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Stephen Craigan

Nobody at Rangers is safe from the axe - including Steven Gerrard

Stephen Craigan


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Steven Gerrard has seen his team’s domestic form slump (Steve Welsh/PA)

Steven Gerrard has seen his team’s domestic form slump (Steve Welsh/PA)

Steven Gerrard has seen his team’s domestic form slump (Steve Welsh/PA)

What a week Steven Gerrard has endured as Rangers manager.

Progression to the last-16 of the Europa League against Braga looked like the turning point his side needed to address their stuttering second half of the season.

However, exiting the Scottish Cup to Hearts with a limp performance at Tynecastle last weekend — which ended all realistic hopes of domestic silverware — was compounded by an embarrassing home defeat by bottom of the table Hamilton Accies on Wednesday night.

This is not the job Gerrard signed up for and it’s taking its toll.

In all honesty, Gerrard looks a broken man. In fact, he looks shell-shocked at his side’s last two performances and he can’t explain them.

After last weekend’s Cup exit, he seemed to question his own future but then came out fighting on Tuesday, reaffirming his commitment to the club and his desire for success.

I’m sure a home defeat to Hamilton was not on the agenda and Rangers are really at a crossroads as to what the future holds.

Gerrard will undoubtedly be questioning everything he’s doing, the players certainly should be looking in the mirror and the board also have a big decision as to what they do next. This tough period will be testing their resolve and confidence in the man they handed a four-year contract extension in December.

Whatever they do next is going to cost them a lot of money, that’s for sure.

If they choose to stick with Gerrard at the helm then this squad has shown it’s not capable of winning trophies, so is going to need a major overhaul. Squad players who, for one reason or another, have made little impact will need to be shipped out, but getting other clubs to take them with their healthy salaries could prove problematic.

I would also imagine his regulars in this recent poor run will find themselves under huge scrutiny as they’ve underperformed. No one is safe from the axe and no one can complain if it falls on them.

Club captain James Tavernier oddly admitted in his programme notes ahead of the Hamilton game on Tuesday that his side couldn’t cope with teams in Scotland who put them under pressure and get in their faces. That is clearly the case, but a public admission from the manager’s ally and leader is a concerning assessment of the fragile nature of Rangers. I’m sure the board read the comments with unease.

Realistically, what do the Rangers players expect from opposing teams? A passive game of football where the opposition sit off and admire them? I don’t think so!

The other option for the board would be to contemplate whether Gerrard is in fact the man to take the club forward, even though they awarded him that long contract extension.

Going down that road would also cost them a lot of money with staff redundancies but also resources for a new manager who would naturally want support in the transfer market.

Whatever the board decide to do, everyone on the football side is playing for their future.

The loyalty of the Rangers supporters has been unwavering and they expect better and deserve more than what they’re watching.

They always back their team but there comes a point in time when the players have to show they want to be Rangers players and warrant being Rangers players and that time is nigh.

Gerrard’s battle cry when he arrived was ‘Let’s go’ — he’ll be hoping it’s not time to go.

Celtic should heed wake-up call in quest for a quadruple treble

Celtic are odds on to complete a momentous quadruple treble but if their last two games against St Johnstone and Livingston are anything to go by, it may not be as straightforward as some people think.

They ground out the Scottish Cup win over a dogged St Johnstone but looked a bit leggy at times.

The same could be said of their late Scottish Premiership draw against Livingston on Wednesday night and Neil Lennon will be reminding his players not to get complacent.

Livingston is always a tough venue to visit but it’s a reminder to Celtic that they can’t stand still and expect teams to roll over. They have to remember what got them into this commanding position and drive each other on even though the challenge from Rangers has evaporated.

Lennon has also been very clever in his post-match interviews, always praising his players and their relentless nature irrespective of how they’ve actually played. It’s hard to be at your best all the time and Lennon knows that so his public support will keep the players bubbling along nicely.

As they close in on more trophies, winning is all that matters — performances are a bonus.

Belfast Telegraph