Having seen his team deliver what he regarded as a football feast fit for a king on Thursday night, Steven Gerrard was able to fully savour a dinner date with his chairman 24 hours later.
The Rangers manager was still glowing with satisfaction yesterday at the 3-1 Europa League win over Rapid Vienna at a fevered Ibrox which coincided with one of Dave King’s visits to Glasgow. If Gerrard perhaps over-egged the pudding with his effusive assessment of Rangers’ performance, he was certainly entitled to be gratified by the response from his players after their shoddy display in the 1-0 league defeat at Livingston last weekend.
“I’m meeting the chairman tonight, so that result was nicely timed,” said Gerrard with a grin. “If it had been after Livingston, I don’t think it would have been a very enjoyable meal.”
As Gerrard delivered a progress report to King, he is confident the South Africa-based businessman can see plenty of evidence he is receiving a positive return on the significant investment made in recruiting the former Liverpool captain in the summer.
“Dave King and the board have been tremendous towards me and my staff and hopefully we can reward them with success at the end of the season,” added Gerrard. “That’s the challenge, that’s the aim. I’m sure they are pleased, I’m sure they can see it moving forward in the right direction. We just have to obviously try to calm expectations moving forward, because after results like last night it goes a little bit over the top. That happens the same the other way after Livingston, people think it’s the end of the world after one result.”
Gerrard is keen to avoid another dramatic mood swing around his club when they face table-topping Hearts at Ibrox tomorrow. He knows anything less than a victory will be regarded as another serious blow to his hopes of winning the Premiership title at his first attempt.
“I had a fair idea of how it works up here before I came,” he added. “If the pressure’s not on Celtic, it’s on Rangers. If it’s not on Rangers, it’s on Celtic. That’s the way it’s been up here for many, many years and it’s not going to change.
“From a neutral point of view, it’s probably welcome that the likes of Hearts have started the season very strong, and Livingston are also doing very well. From my point of view, it’s important that if we perform like we did against Rapid Vienna, that I give the right praise out, because it’s deserved, but don’t go over the top and don’t get carried away. At the same time, if the players have a day off, like Livingston, it’s important I don’t go and crucify them or get too emotional and react negatively too much. It’s just getting the right balance.”
Gerrard hopes his players can combine with the Rangers support to generate another memorable occasion at Ibrox, having hailed the atmosphere during the win over Rapid as among the best he has experienced in his storied career.
“That was up there with the best I’ve played in, whether it be at Anfield or other stadiums,” he said. “That was right up there alongside them. That noise was incredible, it was ‘wow’. It was special. I was blessed as a player to have had that at Anfield for many, many years on a European level and sometimes domestically as well. Thursday night is what I came to Rangers for. I want to be involved in European games and I want my players to be involved in those games because that’s what this club is about, big nights under the lights.
“It’s a different game on Sunday, it’s a daytime game, a domestic game. It’s a very important game for us, a massive three points, but I don’t think we can try to compare it to Thursday night because it will be different.
“But, yeah, we want Ibrox to be rocking again. We want a strong atmosphere but the team have to play their part in that. The challenge is can you match it or get close to that performance again? If we do, I think we will get the result we want.”