Rangers: Why Steven Gerrard is putting his reputation on the line

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Managers react to Gerrard appointment

Steven Gerrard's career path has always seemed locked on to a journey that ends with him as Liverpool manager.

How quickly he reaches that destination - and what route he takes to get there - will now be mapped out by events north of the border at Rangers.

Gerrard has stepped out of the relative comfort zone of his job as a youth coach at the club where he is an iconic figure into the Old Firm hothouse.

He will assume control of a Rangers side trailing in the wake of newly-crowned champions Celtic, who claimed their seventh successive title with a 5-0 trouncing of his new club.

So what does this move mean for Gerrard in the short and long term?

Gerrard's big gamble?

Gerrard has enjoyed a fruitful first season in charge of Liverpool's under-18s after taking his first steps on the managerial ladder at the club's Kirkby academy.

The easy option for Gerrard would have been to build his reputation further from inside Anfield, cocooned within the club where his deeds as a player - winning the Champions League, Uefa Cup, FA Cup and League Cup - have earned him legendary status.

Gerrard's decision to take over at Rangers is laden with risk, not simply to his reputation but perhaps to those long-term ambitions of returning to Liverpool in the manager's office.

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Succeed at Rangers and it will almost guarantee him serious consideration as successor to Jurgen Klopp at Liverpool - fail and those ambitions may have to be delayed, if not dismissed.

Gerrard, however, has never been fazed by a challenge and he has accepted a mighty one at Ibrox.

For someone with a formidable reputation for leading by example, the 37-year-old is a serious, occasionally introspective character - former England manager Fabio Capello never fully believed in him as his captain because he felt he was too quiet.

The evidence of his career flies in the face of Capello's judgement and Gerrard's fierce determination will have led him to ask why he should take the job at one of British football's great institutions, as opposed to why not.

Mark Warburton, Gers manager between June 2015 and February 2017, told the BBC: "It's really interesting. I think Steven's status is obvious.

"He was one of the best Premier League midfielders and has played and worked with some outstanding managers so his pedigree is there for all to see.

"Wherever he goes he is going to attract attention, be it National League, bottom of League Two or top of the Premier League.

"It is a good opportunity. It will simply come down to him getting the backing from the board that he undoubtedly needs. There is a gap you have to close."

Steven Gerrard and Brendon Rodgers
Gerrard will face his old boss and current Celtic manager Brendan Rodgers in his new role at Rangers

Former Liverpool defender Mark Lawrenson told BBC Sport: "There is no such thing as the perfect job. Even if you're the best manager in the world there is an element of risk.

"And people will obviously talk about the Liverpool job in future but if he goes anywhere and it doesn't work out the same slant will be put on it.

"I did say recently I thought he would leave soon after doing the under-18s and I can't think where else he would go. If I was him I wouldn't go in the Championship because it's real dog-eat-dog in there. Those 46 games can feel like 460.

"I think it's one of those where you think: 'Go on then - go and have a go.'"

Former Celtic striker Chris Sutton says: "It's brilliant for Scottish football, it really is, raising the profile even more. Scottish football has been on the up anyway, with Hibs coming back up while Hearts, Aberdeen and Rangers are all in there, and Steven coming in would really raise the profile.

"There is the Brendan Rodgers connection from Liverpool - Rodgers versus Gerrard. It's fantastic for the game in Scotland."

Has Gerrard got what it takes?

John Barnes during his time as Celtic manager
John Barnes lasted less than a season as manager at Celtic

Gerrard is following in illustrious Liverpool footsteps by starting his managerial career in Glasgow after former European Cup-winning captain Graeme Souness was appointed Rangers' player-manager in 1986 and John Barnes was named Celtic's head coach, under director of football Kenny Dalglish, in 1999.

Souness revitalised Rangers, winning three league titles and luring high-profile England stars such as Terry Butcher, Chris Woods, Trevor Steven and Gary Stevens north of the border, capitalising on English clubs being banned from Europe following the 1985 Heysel disaster.

Barnes, in contrast, was a failure, sacked in February 2000 after a humiliating Scottish Cup loss to Inverness Caledonian Thistle that prompted the famous headline: "Super Caley Go Ballistic Celtic Are Atrocious."

The comparisons with Souness at Rangers can be dismissed but only to a point.

Souness was not only backed by owner David Murray's high finance to dominate in the transfer market, he was also able to exert his own influence on the field as player-manager.

Rangers' reasoning behind Gerrard is similar. Appoint a big name and hope he will be a magnet for bigger players.

Gerrard's stellar playing career will enable him to put down an instant marker and his name alone will raise the stakes, but Gerrard's job must be tempered with the new financial reality and Celtic's clear superiority.

Gerrard, however, will approach the task with similar steel, if not from the same position of strength.

And the early signs coming out of Liverpool's academy are promising, with all reports saying he has taken to management, albeit at that level, with comfort.

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He has been happy to lavish praise on Liverpool's emerging stars, such as Ben Woodburn and Rhian Brewster, but equally willing to wield the big stick at his squad when the need has arisen.

It has been a steep learning curve but Gerrard insists nothing has scared him away from management and stresses his management style will not be based on reminding players of his own achievements.

He said earlier this season: "I never ever bring my playing days up. I never say 'look what I've done and look what we did.' It's about what's happening tomorrow not yesterday."

Lawrenson said: "All you hear and all you have seen tells you he's management material. I've heard he is good with discipline with the kids, sorting quite a few out and he has not been frightened to play some very young players.

"He will walk in the [Rangers] dressing room and the players will go 'whoa'. And then when he goes on the training pitch he will tell players exactly how he wants it done and they will do it. There will be instant respect because this is Steven Gerrard. When he speaks to those players they will listen."

Sutton added: "What he has achieved as a player, both with his club and internationally, in terms of the teams he's played against, means nothing fazes him, but this is a totally different kettle of fish and the intensity which comes with the job is something you can only learn on the job."

What will be Gerrard's top priority at Ibrox?

Rangers fans at Ibrox before the Old Firm derby
Rangers and Celtic have faced each other five times this season, with Rangers losing four of those games (three league, one cup semi-final) and drawing once (league)

Sutton is someone well versed in the intensity of the Old Firm rivalry and he sums up Gerrard's priority in one word - "win".

Gerrard was a Merseyside derby specialist, winning 16 out of 30 league games against Everton, losing only four while scoring nine goals.

This, however, will be a totally different experience as a manager starting from a low bar, with Rangers currently a very obvious second best to Celtic.

"I think people who don't spend time up in Scotland are slightly ill-informed," Sutton told BBC Sport. "They don't understand the environment in and around Glasgow. It is brutal.

"It is all right people saying he may come in and improve Rangers. He may well do that but the fans, while they want the team to improve and develop, want to finish above Celtic. Second isn't good enough and that is the biggest issue.

"You just don't get time. Mark Warburton came up with a big reputation - destroyed at Rangers. Pedro Caixinha - a big experiment. Gamble backfires and reputation destroyed.

"Glasgow isn't a city where you can sit pretty, develop and chug along nicely adrift of your other rivals. It isn't like that and for people down south to think that is acceptable and that is the way it goes, they are misguided.

"It turns so quickly. It doesn't take much and this has been Rangers' issue. It is either triumph or disaster. They get so high and then so low."

And it is against this backdrop where Steven Gerrard is putting his reputation, as a rookie manager at least, on the line.