Steve Gerrard: I’m honest with the Rangers players, good or bad

The journey that Steven Gerrard has chosen to embark upon as a modern-day manager involves a road less travelled. He is a coach that has no compunction about throwing his players under a bus… before expecting them to get back on board a ?matter of days later.

Rangers manager Steven Gerrard says he is always honest with his players. Picture: Rob Casey/SNS

The 39-year-old demonstrated his willingness to be withering about those under his charge following the sterile scoreless draw at home to St Johnstone. He now has to expect those same players to shrug off his criticism and save the club’s season tonight when they host Kilmarnock in the fifth round of the Scottish Cup.

Gerrard’s candour in the 10 months since he was appointed Rangers manager has been admirable. It is open to question, though, whether it is always advisable. In this era, it is standard for managers to protect their players – at least in public. In bygone days, it was typical for them to pillory them. Gerrard considers himself both a mix of these contrasting football ages, and a product of how he has taught to be from a very young age.

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“The way I do it is, if a player’s played really well, then he deserves to be praised – and I’ll praise him. If the team’s done really well, then I’ll praise them. I’ll be truthful in my reflection on how they’ve played.

“And I’ll do exactly the same if things don’t go well. If that, at times, doesn’t sit well with an individual, that’s the way it is. It’s not me trying to rule with an iron fist. It’s me basically doing my job. And I try and do a job. I think, ‘what do the fans want me to say? How would the fans want me to address it, what do they want to hear?’ That’s the way I do it.

“Normally, when we’ve been honest in the dressing room, normally the reaction’s been really good and really strong. They’re a good group of players, a good set of lads, a lot of good professionals in there.

“The other important thing is they don’t really need me to tell them the home truths. I think they knew before I came in [on Saturday] before we had the discussion. But, obviously, it’s my job to do that.

“For me, the important thing is to try and get to the players where the mentality and the standards are at a level where we’re more consistent, rather than always looking for a reaction from the team. Can we try and avoid results and situations like the weekend? If we do, then it will give us a better chance of being successful. “But, if the media want to look at it like it’s sort of ‘home truths’ and I’ve gone in like there have been hairdryers and cups flying, well, it’s not like that. It’s just honesty and telling the players when I feel they haven’t really looked like a Rangers team or 
maybe an individual hasn’t looked like a Rangers player. But I think they already know that because of the reaction of the fans at half-time and full-time. I’d know it if I was in there. It’s how I was brought up as a kid by my parents. It’s the way I’ve been brought up at Liverpool. It’s to always be honest and truthful. See yourself when you’re reflecting on your own performances as a player. That’s how I always preferred it from a manager.

“I never wanted a manager to 
sugar-coat me and try and take me up the wrong path or mislead me or lie even. I’d always prefer the truth, whether I’d played well or average or had a poor game. I think you can move on better when you know the truth about how you’ve done. I think man-management is so important now with players. I played through two eras of the game. An old-school way in the early days, it was a bit more black and white, a bit more aggressive, if you like. I also played at the back-end of my career where social media came into the game and there was maybe a different way to handle a player. So, I probably experienced both sides. I probably prefer the one that sits in the middle to get the man-management side of it right, but is really honest and respectful to the players.

“I don’t like the old-school way where you are throwing things around the dressing room, kicking things and pulling things off the wall. I don’t think that’s the right way. I also don’t believe in managers who are constantly praising players, 
telling them they are great and the next thing since sliced bread.

“That can be misleading as well. For me, it’s all about the balance. I don’t belittle anyone. I don’t single anyone out. I don’t make any of them feel uncomfortable. I do it in a way I believe is right. Normally, when I’m critical, I’m critical of the group. Normally, if I’m going for an individual, I will go for the big-hitters who I know can handle it and who the other people may look up to. I feel that’s the best way.”

Gerrard doesn’t pretend there is any middle ground when assessing the difference in his Rangers side with or without Alfredo Morelos. The Colombian striker will be available tonight after serving two games of his three-match suspension that followed his red-card in the 4-2 
victory over Aberdeen.

The Ibrox side have scrapped out two scoreless draws – in the cup away to Kilmarnock, and then on Saturday – without Morelos. Injuries to Scott Arfield and Ryan Jack, pictured left, also did not help, with the Rangers manager more hopeful of having the former back this evening. Gerrard is blunt about what is lost when he is required to go without his 23-goal Tasmanian devil of a talisman. Asked if his whole team was better when Morelos was in it, he conceded: “On the back of St Johnstone, the answer’s always going to be yes, of course, after a nil-nil, and a nil-nil at 
Kilmarnock in the first leg as 
well.

“I think we’ve lacked players stepping up and providing big moments and bits of magic at the right time in Alfredo’s absence, in Scott’s absence. But it’s my job to make sure we’re not over-reliant on him going forward and that’s what I’ll do.

“I think the learning curve for Alfredo is to try and not put himself in this position [suspended] moving forward but to keepihis edge, his fighting spirit, his mentality because I think the team lack that when he’s not there.

“We lacked it at Dundee away; we certainly lacked it at the weekend. Just two very hurtful performances for the team in terms of where we sit in the league.

“He’ll be a welcome boost, it’s nice to have him back and hopefully he can put in a performance that can help the team get the outcome that we want.”