For Steven Gerrard, raised on tales of the Caledonian influence in his beloved Liverpool’s rise to greatness, starting his own managerial journey in the land which exported those idols has proved hugely rewarding.
The 40-year-old’s own burgeoning CV in the role has a fresh entry as he celebrates being named William Hill Manager of the Year by the Scottish Football Writers’ Association.
It’s fitting recognition of a Scottish Premiership title triumph which is two games away from being completed without defeat and another admirable Europa League campaign which has restored Rangers’ status and credibility on the continental stage.
In the spotlight
Gerrard could have taken less challenging and lower profile jobs when he decided to become a manager three years ago. But his decision to step into the glare of the Glasgow goldfish bowl has been vindicated.
“I said in my first press conference back in 2018 that I got a feeling about this offer,” reflected Gerrard.
“I felt like there was a connection to be made. I had admired the club from afar for many years and I had been up here and sampled the atmosphere and what the supporters were about.
“But, also, I had the education to know what the institution was about and what it meant to the people and it was an opportunity that I couldn’t turn down.
“Having said that, when I first took the job you do feel the size of the job and the pressure and the responsibility of the role and that is because of the managers who have gone before – Walter Smith and Graeme Souness as two of the more recent ones in particular.
“It is a tough position to be in because you have got to try and follow in their footsteps and try and add to the wonderful success they have had. To sit here now having produced a league, and an historic league, is ever so satisfying.”
Fergie’s seal of approval
Gerrard’s achievement also earned recognition this week from Ferguson, the former Manchester United manager describing his work at Rangers as ‘magnificent, on and off the field’. The man who was such a thorn in the side of Liverpool during Gerrard’s playing career has now joined the list of those he can call for advice.
“It’s very high praise and I’m extremely flattered,” added Gerrard. “He’s an iconic figure in the game. Through no fault of our own, we became big, big rivals at Liverpool and Manchester United, the two biggest clubs in British football.
“We were massive rivals for many years and he’s someone that, even though he was a rival, I looked up to him immensely because he is such an iconic figure in the game and what he achieved in the game is up there with the very best who have ever lived.
“So I’m really flattered and humbled by his words and I’ll let you into a little secret, I’ve had a couple of conversations with him. Since I’ve retired, we’ve parked our rivalry up and he gave me time on the phone to bounce a few things off him, a few questions to do with the management up here at Rangers.
“I am in a really blessed position because coming through the ranks at Liverpool, I have got some real top management experience that I can tap into – Kenny Dalglish, Roy Hodgson, Rafa Benitez. But I was connected with Sir Alex through a mutual person, Don McRae, a journalist who did one of my books not so long ago.
“We did exchange numbers at the time but I wouldn’t have dared send the first message, that’s for sure!
Legends on speed dial
“Coming up here, I also have Graeme Souness and Walter Smith who I can tap into and for a young manager that is gold dust because I certainly appreciate where I am at in terms of my individual journey.
“This is a case of learning on the job for me, especially in the early years when there is so much to learn. To have these icons of the game to tap into and for them to give me the time, it is a very blessed position.”
Those phone calls proved especially beneficial to Gerrard during the more difficult times he experienced during spells of his first two seasons in charge at Ibrox.
“When you are trying to learn and you are striving to be better, it isn’t about just listening to these people after you have won a league,” he added.
“This has been a journey and sometimes you feel like you are going down the wrong road or you are hitting a few bumps or maybe you need some advice that is non-football related.
“I wouldn’t see they are all mentors, that is a bit too extreme, but it is nice to know that you can pick the phone up to someone that has been there and done it.
“When you are trying to learn and grow to have people who have been so successful and who have gone through what I am going through now many, many times that is invaluable for me.”
Asked how he would mark his own season out of 10, Gerrard acknowledged again that the domestic cup quarter-final exits to St Mirren and St Johnstone remain a source of frustration. But those disappointments are outweighed by the emphatic Premiership title win and accomplished run to the last 16 of the Europa League.
"I don’t want to mark myself out of 10, I think that is for other people,” he said with a smile. “But I have just won an award for being the best manager amongst a set of fantastic coaches up here in Scotland, so obviously I am not doing too badly.”