers to buy season tickets. That will go some way to helping the new manager bring in much-needed new talent.
What's in store for Gerrard?
In many ways, Gerrard should be commended. There are easier ways to earn a living than managing Rangers. His BT Sport colleagues have undoubtedly reminded him of that.
Rangers don't have a lot of money. It has to be assumed they have promised Gerrard some sort of a respectable transfer budget to attract him north of the border. He will need it.
Rangers have failed to beat their city rivals in 11 attempts since Gerrard's former coach, Brendan Rodgers, took the reins at Celtic. Don't think the PR implications of the two standing next to each other in the technical areas at Celtic Park and Ibrox haven't occurred to the Rangers hierarchy. The gulf between the sides has never been wider than in the last two games. Something has to stoke enthusiasm for the next few Old Firm Derbies.
Gerrard will inherit a squad that looks completely broken. He will have to identify which players still have a future at the club, then find a way to lift them after what has been a horrendous end to the season. Five of the current squad are on loan. It's unclear whether they will stay. David Bates has already agreed a move to Hamburger SV for next season and Kenny Miller's contract will expire. Seven of his new side could be gone before Gerrard even arrives.
There are also some older players on big contracts that Gerrard may wish to examine. Bruno Alves, Graham Dorrans and Lee Wallace could all be shipped out. That would free up some funds. As well, there are still some of Caixanha's disasters on the wage bill that could either be loaned out or sold to seed further investment.
The big question is what kind of money will be available to Gerrard and what is needed to close the gap on Celtic? As it stands, it's difficult to imagine they will have a lot of money unless there is some investment. The club's accounts show that they have been living off loans in recent times.
The task becomes more difficult in that light. With Celtic having received a Champions League windfall for a second consecutive season, Rangers probably should be looking at how they can create a gap between themselves and Aberdeen rather than closing the gap on Celtic.
It's true that Celtic are bringing in a lot more money than anyone else in Scotland, but Rangers' wage bill is comfortably the second biggest. That hasn't transferred into results on the pitch. Rangers could yet finish this season as low as fourth which would be unacceptable for a club as big as they are.
If Rangers can create a gap between themselves and the other clubs, that should bring them closer to Celtic and ensure European football. UEFA money is going to be extremely important for Gers over the coming seasons.
There's very little money in Scottish football. Rangers need to be bringing in cash from Europe. While Europa League purses are small in comparison to the Champions League, it would still lift Rangers above their rivals. If they can consistently beat the other ten clubs, they can build a war chest to assail Celtic.
This season, Rangers were eliminated from the Europa League by a team from Luxembourg. It was disastrous for the club. They missed out on prize money and the extra revenue that would have been generated from further home fixtures.
If anyone, including Gerrard himself, thinks going up to Scotland is a handy first job, they are very much mistaken. Expectations are sky high at Rangers, resources are low, and it's going to take an astute man to turn the club's fortunes around.
Is Gerrard that man? In truth, nobody knows. We have little by which to judge. We will learn about his credentials soon enough. If he's to be a success at Ibrox, he must learn quickly. The fans won't give him an inch of breathing room to learn his craft gradually. When he takes charge of Rangers, he will soon learn the only options are win or go home.