Rangers unveiled former Liverpool and England captain Steven Gerrard as their new manager on Friday, handing the rookie boss the daunting task of ending Celtic’s domination of the Scottish Premiership.
Gerrard, who has previously only worked with Liverpool’s Under-18s, takes the helm of the giant club who have fallen on hard times in the past decade despite winning a record 54 Scottish titles.
Celtic — under Brendan Rodgers, Gerrard’s former boss at Anfield — are bidding for an unprecedented successive treble and are unbeaten against their Old Firm rivals in 11 games but Gerrard said he could not wait to get his teeth into the new role.
“I’m very aware of Rangers, the size of the club, I’ve watched them from afar and been lucky enough to watch some of the Old Firm games,” he told a press conference at the club’s Ibrox stadium.
“It was a no-brainer for me. There were a lot of different things to think about but from that first phone call I got a special feeling and I knew that Rangers were for me.”
Gerrard, who named former Liverpool team-mate Gary McAllister as his assistant, said he could not help his lack of experience, adding that he had missed the pressure of fighting for three points since he stopped playing.
“I know there will be a lot of pressure and a lot of scrutiny but that’s what I love about football,” added the 37-year-old, who hung up his boots in 2016 after a 12-month stint with LA Galaxy.
Chairman Dave King said Gerrard “ticked every box” other than experience.
“A lot of the other managers who have been named, they have had experience but that experience was not necessarily good,” he said. “Steven’s character outweighed his inexperience.”
– Inspirational captain –
Gerrard was an inspirational captain and Champions League winner in a 17-year career at Anfield but now faces a different challenge against Celtic, who sealed the Scottish title on Sunday with a 5-0 thumping of Rangers.
The arrival of the former England midfielder will restore some star power to a league that has found it increasingly hard to attract and hold onto top players against the booming television revenues of the Premier League.
Rangers are still recovering from the fallout of their liquidation in 2012 and subsequent demotion to the fourth tier of Scottish football.
In their second season back in the top flight, Rangers trail Celtic by 13 points, and are locked in a battle with Aberdeen and Hibernian just to finish second.
Celtic’s Rodgers, speaking before the official announcement, had warm words for his former player.
“As a guy he was ultra-professional, (he had) incredible qualities as a footballer,” he said.
“That level of professionalism all his career made him a great player so I am sure he will take all those attributes into management.”
Rangers fans excited by the prospect of Gerrard’s arrival said he could help the club recruit better-quality players in what is expected to be a busy transfer window.
But the club still have to overcome a huge financial disparity with Celtic. Bolstered by revenue from the Champions League, Celtic’s £90 million ($122 million) turnover last year was three times that of their Old Firm rivals.
Caretaker manager Graeme Murty, who had been promoted from his role as the club’s under-20 coach, was sacked this week after six months in charge.