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Axing ahead of last-four crunch is a shock to rival Gerrard

 

Rangers manager Steven Gerrard
Rangers manager Steven Gerrard

By Andy Newport

Rangers boss Steven Gerrard was surprised by the timing of Craig Levein's sacking by Hearts as the clubs prepare to meet in the semi-final of the Betfred Cup.

The Jambos lost 1-0 at St Johnstone on Wednesday night to leave them level with Ladbrokes Premiership bottom side St Mirren on points, and the following day the Gorgie club announced that Levein had been relieved of his duties as manager.

The former Scotland boss will not return to his previous position as director of football at Tynecastle and has stepped down from the club's board, although he will stay on in a lesser role until the end of the season.

Assistant manager Austin MacPhee will take charge for tomorrow's last-four tie against Rangers at Hampden Park.

"It can be brutal at times," said Gerrard, who is confident that goalkeeper Allan McGregor will be fit after missing the 4-0 win at Ross County in midweek with a knock.

"We are aware of that. It is a results business we are in.

"A club the size of Hearts, if you are down at the bottom of the table and you have won only one in 11, I think you are always going to be under pressure.

"Probably surprised a little bit at the timing, on the eve of a semi-final.

"But I think if you look at Hearts' form it is probably not as much of a surprise.

"I never like to see other managers lose their job so I certainly feel for Craig.

"But he is still around in the background so I am sure he will have an input somewhere along the line, but I'm probably surprised a little bit at the timing."

The former Liverpool and England captain does not, however, believe the disruption will have any bearing on his side's chances of reaching the final against either Celtic or Hibernian, who play in the other semi-final at Hampden Park today.

He said: "I don't think it will affect the game. From my point of view we have to focus on what's going on here, the job we want to do and our preparation.

"It is not really our business what's going on elsewhere.

"I am not sure things will change too much.

"Obviously personnel will be the same.

"Austin might try to do something different with the formation or the tactics or personnel, of course he will.

"We will have to wait and see what formation and personnel they decide to pick but you always have that challenge going into any game."

Gerrard believes McGregor has a "good chance" of being fit for tomorrow.

"He is improving. He will do a light session today and we will see how he reacts to that, but there certainly has been an improvement in the last 48 hours," said the Rangers boss.

"He is better than 50-50 at the moment so we hope in the coming days that he continues to improve, but he has a good chance."

Rangers

Hearts

Scottish League Cup semi-final:

Hampden Park, Tomorrow, 3pm

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