Rangers next manager contingency plans - the factors to be considered if Steven Gerrard departs for Aston Villa

Will he or won’t he? That is the question on everyone’s lips surrounding Steven Gerrard and the increasing links between Rangers’ manager and the Aston Villa vacancy.

The next one, though, is ‘what if he does?’

Finding a potential replacement for Gerrard has never been as pertinent as it is at the moment, as unpalatable as that notion may be for Rangers fans.

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The unenviable task of finding an adequate successor for the popular boss would fall on Ross Wilson, the champions’ sporting director, and as Midlands speculation continues, the plans may be rolled out sooner rather than later.

Rangers manager Steven Gerrard has been heavily linked with a move to Aston Villa (Photo by Ross MacDonald / SNS Group)

Rangers would be a highly sought-after job with many keen, linked, or wanted. There will be factors to consider if and when the times comes – and that’s not to say any mentioned are, would be or should be candidates – but it does beg the question, ‘what if he does go’?

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Opening options

Should Gerrard depart Ibrox at short notice during the season, Rangers would be faced with an ultimatum – find his successor quickly, or place a caretaker in charge to carry on his, so far, successful set-up until the end of the season, taking the team over the line to the cinch Premiership title while the long-term future is decided.

Rangers Sporting Director Ross Wilson is a key figure in the club's structure and recruitment work. (Photo by Ross Parker / SNS Group)

Short-term, it is a vital decision given the riches that the almost certain Champions League qualification would carry for this season’s champions, regardless of any future legacy.

The sporting director model deployed at Ibrox is built around succession planning and a long-term team ethos. Whoever steps into any future breach would be – at least in the medium term – expected to fit that, whether an internal promotion or external appointment.

Contingency plan

There are managers immediately available who could be a short-term fix – but the short reigns of Stuart McCall, Kenny McDowall and Graeme Murty brought little success during turbulent times, and the model is built to minimise disruption. Besides, Rangers already have Gary McAllister and Michael Beale within Gerrard’s backroom team.

Sean Dyche was manager at Watford where Wilson worked after moving to England (Photo by OLI SCARFF/AFP via Getty Images)

McAllister has a background at Villa having been assistant and caretaker manager there, while Beale is a key figure within the set-up Gerrard has moulded. Would he take either, or both, with him if he moved?

That too could be a medium or long-term decision but in the short-term, Rangers have options for continuity behind the scenes with Beale also open about his own future management ambitions.

The pair have already led Rangers to victory on their own this season, in Alashkert, with the manager self-isolating, and the continuity of approach during a time of upheaval certainly helped.

Who is to say continuity can’t cultivate the growing success either? It has been well-documented of late that one of Rangers’ greatest ever managers, Walter Smith, took his step into club history from assistant to manager in a move that led to great success.

Giovanni van Bronckhorst was a fan favourite at Rangers before leaving for Arsenal and Barcelona (NIELS WENSTEDT/AFP via Getty Images)

Maintaining stability cannot be ruled out, short, medium or even long-term.

Key relationships

What continuity removes is the need to build new working relationships.

The link between sporting director and manager is an important one within the Rangers model. Internal appointments obviously have such links established already, but Wilson has an extensive network of contacts – and previous colleagues – around the game which he could tap into and perhaps re-ignite past partnerships should the need ever arise.

The recently out of work Ronald Koeman is a high-profile name Wilson worked alongside at Southampton.

Sean Dyche is another ex-colleague from his year at Watford. After a long spell of relative success and survival at Burnley, could Rangers offer more chance of a silver lining on his managerial career than he has at Turf Moor?

St Johnstone's Callum Davidson is the emerging Scottish managerial talent after his double cup success. (Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images)

Club knowledge

While internal relationships are vital, so too is an understanding of the club. Inevitably, whenever vacancies arise at any football club nostalgia touts those with a past affiliation for the roles.

Rangers have a plethora of former players in management, who know the club, the city and the game. Many of those currently out of work still boast a high profile on a continental scale – something the present incumbent has in abundance. To follow a name like Steven Gerrard is an unenviable task but some popular Ibrox figures are also big names in the wider footballing world.

Fan favourite Giovanni van Bronckhorst is currently out of work after a spell in China, as is countryman Frank de Boer since leaving the Dutch national job.

With a Serie A pedigree and Glasgow history, the Old Firm intensity would not be unknown to Rino Gattuso either. The World Cup winner left Ibrox in 1998 and left his last job in Napoli before turning down Fiorentina this summer.

Scottish connection

Of course, there could be candidates to consider closer to home too if Gerrard did depart.

Derek McInnes is another former Rangers player and came close to the job as Aberdeen boss before Gerrard’s appointment. Now out of work, he may not have had much trophy success, but he does have domestic knowledge – which is where much importance lies this season with the Champions League entry.

Rangers moved domestically two decades ago, replacing Dick Advocaat with Hibs’ Alex McLeish. Jack Ross’ name has been on the outskirts of discussions before and has previous with Wilson at Falkirk, while Alex Neil is another reputable Scot currently out of the game.

Callum Davidson though, is the stand-out emerging Scottish manager after his exploits last season should such a path be trod again. After an unprecedented double trophy win, simply being in the conversation so early in his managerial career is testament to his work done so far.

Unenviable task

Many more – like Dean Smith and Frank Lampard – will be rumoured, touted or suggested whenever the highly sought-after job next becomes available. But it will be a tough task to not only replace Steven Gerrard, but find his adequate successor too – if and when the time comes.

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