Paul Murray: Steven Gerrard on course to win league for Rangers next season

Steven Gerrard's experience of managing Rangers during his first season will serve him well as he bids to win the league title  next term, says Paul Murray. Picture: SNS.
Steven Gerrard's experience of managing Rangers during his first season will serve him well as he bids to win the league title next term, says Paul Murray. Picture: SNS.
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Paul Murray sat in the spartan surroundings of Central Park four years ago and quickly realised the renaissance of Rangers was not going to happen overnight.

A miserable goalless draw with Cowdenbeath was glaring evidence that the road to recovery on the pitch was going to be a long one – never mind fixing the rack and ruin left by previous owners.

Of course, there have been some considerable bumps on the road since, not least in the ill-advised appointment of Pedro Caixinha to replace Mark Warburton, who also showed he was not up to the task of managing Rangers in the Premiership.

However, Murray, who is now back to being a supporter having relinquished his place on the board last year, feels Steven Gerrard is on course to deliver the ultimate indicator of complete recovery by winning the title next season.

Murray said: “It’s over four years since Dave King, John Gilligan and myself came back into the club and I don’t think any of us thought it would be a short-term project because the damage that had been done over a number of years would be hard to repair.

“We took over on 6 March and the next day we went to Cowdenbeath and drew 0-0 with a side that had lost 10-0 to Hearts the previous week.

“So I think we have come a long way from that point. We would have liked to have won the league by now but I think there has been steady progress.

“Everyone is a genius in hindsight in terms of decisions that have been made. You can look back and say ‘that was a wrong decision’.

“But football is one of these sports and businesses where there are things that you can’t control – players losing form, injuries, players want to leave, managers want to leave.”

A year after the takeover Murray et al were celebrating a penalty shoot-out Scottish Cup semi-final win over Celtic, which undoubtedly gave supporters mislaid belief that the good old days were just around the corner.

Celtic promptly pushed out the boat to hire Brendan Rodgers and steamed over the horizon.

Murray said: ‘I don’t think it was a false dawn. I just think that on the day we played pretty well and Celtic were going through an indifferent season with Ronny Deila there. It was one of those things. We certainly weren’t expecting that we would go from there to winning the league. It was a one-off game, a cup game.

“There are a lot of social media myths around that in terms of what Celtic did apparently on the back of Rangers directors celebrating in the stand. It was more just relief after several years of pretty tough times. It was nothing more than that.

“Even though it’s Rangers, not many teams can come from the Championship and immediately win the Premiership the following season. We were under no illusion it was going to be a tough way back.”

Calamitous derby defeats under Warburton and Caixinha, who also suffered the ignominy of defeat by Luxembourg minnows Progres Niederkorn, are evidence of that.

However, Gerrard has rectified that and had his team not shipped so many points unnecessarily there could have been a genuine fight for the flag in these coming weeks.

Murray said: “Steven Gerrard is about to go into his second season and I’m pretty sure he will have learned from this season.

“He will have learned about the teams we face, the football they play, the fact Rangers and Celtic have to win every game and when you go to places like Hamilton you have to grind a result out.

“People say it’s easy but it’s not. Every team wants to beat Rangers and Celtic so there is that level of competition. Although Steven Gerrard has people around him in the club such as Gary McAllister and others who will understand a bit of that, there is no substitute for actually experiencing it yourself.

“Having had that for the past year, I think that will serve as a good intro to next season. You always start every season optimistically, but I think next season there is a lot to be optimistic about.

“I think we have made genuine progress and with a bit of investment in key areas and a bit more consistency I think we can go far.”

King certainly thinks Rangers can be the dominant force next season and therefore stop Celtic from hitting nine titles in a row for a second time.

“You guys love these headlines,” said Murray. “At the end of the day, it comes down to what happens on the pitch. You would imagine Celtic are going to win the league this year so by definition they have been the best team in the country this season.

“But that’s not to say that can’t change.”

l Paul Murray was helping to promote a new book, Rangers Football Club – The Ulster Connection, written by journalist Billy Kennedy.