The way Alfredo Morelos responded to being unfairly booked for diving during Rangers’ clash at Livingston perfectly summed up just how far they’ve come under Steven Gerrard.
Morelos was cautioned as he went down in the box but replays show he was unlucky having been actually caught by Livingston goalkeeper Max Stryjek.
No penalty in a tight game, it would have been easy for the ‘el Bufalo’ Morelos to kick in. The player is no stranger to being shown a card – he was sent off just 12 minutes into Gerrard’s first Scottish Premiership match for a needless kick out, which proved to be one of many dismissals for the Colombian.
But Morelos hit back much more effectively this time as he got the winning goal in the 87th minute to put his side to within just four points of the league title.
It’s not just one player Gerrard has transformed, he’s transformed an entire football club.
When Gerrard arrived at Ibrox, Rangers were still reeling from the turmoil of 2012 and were in desperate need of change.
After Pedro Caxinha’s disastrous 227-day spell as manager and another caretaker stint for Graeme Murty, the Gers needed a man for the long-term.
David Tanner, talkSPORT’s Scottish football correspondent, recalls that nobody believed Gerrard could be the one to turn things around.
In Tanner’s words, Rangers were ‘shambles of a club’ that was ‘bereft of leadership and lacking in credibility’.
At the time, Celtic were finding new levels of success on a domestic front under Brendan Rodgers.
To give Gerrard the job – his first in management – was a bold call by Gers chairman Dave King.
It’s a gamble that has paid off.
Rangers are tantalisingly close to stopping Celtic win the ten-in-a-row – they could even clinch the title this weekend – while they have been causing a stir in Europe too with fearless displays in the Europa League.
Toppling Celtic must have seemed impossible considering their dominance and financial muscle compared to Rangers but it was Gerrard’s ‘astute’ business in the transfer market which began the club’s incredible journey, Tanner believes.
Many signings were made in the summer of 2018 but Tanner points to the acquisitions of goalkeeper Allan McGregor and Connor Goldson, a centre-back who had made little impact at Brighton having suffered a career-stunting health scare back in 2017. Goldson has since become the fastest player to reach 150 club appearances for Rangers.
Tanner says they started the process of strengthening Rangers’ spine, especially McGregor, who brought an ability to lead from the back and that will to win.
But what’s impressed the most about Rangers’ business is that they’ve got better with every transfer window. Another former player in Steven Davis arrived to bring “consummate professionalism as well as quality, class and assurance just as he did under Walter Smith.”
More quality arrived later in 2019, including Ryan Kent and Joe Aribo, while Ianis Hagi came in 2020. These signings, coupled with the ‘tactical brain’ of Michael Beale, who was at Liverpool’s academy before Gerrard brought him over, and assistant Gary McAllister made Rangers a side who could compete again.
Gerrard’s Rangers are not just competing with Celtic now, they’re superior to them and are constantly exceeding expectations.
Tanner believes the way the manager conducts himself indicates why these players are performing so well.
“My view on the modern manager is that he or she must be leaders of people,” Tanner tells talkSPORT.com.
“They also must stimulate and do all the things that the sports psychologist would want and all the things required to win a game of football.
“Gerrard’s conducted himself in the right manner at all times. He’s a terrific ambassador for himself, Rangers Football Club and also for Liverpool Football Club where you learn to behave in the right fashion.
“The way he speaks at press conferences, I’m a huge admirer. He speaks honestly. After the remarkable game in Antwerp where everyone was salivating at how exciting a game of football it had been, the day after Steven Gerrard said ‘I could sit here, as many managers would, and tell you that these kind of things happen and it was one of those nights but I’m not going to tell you that. I’m going to tell you that our defending wasn’t good enough and it needs to improve.’
“That’s a man who’s honest in public, honest with his players and honest with himself. He is someone who operates in the present and that is what Dave King must have seen when he spoke to him.
“I have listened to them all, I have spoken to them all and have had many managers lie through their teeth to me, to the public, to their supporters but also to themselves. Gerrard is different.”
To date Gerrard doesn’t have a trophy to show for his efforts at Rangers, although one is coming very soon. However, there’s an argument that he’s eclipsing what Rodgers did at Celtic.
A quadruple treble was a stunning achievement but Celtic were always put in their place when playing in Europe under Rodgers.
Rangers are ripping up the rulebook when it comes to Scottish sides being perceived as a soft touch on the continent.
They’ve reached the last-16 of the Europa League two seasons running and have done better than the likes of Leicester, while talkSPORT’s Ray Parlour wouldn’t like to see Arsenal face them.
“In terms of Europe, he’s brought back pride and credibility and next year he’ll get a crack where it really matters in the Champions League,” Tanner adds.
Rangers fans will always feel they belong in the Champions League. Tanner refers to how the competition as we now know it in its group stage format was actually the brainchild of former Rangers secretary director Campbell Ogilvie and the competition’s eight stars on the ball logo represents each of the teams involved in the inaugural Champions League season. Rangers were one of those teams in 1992/93.
By performing so well in Europe, his honesty across the board and winners’ mentality, Gerrard’s restored the identity that was lacking at Rangers for so many years.
This is surely just the beginning in the young manager’s relatively new career and the things Rangers fans will love the most about the Gerrard story in Glasgow is that it doesn’t look like ending any time soon.