Rangers' faith in Steven Gerrard vindicated as he becomes Scottish Premiership's longest-serving manager

When Derek McInnes fell just short of marking an eighth anniversary in charge of Aberdeen last week, his status as the Scottish Premiership’s longest-serving manager was passed on to Steven Gerrard.

Steven Gerrard greets jubilant Rangers fans outside the club's training ground after his squad were confirmed as the new Premiership champions this month. (Photo by Ross MacDonald / SNS Group)
Steven Gerrard greets jubilant Rangers fans outside the club's training ground after his squad were confirmed as the new Premiership champions this month. (Photo by Ross MacDonald / SNS Group)

It is an indication of the volatility of their profession that Gerrard now holds that distinction after just two years and 286 days as Rangers boss.

With McInnes’ departure from the Dons coming just a day after Gerrard claimed his first piece of major silverware for the Ibrox club, it also vindicated the patience, backing and unshakeable faith the former Liverpool captain has received from the Rangers board.

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Gerrard’s appointment, of course, was ironically influenced by McInnes’ decision to reject the opportunity to become Rangers manager in December 2017 following the sacking of the hapless Pedro Caixinha.

Steven Gerrard at Ibrox when he was unveiled as the new Rangers manager in May 2018. (Photo by Bill Murray/SNS Group).

It sent then Rangers chairman Dave King and his fellow board members on a different path, one which led to the imaginative and bold announcement of Gerrard’s appointment in May 2018.

Since Gerrard officially took charge on June 1 that year, there have been no fewer than 20 managerial departures in the Scottish Premiership

Gerrard barely had his feet under the table when former Rangers striker Kenny Miller became the first casualty of his new peer group when he left Livingston after just seven weeks in the job.

The steady rate of managerial changes over the next few months would have underlined to Gerrard the often unforgiving nature of his new environment - Alan Stubbs’ brief reign at St Mirren, Neil McCann’s tenure at Dundee and Martin Canning’s four-year stint with Hamilton Accies continued the high turnover rate.

Neil Lennon’s curious exit from HIbs at the end of January 2019 was followed by Brendan Rodgers’ decision to quit Celtic for Leicester City the following month, providing a fateful twist in the dynamic of the Old Firm rivalry.

Lennon’s subsequent return to Celtic saw him see out the job Rodgers had started that season, retaining the Premiership title by an eight point margin over Rangers as Gerrard came up empty-handed in his maiden campaign.

There would be further disappointment in the ultimately curtailed 2019-20 season for Gerrard as Lennon guided Celtic to a fourth consecutive domestic treble.

But even during Gerrard’s lowest moments, the Rangers board held their nerve in recognition of the undoubted improvements he was making at the club. While more Premiership bosses fell by the wayside - including Craig Levein at Hearts, Paul Heckingbottom at Hibs and Angelo Alessio at Kilmarnock - Rangers stuck firmly by Gerrard.

They have been rewarded in style this season as Gerrard has overseen the club’s first title win in a decade, wrapped up with six games of the campaign to spare.

All around him, the Premiership managerial pins have continued to fall - Gary Holt quitting Livingston, Stuart Kettlewell sacked by Ross County, Stephen Robinson calling time at Motherwell and Alex Dyer leaving Kilmarnock.

Neil Lennon’s exit from Celtic last month, the Irishman paying the price of Rangers’ dominance under Gerrard this season, was then followed by Aberdeen opting to cut ties with McInnes.

It now leaves Gerrard with the lengthiest managerial incumbency in Scotland’s top flight, 244 days more than Brian Rice of Hamilton Accies.

As Rangers savour their current success, they will hope Gerrard retains that ranking for some time to come.

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