We touched on this earlier, but it’s time to have a deeper look at Steven Gerrard’s first season as manager and the inherent dichotomy we struggled with throughout.
Gerrard, a rookie, was having his maiden season in football – fans were filled with ‘he needs to learn’ and ‘give him a chance’ etc.
Meanwhile fans were filled with ‘he must win the league and challenge Celtic’.
There was a real paradox last season, between wanting to give a first-time manager the space and slack to work his vision on the club and to develop from a rookie manager into a seasoned pro, and the other side of expectation – of stopping 8IAR, of beating Celtic, and of taking Rangers back to the top again.
How do you reconcile these? How do you give the manager space to develop and grow as a boss, while also demanding he pushes Celtic and wins at least one trophy?
Surely there’s a plot hole here?
Naturally, this is not an issue for 2019/2020 – Gerrard now knows he’s under true pressure to deliver. Our fans expect the title next season because 9IAR is rather unthinkable.
But for last season it was – that impossible blend of giving him space and time to learn his trade, while demanding he visit a Hampden final at least once and/or run Celtic very close for the championship.
Ultimately Steven Gerrard did something different. He gave us a memorable run in Europe – 14 wonderful matches which genuinely did measure up to some of the club’s greatest historical achievements given our present-day circumstances, and he beat Celtic not once but twice, and easily both times.
So it would be a nonsense to suggest we came away from last season with nothing, even if the tangible rewards were non-existent.
That run through the UEL qualifiers ranks as highly as anything this great club has done in the past, and it was well beyond expectations for a rookie and even a seasoned pro like Walter would have been incredibly proud to have done that.
But next season it has to be more on the domestic front. And the rookie fallacy is gone now. No more ‘learning on the job’ now. Gerrard has to deliver the title, and no one will have excuses if he doesn’t.