Wednesday, 17 April 2019

2018-19 Review: has Gerrard's first year at Rangers been a success?

Steven Gerrard’s first season as Rangers manager – and first season in management – is coming to an end. Like any season in football, it has had its ups and downs. But on the whole, how has Gerrard’s first season gone?

A strong start

While many were critical of the decision to take on a manager with no real management experience, they couldn’t grumble too much with a run of twelve games unbeaten in the league, Europa League qualification stages and League Cup.

This was, as many would expect, brought to an end with a defeat away at Celtic in the first Old Firm derby of the season, leaving Rangers seventh in the Scottish Premiership. However, Gerrard’s side went on to win 8 of their following 10 matches and climb to the top of the league.

Second in the league

The remainder of the league campaign was a bit hit and miss, combining strong 4-0 wins over the likes of St Mirren and Dundee with drab draws against Hibernian and St Johnstone. Arguably the highlight of the season came in late December, with Rangers beating Celtic 1-0 to win their first Old Firm derby in 90 minutes since 2012.

In just their third season back in the top flight, nobody was expecting Rangers to win the league. It’s hard to complain with the probable second place finish.

Domestic cups

The two domestic cups provided Gerrard with a real chance of silverware in his first season as Rangers manager. Unfortunately, his side were undone by Aberdeen on both occasions. After strong wins against Kilmarnock and Ayr United, the Gers suffered a slim 1-0 defeat to Aberdeen in the League Cup semi-final.

Fast-forward to March the following year, and Rangers were drawn against Aberdeen again in the quarter finals of the Scottish Cup, after seeing off Kilmarnock over two legs in the fifth round. The tie was forced into a replay after a 1-1 draw in Aberdeen. Advantage Rangers, surely?

Unfortunately, their old foes struck again, beating them 2-0 to earn a tie against Celtic in the semi-finals. Celtic went on to knock Aberdeen out of the cup, and will face Hearts in the final, where they are huge favourites according to Redbet.

Europa League

European success is the ultimate goal for any club – and Rangers are no different. Things looked promising after an unbeaten qualification stage. Rangers overcame Shkupi, Osijek, Maribor and Ufa in July and August to progress to the group stage, where they faced stiff competition from Villareal, Rapid Wien and Spartak Moscow.

The highlights? An emphatic 3-1 win at home to Wien and managing to hold Villarreal to a draw on both occasions. However, Rangers failed to see off Spartak Moscow at home, and lost to the Russians – who eventually came bottom of the group – in the away tie. Unfortunately, this saw them knocked out of the competition, with a 1-0 loss in Vienna putting the final nail in the coffin.

The verdict

Has Gerrard’s first season been a success? While he hasn’t earned any major honour or silverware, he’s kept Rangers on the up after some seriously unstable times for the club. Moving forward, a few strong signings could see the Gers make a serious challenge for the title and both Scottish cups or even make it through to the latter Europa league stages.

We'll hand it to you; how do you see his maiden season as Rangers manager?

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