Old Firm debut is ‘rookie’ Gerrard’s hardest test yet
The adage which insists that form goes out the window in an Old Firm derby is not merely a weary cliche, it is manifestly wrong, as examination of the record books will show. As he prepares his Rangers side for their first collision with Celtic under his management, Steven Gerrard has the benefit of firsthand exposure to the task posed by his former mentor, Brendan Rodgers.
In former Liverpool manager Rodgers’ two years in charge in the east end of Glasgow the arch foes have met 11 times, Celtic winning nine, while Rangers’ most satisfactory performances yielded only two draws, both during Graeme Murty’s spells as caretaker. Rangers fans who have witnessed this sequence bear mental scar tissue from the brutality of some of the beatings.
Mark Warburton’s first derby, in semi-final and 5-0 on the day Rodgers and co claimed last season’s title.
By then, Gerrard was the Rangers manager-in-waiting, having been in the Ibrox stands to take in yet another Celtic triumph, when a 10-man Hoops side won 3-2. Despite being a rookie at this level, the former Liverpool captain was greeted with rapture by the Rangers fans and his progress this season has not diminished his status in their eyes.
Rangers have improved in quality and resilience under Gerrard and Celtic have yet to regain the regal momentum that characterised their domestic domination on Rodgers’ watch. This, though, is the litmus test applied by both sets of fans. The guidance of today’s game will be shaped by men whose careers flourished in Liverpool. Should there be a winner, the losing manager will discover that mercy is in short supply in Glasgow, no matter how illustrious his previous feats.
Expectation: Steven Gerrard faces his old mentor Brendan Rodgers at Celtic Park today