There is no doubt in Harry Redknapp’s mind that Rangers under Steven Gerrard are getting there. Said by some to be the greatest English manager that his country never had, Redknapp just doesn’t know if England’s former captain will get there in the timeframe demanded by the Ibrox club’s predicament.
Redknapp, whose son Jamie played with Gerrard at Liverpool and then shared a television studio with him as a fellow analyst, believes the 39-year-old is fulfilling his destiny by taking on an unforgiving first role in management.
Despite the club heading towards an eighth consecutive season without a major trophy, the 72-year-old personality believes that Gerrard has made sufficient impact in his first year in the coaching frontline to suggest Celtic will be pushed further in the quest for a ninth straight title next year.
“Stevie’s done well. He can’t do miracles. He’s done what he could do, he’s improved Rangers this year big time,” he said. “The future looks good for Rangers, I think, over the next few years. I’m sure about that. They’ll get stronger again next year, I’m certain of that. They’ll close the gap. There’s still a way to go with Celtic, but Stevie’s making progress.
“He’s done very well and it’s good to see him in management. I think it was a great move for him, to come up here and manage one of the great clubs. OK, people can say Celtic and Rangers in Europe at the moment aren’t doing well. But, listen, they’re still two of the biggest clubs in the world. Wherever you go in the world, America – I played in the States – there are people supporting Rangers and Celtic. They’ve got massive supports.
“They are two great football clubs and to manage one of them for his first job was a great move for Stevie. Outside of managing a decent Premier League team there wouldn’t be a better job around. Stevie started on TV, he was also coaching the kids at Liverpool, but when this opportunity came along it was too good for him to turn down. It’s what he wants to do in his life. He wants to be a manager and it’s good he’s getting the chance.”
Redknapp was there when Gerrard took the first steps that have led him to his current position, with a first-team debut at the age of 18, in 1998.
What he learned in the 18-year senior career that followed, which made him a storied figure for a club he led to Champions League success, can all be brought to bear in this new phase of his footballing life.
“You’ve only got to listen to him, he knows what he’s about, he knows the game. He’ll be a big, big success in management,” said Redknapp.
“You look at Rangers, it needed lifting again. They improved a bit last year. It was too good an opportunity for Stevie to turn down.
“I always knew Stevie would go into management. I just thought he was an amazing footballer, a great character and a great lad. He’s switched on and I always felt he would be a big success whatever he did. Stevie was a bit younger when Jamie was there, but they’ve always been good pals. I remember Jamie saying to me one day, ‘there’s a kid playing in the youth team here, he’s just started training with the first team, my God you want to see him play.’ I saw probably his first game, I think he came on at right-back. Then it was midfield – and he quickly showed how incredible he is.”
Redknapp thinks it is incredible that Gerrard’s Rangers prospects will be on the line if he cannot stop Celtic equalling the record nine-in-a-row run of Scottish titles.
The Ibrox side’s dealings, rather than whether Neil Lennon is named permanent successor to the departed Brendan Rodgers at Celtic, could determine how realistic bringing to an end their rivals’ league dominance is, Redknapp believes. Equally, he knows that Celtic can flex financial muscle at the behest of largest shareholder Dermot Desmond that is beyond the Ibrox side.
“Whether he can be the man to turn it around will depend on their recruitment in the summer,” Redknapp said. “But the gap is closing. They could do it next year. Good players are the most important thing, aren’t they? When you have got good players it is an easy job. If they can get a couple of top players in, it could tip the balance possibly. But Dermot Desmond’s a winner in whatever he does. Will he up the ante? He’s such a clever man. He’s done amazing with Celtic. He will keep pushing Celtic on but Rangers will keep pushing on too.
“Stevie’s not going to want to stand still at Rangers, is he? He’s going to try and stop them [Celtic] getting that title again. But it’s good because a few years ago with no Rangers in the league it was farcical. But now they are back in the top flight it’s good again. I follow it. It’s not a one-horse race any more.”
• Harry Redknapp was speaking at The John Hartson Foundation Golf Event at Turnberry. In its ninth year, The Hartson Foundation helps to raise awareness on testicular cancer and will exceed £1 million this year in funds raised.