Steven Gerrard is undaunted by the challenge and weight of history as Rangers bid for Betfred Cup glory
STEVEN GERRARD hit the highway to Glasgow 18 months ago and knew what demands, pressures and expectations awaited him at his destination.
On Sunday, he has a chance to mark another milestone as Rangers bid for their first major silverware since embarking on their road to recovery. ‘The Journey’ is complete, but Rangers aren’t back where they belong just yet.
Eight years after their last major silverware and three since the Scottish Cup final defeat to Hibernian, Rangers have a trophy in their sights once again. Like it was back in 2011, Celtic stand in their way.
The years have been tumultuous in so many regards but the Betfred Cup final against their Old Firm rivals offers the opportunity for heroes and memories to be made.
Gerrard capitalised on those very chances during his playing career and now he stands just 90 minutes away from an achievement that would be hugely significant for him personally, and one that would mean so much to his supporters.
Gerrard said: “When I got in my car on the first day to come up here, I think the fourth of May, I knew I before I got on the motorway what I was getting involved in and what this club was about because I had looked in on it from afar from so many years.
“At both clubs, Celtic and Rangers, and Aberdeen, I was obviously aware of the days of Alex Ferguson. As someone who’s not a statto on the game, I know enough to be educated and to know the demands and the expectations at this club.
“That’s only been confirmed. Obviously it’s more intense when you’re on the inside of it, of course it is, because the outcome of cup finals and how well Rangers did was not really the priority to me before I came in.
“But when I signed up to be the manager it became the priority. That only magnifies and becomes more intense when you sign up to it.”
Gerrard could call on two players – Allan McGregor and Steven Davis – that know exactly what it takes to win with Rangers tomorrow afternoon. The majority of his squad don’t have that experience, that nous, however.
The burden of history and recent failures weighs heavily on the minds of the fans, but Gerrard won’t allow his players to feel the added strain because of what has gone before them.
“It shouldn’t bring pressure to the players because it’s not their fault or their responsibility,” he said.
“They weren’t around when that happened, or when the club suffered in all the years that it did. The players, most of them, are new to this. Most of them are recent and have come on board since I came in.
“Only a very small few were around over the previous 18 months so they shouldn’t feel responsibility and that shouldn’t be in their thoughts going into this game. They should just come in fresh and embrace the opportunity to win a trophy.”
The appointment of Gerrard has had a transformational impact on and off the park for Rangers and the improvements are clear to see.
The Liverpool legend has been unable to influence one area, though. He has made his mark, but he needs to add to the Ibrox Trophy Room.
Gerrard said: “We are all aware of that being part of Rangers. Getting to finals is not enough.
“We have had praise because we have progressed and that is fine, but we all know that this is an opportunity where we have to execute and we have to win as quickly as we can.
“That would be easy if you just have to turn up, but you don’t. You have to go and beat a good team and a team that has been successful in recent years.
“We are all aware of the size of the challenge but the first priority is to give yourself the opportunity and we have done that. Now we have to make the most of it.”
The list of honours that Gerrard accumulated during his playing career is glittering and those experiences will stand him in good stead as he prepares for his biggest afternoon as a manager.
His players are unlikely to follow in his illustrious footsteps but each one has a chance to write their name in the Ibrox history books come kick-off.
He said: “Finals are more often than not decided by what happens around both boxes. It’s pretty simple.
“People talk about the occasion and there’s a lot of nonsense that comes with finals, ticket requests and the media – with all due respect. It’s about what happens on the green pitch and who handles both boxes the better.
“It would be more about making them aware of not getting caught up in the occasion.
“Respect the occasion. And enjoy it. But remember there is still a football match to be played.
“What we have tried to do is take away all the excuses from the players. It will be similar to what we do regularly.
“I don’t think it makes sense to all of a sudden change everything because you are in a final. It is still a tough game. You still have to play for 90 minutes and maybe beyond.”