Munich / Glasgow – Photos from the last old firm in early January spoke a clear language: on one hand, Celtic Glasgow players left the pitch with drooping heads, while Glasgow Rangers supporters watched the stadium gates 1-0. The victory was celebrated with pyrotechnics and fireworks.
While the reigning nine-series champion faced off in the green and white jersey with the second derby defeat of the current season, the challenger impressively underlined his return to the top of Scottish football.
Nearly six weeks later, the status of the table can hardly be clear: eight days before the end of the season, the Rangers greet the top of the Scottish Premiership, and with a comfortable 18-point lead over the hated City rivals Celtic.
The creator of success comes from England of all places.
love at first sight
Many experts were surprised when Glasgow Rangers introduced Liverpool veteran Steven Gerrard as their new head coach in the summer of 2018. The concerns were not unfounded, after all, “Light Blues” was Gerrard’s first coaching station in professional football.
“When I was given the opportunity to interact with the Rangers, I didn’t have to think twice,” said Gerrard, now 40, in his introduction.
“I’m here for a reason: I want to meet this challenge and bring the club forward. My goals are relatively simple: I just want to win.”
From the Champions League to the village square
In just a few weeks, the former England international could crown his work in the Scottish metropolis. Nearly ten years after the last championship title, the Rangers should finally re-put on the Scottish football crown.
Nine years ago, the idea was described as an illusion: After the bankruptcy proceedings, the club had to move into the fourth category for new management.
Instead of competing against FC Barcelona in the Champions League during the week, the Rangers took the risk on village squares in Scotland and played against Sterling Albion or Elgin City.
The 54-time champions have returned to the top division since 2016 and have gradually regained the rank of a top team. Two runners-up finished third in the championships – always behind rival Celtic.
A new wind is blowing through Glasgow
In collaboration with his longtime partner and current assistant Gary McAllister, Gerrard patiently closed the gap to Primus Celtic, who won all the Championship titles from 2012 to 2020 in the Rangers’ absence.
“We tried to work on our mindset from day one,” Gerrard told the Glasgow Times last November. “To be honest, I had to change the mindset of the whole club.”
The professional attitude of the trainer allowed the team to grow into a conspiratorial bunch, who are completely behind Gerrard.
“The coach really does everything for us and we reduce him to two years,” said captain James Tavernier after the Rangers’ expulsion last year, underscoring the solidarity behind Gerrard.
Steady on the defensive, dangerous on the offensive
Apart from the usual professionalism, it is above all a defense that has found its way through the work of long-time captain of Larsalpin FC. Out of the original 27 goals given in Gerrard’s first season, the current season has only nine left after thirty games.
At the same time, “Light Blues” has the best offensive in the Scottish Premiership: the 40-year-old’s protege has scored 73 goals so far.
The Rangers’ internal goalkeeper list is also notable: Captain Tavernier has eleven goal guards, in front of regular strikers Camar Rupe and Alfredo Morelos.
Not a record for celtic
In 2021 Celtic could win their tenth consecutive championship for the first time in their history, the so-called “10-in-a-row”. As of season 19/9/4 season, the Rangers denied the feat to the “hoops” who returned the favor at the end of the 1997/98 season.
The traditional Old Firm is also benefitting from the Rangers’ strength: “Celtic” won five of the last seven games since Celtic were unbeaten in the league from April 2012 to December 2018.
If not but when
One essential question raised by recent success is Steven Gerrard’s coaching career.
The 40-year-old “The Athletic” admitted that the coaching position at Anfield Road is already his long-term goal. Gerrard’s return to Liverpool can hardly be avoided, as the relationship between the “Reds” and their former captain is very strong.
“If you asked me who I should follow, I’d say Stevie. I help him whenever I can,” said successful coach Jürgen Klopp.
Such a change would still be premature, but very few are currently skeptical of its implementation.
Eight games of luck
The eight games separated Glasgow Rangers from completing a journey that began in the lowlands of Scottish football nine years ago.
Thanks to the continued work of Steven Gerrard, the Scottish record champions seem capable of building on the successes of the old days.
Since FC Aberdeen in the 1984/85 season, the Championship has always gone from Glasgow to one of two teams. With the return of “Light Blues” that should not change anytime soon.
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