90min
Rangers

Rangers' imminent title win makes Steven Gerrard the most exciting English manager around

Robbie Copeland
Steven Gerrard's time has come
Steven Gerrard's time has come / Ian MacNicol/Getty Images
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Over the course of their respective playing careers, Steven Gerrard vs Frank Lampard was the prevailing English football debate.

The two were compared to one another to the same extent that Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo are now. One was the intense all rounder who dragged Liverpool over the line in Istanbul; the other was the softer touch who scored goals for fun and lapped up trophies like they were glasses of water.

The raging debate played its part in derailing England's 'golden generation.' No manager could figure out how to get the best out of both of them at once, yet individually, they were too good to drop.

A 4-4-2 with Paul Scholes on the left flank, amazingly, never got the Three Lions past a quarter-final.

In many ways the debate was inevitable. Generational players of the same era, playing in the same position, for rival clubs where they would frequently clash on the park. How could comparisons not be drawn, especially when they were firing in screamers every other week?

As players there was little to split Gerrard and Lampard. Each stood out in their own ways, but on balance, they were equally brilliant.

However, it seems a little bit silly that the debate continues into their managerial careers.

Because so far, there has only been one winner. And spoiler: it's not Frank Lampard.

Gerrard's accomplishments with Rangers have so far been...not overlooked per se, but certainly not taken as seriously as they should be. They've taken place in the league everyone's nan could win, apparently, and many in England are reluctant to accept that he's a good manager because he's yet to drink from the golden cup that is the Premier League.

Managing Rangers is a far tougher task than managing Chelsea, Derby County, Aston Villa, Sheffield United, Burnley, Newcastle...or any of the other clubs that the current 'top' English managers have cut their teeth at. It may only be Scottish football, but there is a level of expectation at the Old Firm clubs that is echoed at only a handful of teams around Europe.

It takes an incredible manager to coach players through that, and Gerrard has done so to great success at a time when it has been more difficult than ever.

You only have to look at the state of affairs when he took over to see how challenging things were. Rangers had just finished third, behind Aberdeen, and Brendan Rodgers' Celtic who had just completed their second successive domestic treble.

This was a Rangers team who had just conceded 50 goals in a league campaign, and not long gone out of Europe to Progres Niederkorn, the runners up of the Luxembourg National Division. They'd sacked Pedro Caixinha so quickly he became the shortest-serving manager in club history, and had to play out the majority of the season with their reserve manager in charge of the first team because they literally couldn't entice any of their immediate targets to take the job.

They were such an absolute basket case that Celtic, having just sleepwalked to their seventh straight title, already felt as if Ten in a Row was in the bag.

Two and a half years of Gerrard later, and Rangers are 19 points clear at the top of the Premiership, undefeated, and into the knockout stages of the Europa League, also undefeated.

Steven Gerrard Celebration GIF by BT Sport - Find & Share on GIPHY

Some will argue he's been lucky this season. His team are only top because Celtic have been poor. And while that argument might hold weight if Rangers were limping over the line, it doesn't, because they have absolutely stormed it so far. They've won 20 of their 22 league matches so far and have a points per game average better even than Celtic had in Rodgers' best season.

On top of that, Celtic haven't even been that bad. The only league games they've lost this season have been to Rangers, and other than Hibs, they've beaten everyone else in the division.

Yet I'll say it again: they're 19 points behind.

Make no mistake, Rangers will win the Premiership this season. And having overthrown nine years of unprecedented dominance to do so, it will be the finest achievement by an English manager in the men's game since Harry Redknapp won the FA Cup with Portsmouth.

Yet there will still be people arguing that it's a greater accomplishment to take Chelsea from third in the Premier League to...fourth in the Premier League.

Lampard is a promising manager. So too are Dean Smith, Sean Dyche, Eddie Howe and the other young(ish) English coaches who have impressed in recent seasons.

But let's not compare any of that to what Gerrard is doing in the south of Glasgow, because none of it comes close.

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