Andrew Smith: ‘Managers’ is the movie we all want to watch

Rangers Manager Steven Gerrard. Pic: SNS/Alan Harvey
Rangers Manager Steven Gerrard. Pic: SNS/Alan Harvey
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Forget pushing for the introduction of VAR into Scottish football. What is required to serve the sumptuous fare we are promised this season is another form of technical wizardry. A split screen facility. One that would somehow allow supporters simultaneously to watch events on the pitch and the goings-on at the touchline. More than any top-flight campaign in recent memory, this one is made mesmerising by the managers.

Big personalities are now to be found in initialled training tops right across every level of the set-up. From first-timers Steven Gerrard and Kenny Miller at Rangers and Livingston respectively, to Alan Stubbs now fronting St Mirren, there are names to conjure with. To add to those mind-speakers, headline-generators and, almost without exception, team-crafters of real substance in Derek McInnes at Aberdeen, Hibernian’s Neil Lennon, Craig Levein at Hearts, Steve Clarke, pictured, and Neil McCann at Dundee. That a revitalised Scottish football is becoming a place to be is reflected in the willingness of all these men to put their coaching reputations firmly on the line.

Naturally, Gerrard’s arrival has commandeered the news agenda. Such a stellar footballing figure pitching up at Ibrox for his first senior coaching role brings a glitz to our game which has been in precious short supply over the past decade-and-a-half. The fact he feels like the apprentice to Celtic’s all-conquering sorcerer Brendan Rodgers adds one more layer to a scenario with more of them than a three-storey sandwich cake. If you want another, it comes courtesy of their Anfield relationship having appeared to end a little awkwardly according to the account given by Gerrard in his autobiography.

Only one of them can essentially emerge unscathed from their paths now crossing in Glasgow. Gerrard has exhibited an impressive gravitas in an altogether unfamiliar role and with three clean sheets in three European games his rebooted Ibrox team give the impression they will present a more considered challenge to Celtic than they have in two Premiership campaigns.

Yet that should be taken as a given. Rangers’ spend is around four times that of Aberdeen and Hibs. They lost eight home league games for the first time in 100 years last season. It shouldn’t be difficult for Gerrard to drive up standards and put distance between Rangers and McInnes’s obdurate, four-times runners-up and the flair-fuelled but transfer-window weakened Leith club.

However, as seems to be their default, many among the Rangers legions appear to be sending themselves giddy over the possibility their favourites could stop Celtic claiming an eighth consecutive title. It remains difficult to see on what basis they arrive at this conclusion.

Rodgers’ men are in uncharted territory after hoovering up consecutive trebles. By the law of averages they might fall short of a third straight clean sweep. Might. But they have a manager with the nous, drive and array of playing talent at his disposal that ensures they will bow to no team over a 38-game league season. Indeed, the problem for Rangers is that the Gerrard factor gives Rodgers and his Celtic squad a new cause, a new focus, a new reason to ramp up their dominance after they were flat for spells as they enjoyed a procession to the title last season.

There was nothing flat about the Edinburgh enmity that developed between Lennon and Levein, and that means the Tynecastle manager is now playing dicey catch-up with a collection of unheralded signings.

Kilmarnock supporters were barely able to catch their breaths, meanwhile, at the intoxicating revival Clarke masterminded at Rugby Park. A battering ram-style Motherwell that Stephen Robinson, incredibly, took to both cup finals would appear the only team capable pushing those others for a top six placing.

A St Johnstone that the valiant Tommy Wright will recognise is in transition should be able to remain outside of the Premiership danger zone. Occupation of this unwanted area is likely to be a crowded battlefield in which Dundee, Hamilton Accies, St Mirren and Livingston seek to survive the bullets and bombs.

Even if he donned a flak jacket underneath his strip, that might prove a bridge too far for Livi player/manager Miller. You have to admire his pluck at thinking he could do not one but two jobs at a club that seems devoid of both the infrastructure and personnel to surivive the skirmishing in a top flight that only miracle work by departed predecessor David Hopkin entirely unexpectedly landed them in.

A testing introduction to management seems ahead for the 38-year-old Miller but with his intention to play at least he won’t have to stand on the sidelines and watch helplessly. Pity the many others who will.