Old Firm de­but is ‘rookie’ Ger­rard’s hard­est test yet

The Sunday Telegraph - Sport - - Sport | Football - By Roddy Forsyth

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

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