Premier League’s young stars should consider Ibrox and Steven Gerrard’s loan magic
IT’S never going to have the Europe-wide impact of that “What a hit, son” game against Olympiakos 13 years ago.
A freezing night in Vienna in front of 25,000 fans can hardly compare to a sold-out Anfield in a do-or-die Champions League shootout.
Steven Gerrard sends his reborn Rangers into Europa League battle on Thursday[/caption]
Yet when Steven Gerrard sends his reborn Rangers into Europa League battle on Thursday, it may well be an evening that has far-reaching and long-term consequences.
For Gers manager Gerrard, obviously. But for everyone at Ibrox as well.
And given the right result, it will raise a few more eyebrows on Merseyside, too.
Victory over Rapid Vienna — a team his side have beaten once already in this competition — and a place in the knockout rounds will be theirs.
His success at Gers has been built on the loan system[/caption]
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The last 32 of Europe’s ginger stepson of a competition may not have many putting out the bunting. But given what they’ve been through at Ibrox, it’s more likely than anywhere.
For a club who are a million miles from those cash-rich days of old, every little helps.
And the knockout stages will certainly do that.
For former Liverpool and England legend Gerrard, it would be another step forwards.
Nothing like an Istanbul or a 4-0 hiding of Real Madrid, admittedly. But in terms of a young manager whose first senior job is to drag a comatosed giant back towards its glories of old, a hefty stride at least.
Gerrard got Ryan Kent on loan from his former club[/caption]
Look at what Gerrard has done already.
Rangers, while they won’t win the Scottish Premiership, are in a genuine fight at the top again.
If they hadn’t blown it at home to Aberdeen on Wednesday, they would have gone into this weekend’s games astride everyone.
And it’s been done on the back of one transfer window, where the real successes have been loan signings.
Ovie Ejaria is also on loan from Liverpool[/caption]
Getting Ryan Kent — tearing it up before he was injured and now on the verge of a return — and Ovie Ejaria from his old club was a masterstroke.
So, too, was landing Joe Worrall from Nottingham Forest, while bringing Lassana Coulibaly from French side Angers wasn’t too shabby either.
The first two examples are proof that when Premier League clubs are sending out future stars to gain experience, Scotland — and in particular Ibrox — isn’t too bad a destination.
After all, Kent, Ejaria and Co are playing in front of 50,000 every other week and coping with a pressure they would not get at, say, Preston or Bolton.
Joe Worrall is on loan with Gers from Nottingham Forest[/caption]
Gerrard has been a big part of that. Just like he has been a big part of everything Rangers have been doing.
Of course he knows they remain the poor relations of Glasgow. Celtic have a deeper, better squad, and will win the title again.
But a proper Old Firm rivalry is stirring again — and on Thursday a proper European celebration could be as well.
Thirteen years ago Gerrard inspired two miracles, with that victory over Olympiakos and then, of course, those heroics against Milan in the final.
Bringing Lassana Coulibaly from French side Angers wasn’t too shabby either[/caption]
Now he could find himself making half a footballing city dream once again. It seems that Stevie G does not, after all, stand for the Gamble some felt when he swapped the security blanket of Liverpool’s Academy for Scotland.
The road to what many see has a natural end in the manager’s seat at Anfield is still a long and doubtless rocky one.
But he is taking steps in the right direction.
A final point. As and when that does happen, be certain of one thing — you won’t hear Stevie complaining about tough tackles from the opposition.