Now a pundit, Sutton will be providing analysis for BT Sport at the showpiece at Hampden. Counting down to the final yesterday, he described Rangers captain James Tavernier as a “serial loser” and warned the Ibrox club that defeat would leave them psychologically scarred for the Premiership title race.
Rangers finished as runners-up in the league in Gerrard’s first season in the job but Sutton argues that the manager must deliver at least a cup to remain in his position this time around.
“If you were being kind you’d say you’d let Steven Gerrard get his feet under the table for a season but, when it came to it, they didn’t come down the stretch last time out,” he said.
“I think Gerrard has to win a trophy, though. He’s been backed financially and been allowed to spend big money and, given the amount of players he’s brought in, Rangers have to deliver.
“With the greatest respect to the Petrofac Training Cup [which Rangers won in 2016], the last proper one they lifted was nine seasons ago so they have to stump up.
“I feel sorry for the manager who ends up on the wrong end of this one because both teams have set really high standards this season. Rangers still have work to do in the Europa League but they’ve raised their game there and helped Scottish football.
“As always on these occasions, it’ll be either triumph or disaster but I don’t think that the latter would be fair on the losing manager. There will be a lot of great players on show and it’s so difficult to call, especially when you chuck [referee] Willie Collum into the mix as well!
“There will be some really key contests this weekend. Will it run through Rangers’ players minds the fact that the likes of James Tavernier has been there for a number of years now and he’s been a serial loser, really? He needs to win something.
“Rangers are moving in the right direction but they have to win silverware.”
Sunday will be departing chairman Dave King’s last chance to win a trophy before he steps down from his role and Sutton is convinced that the South Africa-based entrepreneur will be demanding a return after putting the club heavily into debt to bankroll Gerrard and halt the Celtic juggernaut.
King claimed last year that the titles Celtic won while Rangers were making their way from the fourth tier to the top flight don’t count because the club with the country’s second-highest budget was not there to challenge them although, since Rangers reached the Premiership in 2016, Celtic’s stranglehold on the Scottish game’s prizes has significantly tightened. Sutton believes another Celtic win will traumatise their rivals.
“It would be demoralising,” he said. “I don’t really want to get into whether Celtic’s titles counted or not because that’s absolutely ridiculous. They did count because Celtic won them and Rangers weren’t there; those comments were disrespectful to the rest of Scottish football because there are more teams than just Celtic and Rangers.
“King has backed Steven Gerrard – he’s moved heaven and earth for him. I know he’s stepping down but he will want a return on all of this backing.
“People are asking where they are finding the money but the bottom line is Gerrard has improved the team and Rangers have players who can hurt Celtic. They are at the stage where it’s building nicely but it comes down to the brutal fact of winning trophies. Rangers don’t want to be known as a nearly team. Gerrard won’t want to be a nearly manager. Second is last in Glasgow – that’s always been the case.
“The margins are so tight and both managers are aware of the implications. Gerrard is on record as saying he knows he needs to win silverware and he knows four out of four would not be a good look.”