The pressure on Steven Gerrard and his Rangers team to end any prospect of a Celtic ten-in-a-row run of titles may seem immediate and all-consuming. But Murdo MacLeod insists it is small beer compared to what he and Wim Jansen faced when taking charge of Celtic in the summer of 1997. By that point Rangers had already racked up nine straight league victories – what the Parkhead club are pushing for this campaign.
A total of nine players were recruited – with Henrik Larsson and Craig Burley acquired in the summer while others such as Marc Reiper, Paul Lambert and Harold Brattbakk arrived during season – as manager Jansen and his assistant MacLeod had limited time to knit a winning team. The latter believes that is, in contrast to Gerrard, pictured, who has already had two summer intakes to meld a side to challenge Celtic.
“Rangers are different to what Wim and I had to achieve. We had one season to stop Rangers getting ten titles – Steven Gerrard still has two seasons to do it. We had to focus to try to stop Rangers and it was so intense,” said MacLeod. “Rangers could have a good season, get the team together and Celtic could be that wee bit better and get nine, and then next season becomes huge for Rangers.
“When we signed players for Celtic we had to talk to them in the first week or so and tell them they were here for a reason. They thought it was fantastic they were signing for such a big club, but they never thought it all being about stopping ten in a row. We had to drum it into them.
“People say the pressure is on Rangers but I think Celtic have pressure on them. Rangers have brought in more new players and they are getting more consistent. That was the problem over the last few years. So if they win the tough games, like they did at Kilmarnock on the opening day, then they will be up there.
“Celtic fans will be looking at Rangers over the next few months and trying to judge how close they are going to be at the end of the season. They always say if you win the Old Firm game at New Year then you will win the league. I remember we won 2-0 at Parkhead and it was an omen. Rangers had started really well that season but we managed to do enough to win it on the last day and stop the ten.”