After some of his pronouncements in recent weeks, including following Thursday’s excellent draw in Villarreal, it might have been apt had Shania Twain dedicated her song That Don’t Impress Me Much to Steven Gerrard when she played Glasgow last night.
The Rangers manager was in the audience, having been “bullied” into taking time out from a hectic itinerary that he admits has taken its toll on the Ibrox side’s league form.
Even last weekend’s resounding 4-0 win over Dundee did not wholly please Gerrard. Indeed, some of Rangers’ play angered him. There were even aspects of Thursday’s Europa League display which irked him as he reviewed the action.
“It’s a great result but watching the game back on the flight home there are still some things within it, if you’re ultra-critical, we need to address and try to learn and grow from,” said Gerrard yesterday.
Rangers must now get used to the Thursday-Sunday routine since it is a feature of their pre-Christmas schedule. It helps make Gerrard’s managerial baptism seem even more intense. He watched the whole 90-plus minutes of the draw with Villarreal on the flight home because “it’s difficult when there’s not much time between games”. As of yesterday morning, tomorrow’s home clash with St Johnstone became the priority.
Despite the criticism, specifically about the way Rangers started and when switching off after scoring, he liked a lot of what he saw. He believes a key ingredient, belief, is building all the time, as is synergy between certain players.
“You saw Borna [Barisic, right] and Glenn [Middleton] for the goal,” said Gerrard. “They’ve been working on that in training for a short space of time. I’m hoping that, with time, becomes two or three times in a game, rather than just once. They will improve the more they play together.”
Eight points from a possible 15 doesn’t represent a dynamic opening to a league campaign. But throw in negotiating four difficult European knock-out ties while marvelling at Thursday’s 2-2 draw in Spain, one of the finest Scottish results of recent times in Europe, and it is clear to see why Gerrard, despite some complaints, would gladly accept this start in terms of results had it been offered on his arrival in May.
About to embark on a week when he will taste domestic Scottish cup action, he does concede there is work to be done. A Betfred Cup quarter-final clash with Ayr United on Wednesday is bookended by league appointments with St Johnstone and Livingston. As satisfied as he is now, he is targeting six points and a place in the last four.
“I would definitely have taken this position before we started, 100 per cent,” said Gerrard. “It’s difficult to gauge right now because obviously with Europe everything is fantastic, where we sit right now. But in the league I would like a few more points on the board. I’m not one to use any excuses, ‘we could have’, ‘we should have’, ‘maybe’…
“It is what it is,” he added. “I would like a few more points on the board.”
The team remains a work in progress. The same applies to Gerrard as he continues adapting to living in an unfamiliar city. As if to illustrate his point, just as he is explaining how a manager’s existence is “24/7”, his mobile phone goes off. “Nice timing,” he grinned.
“I’m loving it. I’m loving it,” he added. “I’m really lucky to be in this position, to manage this fantastic club. I’m enjoying it, it’s a rollercoaster, it’s emotional. I wouldn’t change it for anything but it’s full on and it’s difficult to switch off.”
Family life has not been completely sacrificed.“I’m not away from my family,” he said. “They are down south but I see them a lot. They are up every single weekend and I get down the road at night, sometimes twice a week. Nothing has changed. I am probably seeing more of them now than I did as a player so I’m happy.
“I have no complaints off the pitch. I have settled into Glasgow really well. It’s similar to Liverpool in many ways. I am very happy.”
Only the Twain obligation provoked some conflict. He revealed he was “reeled in” to see the country star by his family, who were keen to take advantage of a rare break in his schedule before another packed fortnight is rounded off by a visit from league leaders Hearts.