All too often, Rangers fans find ourselves arguing about just how much improvement we’ve seen under Steven Gerrard.
There’s a conception, misconception or otherwise, that Rangers have grown and progressed under our present manager. That the players we have now are far better than at any stage since promotion, and that the adventure in Europe plus wins over Celtic demonstrate tangible gains over yesteryear.
A lot of fans truly believe in our manager, thinking Rangers will only go up under him, and whatever side you’re on, it’s certainly a compelling debate.
For us, there are a number of key factors in determining if we have progressed.
They are the following.
Player quality. This one is subjective but we’ll get to it.
Win rate in the league.
Major trophy haul.
Let’s clear this up hands down – Steven Gerrard’s pastes all his predecessors hands down for Europe. There’s no debate there. Anyone who says otherwise is uninterested in the facts and is blinded by their opinion. Clear progress and that would be comical to suggest anything else. Frankly he’s the best manager we’ve had for European football since Walter’s incredible 2008, and tbh, even some before it too. Aside 2008 and 1993, Rangers fans of a certain vintage would concede Walter wasn’t great in Europe, but that said, his opponents were usually Champions League. Gerrard worked miracles last season, and this season has been stupendous. It’s a clear win.
Major trophy haul is also pretty clear – while Gerrard made one cup final, so did Mark Warburton. Gerrard lost the League Cup final, and Warburton the Scottish. So, there is zero progress there, and Gerrard’s first season also saw dreadful capitulations to Aberdeen. That’s sadly a fail.
Win rate in the league. This is probably, in a sense, the most important one. So let’s look at Rangers’ performance in the league each season, with Gerrard’s advantage of having had 24 months compared with the 8 (Warby), 8 (Pedro) then sort of 8 (Murty twice).
Graeme Murty’s Rangers were 6 points behind in March, a gap closing no other Rangers manager has secured at that point in the season. It fell apart after that, starting with the loss to Celtic, but Murty got the gap down to 6.
Gerrard’s Rangers have twice crumbled post new year, and have never been as close as 6 points in March.
As for pure win rate?
The numbers tell you something interesting:
Black and white – the numbers prove that Stevie has made absolute clear progress in terms of wins in the league. Sure, we’re a mile behind Celtic, but purely statistically, Stevie pastes his predecessors. Of course, he’s had more time than they did, but that also means more games to lose or draw. Instead the numbers speak for themselves. A pretty blatant win.
Player quality. This one is more subjective. After all, Warby had Joey Barton, Philip Senderos, Niko Kranjcar and a few other notable names, while Pedro brought in Bruno Alves, Ryan Jack and of course had Morelos plus Dorrans. Regardless of how these guys actually performed, it would be a patent lie to say Stevie has clearly had the best players, because on paper at least, his predecessors attracted one or two good names as well. But that equally said the number of internationals Gerrard has exceeds anyone since 2012, and a squad filled with the talent we have now certainly points to progress. Borderline win.
So, of all four categories, Gerrard shines like a beacon in two of them, fails horribly in another, and subjectively would claim victory in the last one.
There’s one more ‘category’, and it’s unique to Stevie – just where are we in the league and how are we doing after the winter break?
Well this is the tricky one – we have come back two seasons in a row from a training camp and been a shadow of our pre-Xmas selves. Something has screwed up two seasons in a row here, and January-March under Gerrard has wrecked our campaign. As for where we are in the league – it’s ultimately disappointing when we look at the same period. We’re 13 points behind, during the business end of the term, and that falls on Stevie for us. Some would argue it’s the players’ fault, but the common denominator over two seasons is the manager. We’d have to say this is a bit of a fail. Even Graeme Murty’s Rangers did way better January-March before capitulating.
Our manager needs to fix what he seems to be breaking every winter-spring period – if he can figure that out, everywhere else, cups aside, shows real tangible progress.
We would also add one caveat – many fans argue about the wins over Celtic showing proof of progress. Well, Killie, Livi and Hearts have all scalped Celtic the past two seasons as well, so we’re not sure how much we can read into it.
But the numbers do not lie, and we can see a lot to be positive about under this manager.
He just needs to fine tune it.