Andy Goram has become the first — though probably not the last — ex-Rangers star to call for Steven Gerrard to play next season. Craig Fowler explains why that’s not a good idea
It was always going to happen. It was just a matter of when.
Steven Gerrard is the best player at Rangers and he should come out of retirement to help them win.
Personally, this writer thought the narrative would lay dormant until Gerrard hit his first rough patch as Rangers manager: a Europa League exit, Old Firm defeat or wobble in the opening month of the season.
Instead, it’s arrived before the transfer window has even opened with former Ibrox No.1 Andy Goram being quoted in today’s papers as saying the 38-year-old is “miles better” than any other Rangers midfielder and that he’d “dominate” against “all” opposing midfields in the country.
Through his terrific play for club and country during a distinguished 23-year career, Goram has earned the right to say whatever he likes about football. But it doesn’t mean he’s right.
Gerrard at the peak of his powers would undoubtedly be the best player in the country. Hell, he’d undoubtedly be the best from the last 30 years. He was a midfield talisman who put not just one, but two so-so Liverpool teams on his back and carried them to the Champions League final, winning one of them with a ‘Roy of the Rovers’ style comeback which he played a significant role in orchestrating.
However, that was some time ago. Gerrard hasn’t played a competitive game in over 18 months and was last seen underwhelming at LA Galaxy. As Mark Ogden wrote in The Independent in 2016: “Gerrard has admitted to having been taken aback by the physical demands of the MLS... It seems that Gerrard mistook the MLS for the dinosaur’s graveyard it once was, rather than the league it has become.” The article described the legendary general as “bowing out with a whimper” as inconsistent form defined his spell across the pond.
Whether or not we deem the Ladbrokes Premiership to be of a stronger standard than MLS, we know for certain that the energy levels are similarly high. Even players from England comment on how little time you’re afforded with the ball in Scotland as everything moves at 110mph.
It’s easy to look at Gerrard’s name and think ‘well, of course he’d be a great player up here, he’s Steven Gerrard’ but doing so would be forgetting all the other huge names who came up here to aid their retirement fund and found their ageing legs couldn’t handle the pace.
Dion Dublin, Juninho, Roy Keane, Freddie Ljungberg, Ian Wright, they all had terrific careers in football, but couldn’t replicate any of that form in Scotland. Not because our league is terrific, it isn’t, but it’s better than a glorified retirement home for ex-top class stars. And none of those mentioned took almost two years off before lacing up their boots in the SPL/SPFL, as Gerrard would have to do.
Then there’s also the difficulty of both playing and managing. Player-managers used to be a regular occurrence, with Kenny Dalglish at Liverpool one of the more famous examples, but nowadays there is just too much demand from on each role for someone to do them both successfully.
Gerrard just needs to focus on recruiting the best players possible and finding the optimum way in which to utilise those talents, not dream about trying to repeat past glories. But then, that’s exactly what he’ll be doing. Rangers stars of the past should just let him get on with it.