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Stephen Craigan: Now Steven Gerrard needs to repay Rangers faith

Steven Gerrard has extended his Rangers deal (Robert Perry/PA)
Steven Gerrard has extended his Rangers deal (Robert Perry/PA)
Stephen Craigan

By Stephen Craigan

The big news to come out of Scottish football in the last couple of days has been Steven Gerrard extending his contract at Rangers until 2024.

When Gerrard arrived in Glasgow 18 months ago, there was genuine excitement that he could build a Rangers team to challenge for major honours once again and bring much-needed pride back to the football club.

In many aspects they're on the right path but I've said continually that as a Rangers manager, you will be judged on the trophies you win and that will never change.

Gerrard's tenure will be assessed in exactly that way but undoubtedly things at the club have evolved since his arrival in the summer of 2018 and the board are clearly content with the improvements that have been made so far.

For the disconcerting voices, who else is currently out there that fits the profile for a club the size of Rangers? You only have to look back to previous incumbents such as Mark Warburton and Pedro Caixinha to evoke memories of the direction the club was going in.

So, what's improved under Gerrard?

First of all, the club seems more connected and the only way to do that is by putting a winning team out on the pitch. The supporters have enjoyed watching their team again and Gerrard's influence has united relationships that needed healed after previous disappointments.

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The playing squad is clearly in a better place now than when he took over. The squad he has assembled is stronger, it has more depth to it and he now has options to mix things up during a game that won't weaken the team.

The value of the squad has certainly enhanced, as the players' performance levels are higher than they have previously been.

The current market value of Glenn Kamara, Ryan Jack, Alfredo Morelos and Joe Aribo, for example, is a lot higher than the investment Rangers made to acquire them so that's a good business model.

The experienced trio of Steven Davis, Allan McGregor and Jermaine Defoe, who are all due to sign extended deals in the coming days beyond the end of the season, are the right types of characters to act as role models for the rest of the squad. Senior players are invaluable for managers within the dressing room and Gerrard has got it spot on with those three.

The Gers have European football after Christmas for the first time since 2011 after coming through a tough group that included Porto, Feyenoord and Young Boys.

And finally, they are eight points better off at this stage of the season than they were last campaign in the Scottish Premiership.

So when you piece that all together, you can understand why the Rangers hierarchy wanted to extend the stay of Gerrard and his backroom staff.

What you also have to take into account is that in the period that Gerrard has been Rangers manager, rivals Celtic have been creating history with their dominance of domestic football.

So not only has Gerrard had to help rebuild Rangers as a club and a squad, but he's also had to do it against a Celtic team that will go down in the history books.

It's not just Rangers who have kicked on in the last six to nine months, Celtic have shown no signs of letting up and with Neil Lennon at the helm he won't allow his side to relent.

As it stands at the minute, Celtic have the upper hand, they have the trophies and they have the momentum. The challenge is there for Gerrard to back up his board's confidence in him. Time will tell whether he can deliver on that confidence.

Who said Scottish football isn't exciting?

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