Ex-Rangers winger Mark Walters believes current boss Steven Gerrard will have exceeded the accomplishments of legendary predeccessor Graeme Souness if he can prevent Celtic from claiming a ninth successive title this season.
Walters, signed by Souness from Aston Villa in 1987 and who followed Souness south to Liverpool four years later, also claims that Gerrard must do exactly that if he is to secure his dream job away from Ibrox.
Gerrard has never hidden the fact that he would love to manage Liverpool, where he spent 17 years as a player, winning eight major domestic and European trophies. However, his folk-hero status with the Anfield fans notwithstanding, Walters is convinced that the club’s directors would not even consider him unless he can succeed in Scotland.
Walters is confident Gerrard will succeed because anything less will see his hopes of leading the club where he made his name dashed for good.
Souness was a champion in four of his (nearly) five seasons at Ibrox but Walters insists that Gerrard’s task is considerably more difficult.
“There are similarities between them. Both were world-class players who came into a situation where Rangers were not doing well,” said Walters.
“I suppose the advantages Souness had was that he had more money than the other clubs and that he was still playing.
“If anything, Gerrard’s situation has been more difficult so, if he could win a trophy, it would be a better achievement. And, if Steven wins the league, then it would eclipse what Graeme Souness achieved because when you pay big money for signings then it’s rare you have to develop them as they’re already quality players.
“But if you’re buying – with all due respect – lesser players then you’ve got more to do. You’ve got to improve them so having players with less ability and leading them to win trophies is a bigger achievement.
“Graeme Souness was also still playing, which made a big difference because he could see [on the pitch] the idiosyncrasies of some players, whether their heart is in it and if they would step up when things go wrong. When you’re not playing, you sometimes need to get someone else’s opinion on whether individuals are ready for the battle so it’s been more difficult for Steven than it was for Graeme.
“However, it’s very important he wins something because, while things have improved and gone fantastically well thus far, coming second isn’t an option for a club like Rangers.”
Gerrard, 39, was Liverpool’s under-18s coach before he moved to Rangers in 2017 and, at the first time of asking, finished nine points adrift of champions Celtic in the league while being eliminated from both cups by Aberdeen. He also took Rangers into the group phase of the Europa League and has improved on that this season by reaching the round of 32 but his team has already lost the BetFred Cup final to Celtic.
To have a chance to succeed Jurgen Klopp at Anfield, though, Walters insists he must take it to the next level at Ibrox. He said: “That means winning trophies; he’s done brilliantly so far but you get judged on trophies.
“So far, so good, though. Obviously, Klopp is managing the world champions at the moment so I don’t see him leaving for now but long term? Possibly. Liverpool; fans love Gerrard so he’ll be a definite option whenever Klopp decides to leave.“However, I don’t remember Liverpool going for a manager who’d never won a trophy so I think he’s got to win something first.”
Gerrard last month called for the introduction of the Video Assistant Referee in Scotland, claiming that Rangers could have prevailed at Hampden had Christoper Jullien’s match-winning goal been disallowed for offside.
Walters added: “VAR is criticised for a lot of things and I don’t like it when players are ruled offside for a stud. But it does get the decisions right nine times out of 10.
“If we’d had it in the 1989 Scottish Cup final, I could have another winner’s medal as Celtic scored from our throw-in, which Roy Aitken took instead. I think it’s for the best and, hopefully, they can iron out problems going forward.”
l Mark Walters and Frank McKeown were speaking to publicise Premier Sports’ exclusive coverage of Friday’s William Hill Scottish Cup fourth round tie between Rangers and Stranraer.