Steven Gerrard has been unveiled as the new manager of Rangers this afternoon. We look at four of the most pressing issues he has to deal with...
Sort out who’s staying and who’s going
One of the first things Gerrard will have to look at is his playing staff. Granted, Mark Allen has been doing a lot of work behind the scenes but the former Liverpool captain will undoubtedly want to put his own stamp on the squad.
Harry Forrester is due to return from a loan spell with AFC Wimbledon, while Carlos Pena is at Cruz Azul on a temporary basis until the end of December. There are players such as Joe Dodoo, Lee Hodson, Michael O’Halloran and Eduardo Herrera who must be inching towards the exit door given their lack of game time this season.
Jason Cummings, Russell Martin and Jamie Murphy are all on loan and there are questions about their futures as Rangers players. Dalcio and Sean Goss will return to their parent clubs.
Then there’s the small matter of Lee Wallace and Kenny Miller, the captain and vice-captain; both suspended in the wake of the Scottish Cup semi-final loss to Celtic last month. Do they get a reprieve, or has that ship sailed?
Add to that the imminent arrival of Scott Arfield from Burnley, and the return of Allan McGregor plus offers for players including Alfredo Morelos, or James Tavernier - both of whom have been reported as targets for other clubs in the last few months - and Gerrard has quite a task on his hands - especially with the Ibrox side still in the mix for Europe, and the Betfred Cup not as far away as it might seem.
Win over the fans
There may well have been crowds outside and inside Ibrox as Gerrard was unveiled as the new manager but he will have work to do to win over some of the club’s supporters. Viewed as another risky appointment by some supporters, Gerrard has to convince the fans that he’s the right man for the job. Dave King said during the press conference that Gerrard “ticked all the boxes apart from experience” while the man himself admitted he was inexperienced but declared: “I can’t do anything about having no experience. There is only one way to get experience - to believe you have the right characteristics to take on a challenge and confront it.”
While Gerrard is talking a good game so far, the real test will come in proving to the doubting fans that his lack of experience matters not a jot. He has an unenviable task on his hands, with the Union Bears supporters’ group staging a silent protest during the 2-1 win over Hearts and a fanbase whose patience has been severely tested by the Pedro Caixinha regime, and Graeme Murty’s tenure. Murty recorded some decent results but his record against Celtic, tendency to lose games from winning positions and inability to decide on his strongest team was his undoing. The appointment of a big name like Gerrard should lift the supporters’ general mood but ultimately, besting Celtic and winning trophies is the only way for Gerrard to keep all sections of the support happy. A League Cup win, the odd Old Firm victory and finishing a clear second in the league would be a good start.
One of the biggest problems Caixinha faced was the weight of expectation when he pitched up at Ibrox. He was expected to have Rangers clear in second and challenging Celtic. He was expected to at least put up a fight in Old Firm games. Ultimately, the weight of expectation was too much, despite the financial gap between the two clubs.
Gerrard is a man who has played in countless Merseyside derbies, and in Liverpool-Manchester United matches.
He knows the importance of winning these games for the club, the players and the fans. He’s played at Celtic Park, and he’s played in hostile arenas in Europe and around the world.
Despite his lack of experience, Gerrard will also have to carry the expectations of several thousand Rangers fans.
The difference this time around is that the supporters might be more willing to give the new man time to settle in and build a team that can at least challenge Celtic, rather than expecting miracles from the word go.
Learn from his mistakes
Graeme Murty failed to sort out the defensive issues that dogged Rangers in some matches - even under Caixinha. He appeared incapable of identifying his strongest, or most effective, central midfield partnership.
He didn’t know what to do with Cummings. He stopped playing Sean Goss, who had gelled well with Docherty and contributed a couple of goals and a handful of assists in a short period of time.
If Murty was aware of the problems, he certainly didn’t address them properly.
Gerrard has to accept that he will make mistakes, but he must learn from those errors and use them to improve as a manager. He has plenty of contacts within the game to bounce ideas off, and learn from.
Gerrard has said in past interviews that he took a lot of influence from Rafa Benitez, even if he lacks a “bond” with the Spaniard. He’s also spent time working under Jurgen Klopp as a coach, and Brendan Rodgers as a player.
While Gerrard believes his ability will make up for his lack of experience, the decision to appoint Gary McAllister as his No.2 suggests that he knows he will make mistakes, and has installed a trusted lieutenant to help deal with them.