One mil­lion rea­sons why Ste­vie can’t catch Bhoys...

Hart­son be­lieves Ger­rard will make a dif­fer­ence but says Gers won’t make up the ‘mil­lion miles’ to Park­head side

Evening Times - - SPORT - BY ALISON McCONNELL

FOR­MER Celtic striker John Hart­son has in­sisted that Rangers sup­port­ers are right to get ex­cited about the ar­rival of Steven Ger­rard – but has warned that the Ibrox side are “a mil­lion miles” away from catch­ing Brendan Rodgers’ side.

Rangers took the num­ber of new ad­di­tions to six yes­ter­day as they look to revamp the side ahead of the new cam­paign. By con­trast, Celtic have been quiet since clinch­ing the dou­ble Tre­ble, with news of the sta­dium de­vel­op­ments at the club of­fer­ing the only real in­di­ca­tion of work go­ing on be­hind the scenes.

Hart­son, though, be­lieves that the ar­rival of Ger­rard may raise the bar at Rangers – but will do the same across the city.

“I think Celtic will step up to the chal­lenge,” said the Welsh­man. “Brendan will get them in and say, ‘look, last two years we’ve been up against a poor Rangers. Ste­vie will im­prove them, now is the acid test and we need to go again’.”

Ger­rard’s ar­rival has gal­vanised the Ibrox sup­port who are look­ing for some­thing spe­cial from the for­mer Liver­pool cap­tain. Hart­son, too, an­tic­i­pates Ger­rard get­ting a re­ac­tion – “I don’t think he has ever failed at any­thing in his life” – but he has warned that the gap which cur­rently ex­ists is too wide to nar­row overnight.

“There’s not a cat in hell’s chance that Rangers will catch Celtic as they are a mil­lion miles away on and off the park,” he said.

“If Brendan Rodgers let that hap­pen it would be a trav­esty in my opin­ion.

“Celtic are dou­ble Tre­ble win­ners with £50mil­lion of Cham­pi­ons League money and they have as­sets.

“I’m in­trigued how it will play out – the Celtic fans are wait­ing on sign­ings.

“The Rangers fans are ex­cited with the feel­good fac­tor around the club which they haven’t had for a while.

“They have a class act in Steven Ger­rard com­ing into the club and this will raise the level of every­one’s game when he walks i n the dress­ing room.

“He’s a mag­nif­i­cent per­son and knows what he wants as he’s very fo­cused.

“If Rangers fin­ish 10 be­hind Celtic, it’s a suc­cess. If they can beat Celtic once and maybe win a cup then that would be looked at as progress.

“If you look at how far be­hind they have been in terms of qual­ity of player and off the park it’s huge.”

This time a year ago, Pe­dro Caix­inha was in the midst of a re­cruit­ment drive at Ibrox with sim­i­lar lev­els of an­tic­i­pa­tion from the Rangers sup­port. Hart­son was scathing in his as­sess­ment of Caix­inha’s reign but has main­tained that Ger­rard has more cur­rency and cred­i­bil­ity.

“This time last year when Caix­inha was sign­ing all those play­ers the fans were get­ting ex­cited then as well, weren’t they?” he said. “They were think­ing, ‘we’ve brought in Bruno Alves at cen­tre­half. Cor, what a player he is.’ At 34 he looks like an old man – my dad could have played there and done bet­ter. He’s like an old man limp­ing onto the pitch.

“He’s got great ex­pe­ri­ence, yeah, but don’t sign a guy knock­ing on 35 to deal with Dem­bele and Grif­fiths. What chance you got?

“So this time last sea­son Rangers fans were get­ting a bit ex­cited. Caix­inha was com­ing in with the dogs and car­a­vans and all this sort of stuff and peo­ple were say­ing, ‘this guy is great, this guy is a char­ac­ter.’

“But the main dif­fer­ence this sea­son is that Steven Ger­rard has come in and he’s a class act. It looks like he is sign­ing de­cent play­ers and Rangers fans can get ex­cited, ab­so­lutely.

“But I still feel they have a long way to go.

“It’s the men­tal­ity thing too as it’s not been right at Rangers. The 4-0 thumping in the Scot­tish Cup, the 5-0 when Celtic won the league. It was men against boys. Em­bar­rass­ing.

“It was like a tes­ti­mo­nial game against a bunch of 40-year-old men. That’s how poor it was.

“It’s about Ste­vie go­ing in there adding to the qual­ity of the group and mak­ing sure new play­ers set­tle and look­ing to catch Celtic.

“But as I said “Look at what Caix­inha did – how on earth did he get to sign play­ers, It’s bizarre.

“If the man who al­lowed that to hap­pen is still in a job, it’s bizarre.

“How could he get to sign the play­ers on the wages they are on? It’s al­most ru­ined the foot­ball club.

“I’m in­ter­ested to see how it all plays out.”

Hart­son is cur­rently in the frame for the va­cant post at Liv­ingston and has ap­plauded the de­ci­sion by Rangers to go for Ger­rard, de­spite his lack of man­age­rial ex­pe­ri­ence.

The Welsh­man was scathing of those such who have milked the man­age­rial cir­cuit for the last few decades south of the border.

“Ste­vie Ger­rard com­ing to your club is a good ap­point­ment, al­though he has not had much ex­pe­ri­ence. But the only way you get good ex­pe­ri­ence is by go­ing in.

“There is no guar­an­tee with ex­pe­ri­ence. Look at the clubs who ap­pointed ex­pe­ri­ence over the years who fell flat on their face.

“Frank Lam­pard is fresh, young with new ideas. Ev­ery­body is sick of the [Sam] Al­lardyces and [ Alan] Pardews and Peter Reids – it used to be Brian Rob­son and Micky Adams and these guys.

“They get four or five dif­fer­ent jobs, get sacked then go to an­other job.

“Ian Dowie has been sacked from eight clubs. He’s made more money from get­ting the sack than he has made from be­ing in em­ploy­ment.

“It’s ridicu­lous. Ap­point young, fresh peo­ple who want to get in and want to learn. You see Sam Al­lardyce on the touch­line like that.... (mim­ics chew­ing gum)...’sack me if you want....’

“Do me a favour. What chair­man ap­points these guys?”

John Hart­son was do­nat­ing a £20,000 cheque from his Foun­da­tion to the Glas­gow Chil­dren’s Hospi­tal Char­ity’s Schiehal­lion Ap­peal. The ap­peal has now gone through the £1mil­lion bar­rier.

John Hart­son is all smiles with a fan at Glas­gow Chil­dren’s Hospi­tal yes­ter­day as he handed over a £20,000 cheque from his char­ity foun­da­tion

Gers man­ager Steven Ger­rard ar­rives at Ibrox yes­ter­day

Pic­ture: SNS

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