During his long and much admired playing career, Steven Gerrard’s ambition to become a title winner with Liverpool remained frustratingly unfulfilled.
He was part of teams which finished runners-up on three occasions, most notably when his slip in possession was the pivotal moment of a 2-0 defeat to Chelsea which effectively cost his beloved Reds the Premier League crown under Brendan Rodgers’ management in 2014.
Gerrard now finds himself as the head honcho in an environment where three more failures for Rangers to loosen Celtic’s iron grip on Scottish football has fearful consequences for the Ibrox faithful as their greatest rivals move ever closer to a record-breaking ten titles in a row.
In handing Gerrard a four-year contract, Rangers chairman Dave King and his board are clearly convinced the former England captain is the man who can dramatically alter the Old Firm narrative over the next few seasons.
They have turned to one of the biggest and most respected names in world football but also to someone whose previous experience in coaching is restricted to the past 18 months where he has been in charge of Liverpool’s under-18 and then under-19 teams.
There are obvious risks in placing a ‘rookie’ into a job which, despite the troubles and traumas experienced by Rangers in recent years, still carries the burden of unforgiving scrutiny and relentless levels of expectancy.
But according to Gerrard, who retired as a player in 2016 after a spell with LA Galaxy, that is exactly the reason he has chosen to give up the relative serenity of his current life as a youth coach and part-time BT Sport television pundit.
Asked if he had not considered simply remaining at Anfield with a view to moving through the various levels and perhaps ultimately joining the first-team coaching staff, he replied: “Before Rangers came in for me, yeah. I’ve had probably as many as eight other opportunities to be a manager, to be a number two, to be a coach. There were different opportunities which presented themselves since I came home from Los Angeles. But I never got the right feeling from them. When Rangers came, it was a game changer.
“For the majority of my life, I’ve competed for three important points, that has been the buzz for me. That’s what my life has been based around for a long time and since my playing days have ended I’ve really missed that.
“I’ve been around some talented players at the Liverpool academy and I’ve enjoyed it and I’ve done a lot of learning in the last 12 months but I always knew one day I wanted to compete for three important points, I wanted to feel that pressure and buzz again of preparing for a Saturday on a Monday morning. I loved that about my life when I was a player.
“I see it as an opportunity and a challenge. That’s what I’m about, that’s what I love, that’s my buzz, to take a challenge on and that’s what I’m going to do. I want to win football matches from the off. I want to win every game. I am not sitting here thinking ‘I need that amount of time, I need that amount of support’. I am focused on the first game of football that we play and winning that football match.”
Gerrard is fully aware of the view expressed by many observers that his lack of any managerial hinterland will count against him at Rangers. Equally, he is unfazed by it.
“You can’t stop opinions in the game – from players, from ex-players, from managers, from coaches,” he said. “I have been in the position where I have had an opinion myself. I can’t control what people’s opinions are. Everyone is welcome and I respect everyone having an opinion. That’s fine. The important thing is I make my own decisions. I’m my own man. I certainly believe in this football club and what they’re trying to do. I know I’ll get the support from the board who are close to me now. I know I’ll get the support from the supporters. Then it’s down to me to create a team that’s capable of winning.
“I’m a human being so I’m going to make mistakes going forward. I’ve made plenty in my playing career and I’ve made many this season as a coach.
“But I see mistakes as opportunities to grow and learn from. I believe in the staff I’m going to be bringing to share this journey with me.
“I’m not perfect but I will put people around me to support me, to complement where I need a bit of help and guidance.
“As a team of people, we will park the egos up and front it together. We believe we are the best people to take this opportunity forward.”
A crucial figure in Gerrard’s staff will be his assistant Gary McAllister. The 53-year-old former Coventry and Leeds United manager was a team-mate in the Liverpool side which won a ‘treble’ of the League Cup, Uefa Cup and FA Cup in 2001.
“For me, getting Gary here with me is huge,” said Gerrard. “We are already close. We have known each other for a long time and the key thing you are looking for when you are looking for an assistant is trust. Gary ticks that box. He is a football man, he has been around the game for a long time as a player, a coach, an assistant and he has also been around Liverpool of late so I have seen quite a lot of Gary recently as well.
“He is as excited as me, he can’t wait to get going. It was important that I found someone with experience because everyone knows this is the first job opportunity for me that I have taken. He will certainly be the perfect assistant for me.”