Belfast Telegraph

Home Sport Football Scottish

Stephen Craigan: Gerrard and Lennon have the Rodgers factor and could shine in England's top flight

Celtic manager Neil Lennon
Celtic manager Neil Lennon
Stephen Craigan

By Stephen Craigan

With the winter shutdown in the Scottish Premiership in full swing, the fall-out from the recent Old Firm game continues on and off the pitch.

My biggest observation from it all is the criticism being levelled at Neil Lennon in some quarters regarding his inability to set his team up correctly. "Tactically naïve," some have said, just because Rangers got the better of them. Sometimes you have to accept that the opposition were better than you on the day and Rangers were better than Celtic, by quite a distance, as it happens.

However, to make ridiculous statements about Lennon's ability to shape up his side is a bit premature to say the least. You just have to look at his previous record to see that. When his side got it right and they won at Ibrox in September he was tactically astute. I understand people get emotional about high profile games and defeats in particular but people should think logically before they criticise.

Likewise Gerrard isn't now tactically complete as a manager and he'll know that. I do agree his tactics were spot on and his players carried them out to perfection. He'll be well aware it's one win, a huge one I get that, but his side now have to back it up at the resumption of the Premiership in a few weeks' time.

This time last year Rangers were in a similar position, they had beaten Brendan Rodgers' Celtic and were in a good place during the break.

The first league game after the break they lost at Kilmarnock and handed that initiative back to Celtic so Gerrard is well aware of what lies ahead.

That takes me nicely on to the next point of how both managers are portrayed south of the border in England.

Sign In

It seems to be the worst-kept secret in the world as many experts automatically assume Steven Gerrard will be the next Liverpool manager when Jurgen Klopp decides to move on.

I have to say Gerrard has distanced himself very professionally from any such talk, as he's fully aware of the job he has on his hands at Rangers so this isn't his doing - far from it actually.

I can't help but think when Klopp eventually leaves Liverpool it will be similar to Alex Ferguson retiring from Manchester United with his replacement under major pressure to replicate his success.

Rangers boss Steven Gerrard
Rangers boss Steven Gerrard

It seems a tad unfair with Gerrard in the infancy of his managerial career at Rangers to have that perception placed on his head. He should be allowed to grow as a manager, learn his trade and see where it takes him.

The continual chat surrounding his future could eventually be a distraction or burden for Gerrard, especially the longer his first trophy eludes him.

On the other side of the city it's slightly strange that a battle-hardened and trophy-laden Lennon is at no stage ever spoken about for potential big jobs in England like his predecessor Brendan Rodgers or even Gerrard.

He's got eight major trophies to his name, has his team progressing well in European football, and his transfer record isn't too bad either - Virgil Van Dijk and Victor Wanyama are two that spring to mind.

It seems a bit ignorant with that type of record his name doesn't even get a mention when jobs come up in the Premier League.

I'm not sure it will overly bother Neil, as he loves Celtic and the challenge but maybe people shouldn't underestimate how difficult it is to manage either of the Old Firm for the length of time he has.

Domestically both men have a huge second half of the season coming up for their respective clubs and won't want any distractions. Will the outcome of it all change the perception of even a few?

I wouldn't bet on it happening!

Belfast Telegraph


From Belfast Telegraph