Up for the cup: How Steven Gerrard is addressing Rangers' dismal record

For Steven Gerrard, cup football provided the glittering moments and most cherished memories of his playing career.

Steven Gerrard cuts a dejected figure at the end of Rangers' Betfred Cup Final defeat against Celtic at Hampden in December 2019. The Ibrox manager says his team have passed up too many opportunities to win cup competitions during his time at the club. (Photo by Alan Harvey / SNS Group)

He triumphed in seven major cup finals at home and in Europe with Liverpool, scoring in four of them, as he wrote his legend as one of the Anfield club’s greatest players of all time.

As Rangers manager, Gerrard now finally knows how joyful and satisfying it feels to win a league title, an achievement which eluded him throughout his 17 years with his boyhood club.

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Change in focus

Steven Gerrard, pictured holding aloft the English League Cup after Liverpool's 2012 final win against Cardiff City at Wembley, says cup competitions have given him the most satisfying moments of his career. (Photo by Glyn Kirk/AFP via Getty Images)

But although the feelgood factor from Rangers’ momentous Premiership success will linger for some time to come, Gerrard’s focus has switched to ensuring his squad supplement it by addressing their recent substandard record in the domestic cup competitions.

Since Gerrard’s appointment in the summer of 2018, Rangers have been knocked out of the Scottish Cup at the quarter-final stage in each of the past two seasons. The League Cup has proved equally frustrating with a semi-final exit in his first campaign followed by the agonising Hampden defeat to Celtic in last season’s final.

Even in the current campaign which has seen Rangers largely so dominant and consistent in Scottish football, their only domestic loss so far came when they exited the League Cup in a 3-2 last eight loss at St Mirren in December.

Ahead of Sunday’s Scottish Cup last 16 showdown with holders Celtic at Ibrox, Gerrard is quick to acknowledge the need for improvement.

Rangers captain James Tavernier is back in training and manager Steven Gerrard will make a late decision on whether he returns to his side for the Scottish Cup tie against Celtic at Ibrox on Sunday. (Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images)

Not good enough

“We have hit the post and the woodwork on a couple of occasions when trying to achieve cup success, which is not good enough here,” he said. “We accept that.

“When I look back on my playing career, it’s the cup success which gives me the most satisfaction and it’s what you are remembered for.

“I got to many semi-finals and finals when I didn’t manage to get over the line. It’s not something I ever really go back and focus on but you are obviously well aware of them – they scar you and remain with you.

“But it’s the positive days, the success, the trophies, the experience of winning together on a big stage that gives you the most satisfaction as a player looking back on your career.

“So my job is to put our players in a place, mentally and physically, to give them the best chance to do that – and make them realise that you don’t want these moments and opportunities to pass you by.

“Too many of them have passed us by in the time we have been here and we want to try and correct that situation.

“It certainly helps in terms of your own drive and your own ambitions. It’s something we want to put right.”

Scottish Cup drought

Having ended a decade-long wait to become Scottish champions again, Rangers are now bidding to bridge a 12-year gap since the Scottish Cup last resided in the Ibrox trophy room.

“That’s what this club is about,” added Gerrard. “It’s about striving for success and then once it comes along, it’s about what’s next. What becomes your next priority? What becomes your next opportunity to build on what’s already been an incredible season?

“We are not at a place where you are allowed to stand still or become complacent. We are well aware of what we have achieved but we gain nothing from standing still.

“So Sunday gives us the opportunity to win a big football match, an important football match, and a chance to be one step closer to the next target, which is the Scottish Cup.

“I want to be someone who doesn’t look at the past very much. We are trying to move on from what’s been an incredible season and I think that gives everyone an idea of where we are at.

“It’s about what happens in the future. Sunday gives us an opportunity to get closer to where we want to be, which is at Hampden competing for another piece of silverware.

“It is something I’ve spoken about to the players, of course it is. Not just me, but members of my staff as well.

“But I think the players are bright enough to know what club they are at and what this club is about.

Great expectations

“Part of the expectation and responsibility here is to be aware of what your job is and what you have to strive for.

“I don’t think any player or member of staff is under any illusions about what we have to do and strive for here, which is to try and win as many competitions as we can.

“We’ve never focused just on the one. It’s about all of them. We’ve put a real decent effort in from a European point of view. We’re really disappointed by what happened against St Mirren in the League Cup.

“We have gone and won the league which is an incredible achievement but it’s about what’s next and trying to add to what we have already done. It would be a really strong season if we can go and achieve our next target in the Scottish Cup.”

Sunday could see the return of Rangers captain James Tavernier who has missed the last nine games with a knee injury sustained against Royal Antwerp in February. But Gerrard won’t rush a decision on his right-back and top scorer.

“We’ll make a really late call on that one,” he said. “We’ll see how James looks through Friday and on Saturday. There’s two training sessions but the good news is he’s on the verge. Assuming he has two strong sessions, it will probably push me towards involving him.”

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