Chris Sutton believes the manager of the club which finishes second in the Ladbrokes Premiership is unlikely to survive next season.
Speaking ahead of the Betfred Cup semi-finals, which pitch Celtic against Hibernian and Rangers against Hearts, the BT Sport pundit stressed how important it was for Steven Gerrard to win his first trophy with Rangers after Celtic claimed the last nine.
However, he knows that the league is the ultimate testing ground and does not expect the boss of the club which ends up as runners-up to have a long shelf life.
After ten matches of the season, Neil Lennon’s Celtic and Gerrard’s Rangers are currently separated only by goal difference and Sutton believes the pressure is all on the Ibrox club to arrest Celtic’s winning streak which also stretches to eight league titles in a row.
“The longer that goes on – if Celtic do win the first trophy – there will be a nervousness about Rangers. They couldn’t go down the stretch last season,” said the former Celtic striker. “If they don’t win something this [time], the chances are they’ll implode because everything has been building so well.
“They were impressive in Europe. I know Porto are not what they were but the way Rangers passed the ball against them, they showed they were a good team. But for Gerrard to come north – which has helped raise the profile of Scottish football – ultimately, he needs to win something. That’s the pressure of managing Celtic and Rangers.
“If I’m honest, for the team that finishes second in the league, I don’t see their manager lasting next season – I think it’s that big.
“They are both managers with great passion and knowledge of the game but, with what’s at stake, this season is massive and that starts with the first trophy, even though the Betfred Cup isn’t as big as the league and what it means to both sets of supporters.”
Sutton added: “The truth is I’m in Glasgow a lot and many Rangers fans think their team has cracked it this season. If Celtic do win the first trophy, there will be doubts across the city.
“Whatever people say about Gerrard and how the team is improving, he’s been given the money and given the players, he [still] didn’t win a trophy last season. That’s not me giving him a kicking, it’s a fact.”
It was put to Sutton that Lennon may be annoyed by the attention paid to a rookie manager who has yet to win anything but he disagreed.
“I think that Neil and Steven understand what managing Celtic and Rangers is about – and it’s all about winning,” he claimed.
“There’s nothing in Neil’s mind other than doing the best job possible and I think it’s inconsequential to him that Steven is the Rangers manager. I don’t think it matters to him who the Rangers manager is, Celtic have to finish in front of them.
“Second is last in Glasgow, so that’s the only focus. I don’t think Celtic are necessarily clear of everyone else in Scotland as I think it’ll be a really close title race.”
• Catch the action from Hibs v Celtic on Saturday from 5pm and Rangers v Hearts on Sunday from 2.30pm on BT Sport 1.