Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp has suggested that anyone questioning Steven Gerrard’s start to his management career at Rangers may require a reality check.
A different slant has been placed on the Ibrox manager’s first month in post following the 1-0 defeat by Celtic last Sunday. The German disputed the generally accepted overwhelming nature of the loss that left the Liverpool legend and former England captain with one win from four league games – in what is now suddenly being described as their worst such opening sequence for 29 years.
Klopp said he has been paying close attention to events at Ibrox, with Liverpool loanees Ryan Kent and Ovie Ejaria and former Anfield defender Jon Flanagan at the club. He maintains Gerrard, whose only previous coaching experience came with the under-18 side at Anfield last season, is acquitting himself with distinction as a novice manager – a fact reflected in the 38-year-old having guided Rangers through four qualifying rounds to secure a place in the group stages of the Europa League and putting together a 12-game unbeaten run with an extensively recast team before the loss at Celtic Park.
“He’s doing well. I’m not sure what Rangers fans expect,” said Klopp, who flew up in a private jet to manage a Liverpool select against a Celtic select in a charity game at the same venue to raise money for various cancer charities.
“The start was brilliant and then he lost against Celtic. Wow, what a surprise! They’re the top team in the league and it’s not like they were 50 or 60 per cent better – like they have been in the past few years.
“They’re getting closer and that’s the only way to get them one day. That’s his job, but so far more than good. It was brilliant in Europe, he’s putting a good team together and they have to improve.”
Klopp also expressed his delight at Liverpool full-back Andrew Robertson being handed the Scotland captaincy and feels the 24-year-old has all the attributes to grow into the role. “Unfortunately, it wasn’t the best game for him to celebrate his first match as captain. A lot of teams will struggle against Belgium,” the Anfield manager said of his first game with the armband bringing a 4-0 thumping on Friday night.
“Andy is a fantastic fella, he’s very smart and can definitely be a leader for the future. He has made big steps in the last two years since we’ve worked together and really big steps in the last four or five years, since he started his career properly.
“It’s a really nice story and he’s now the Braveheart for Scotland. He can handle the responsibility of being captain. He’s still young but he’s already a leader and he’ll be even better in the future.”
Meanwhile, former Celtic midfielder Stylian Petrov, who assembled the home side for the charity event with James Milner his counterpart on the Liverpool side, revealed that there was a serious edge to the encounter for home manager Brendan Rodgers.
Celtic came from behind three times in the 3-3 draw in front of a near 20,000 crowd, with goals from Robbie Keane, Gabriel Agbonlahor and Ashley Young cancelling out strikes from youtube freestyler Jeremy Lynch and a double from Spanish World Cup winner Juan Capdevila.
A Celtic side containing Henrik Larsson and Artur Boruc pushed for a winner near the end and it was an ambition Petrov said Rodgers demanded from his team. “Brendan Rodgers was a good manager for us,” said the Bulgarian, whose charity foundation was one of the beneficiaries along with the foundation of Milner. “He said: ‘This is a great cause but I’m here to win because I was at Liverpool and they kicked me out of there’.”