The way Alfredo Morelos responded to being unfairly booked for diving during the Rangers clash at Livingston perfectly summed up how much they were under Steven Gerrard.
Morelos was warned as he fell into the box, but replays show he was unlucky to be caught by Livingston goalkeeper Max Stryjek.
No penalty in a close match, it would have been easy for Morelos ‘el Bufalo’ to come in. The player is no stranger to being shown a card – he was sent off for just 12 minutes after Gerrard’s first Scottish Premiership game for an unnecessary send off, which turned out to be one of many layoffs for the Colombian.
But Morelos retaliated much more effectively this time around, scoring the winning goal in the 87th minute to put his side just four points from the league title – a title Rangers now have. WON!
It’s not just a player that Gerrard has transformed, he has transformed an entire football club.
When Gerrard arrived at Ibrox, the Rangers were still reeling from the turmoil of 2012 and desperately needed a change.
After Pedro Caxinha’s disastrous 227-day stint as manager and another goalkeeper stint for Graeme Murty, the Gers needed a man for the long haul.
TalkSPORT Scottish football correspondent David Tanner recalls that no one thought Gerrard could be the one to make a difference.
According to Tanner, the Rangers were “a shambles of a club” that was “without leadership and without credibility”.
At the time, Celtic were experiencing new levels of success on the national front under Brendan Rodgers.
Giving the job to Gerrard – his first in the leadership – was a bold call from Gers president Dave King.
It is a bet that has paid off.
Rangers eventually stopped securing ten straight wins from Celtic – winning the Premiership title on Sunday when the Hoops dropped points to Dundee United – as they also caused a sensation in Europe with fearless performances in the Europa League.
Overthrowing Celtic must have seemed impossible given their dominance and financial might over Rangers, but it was Gerrard’s “ shrewd ” transfer market activity that started the incredible journey of the club, Tanner said.
Many signings were made in the summer of 2018, but Tanner points to the acquisitions of goalkeeper Allan McGregor and Connor Goldson, a center-back who had had little impact at Brighton after suffering a delaying health crisis career in 2017. Goldson has since become the fastest player to reach 150 club appearances for Rangers.
Tanner says they started the process of building the backbone of Rangers, especially McGregor, who brought an ability to lead from behind and that will to win.
But what impressed the Rangers the most was that they got better with every transfer window. Another former Steven Davis player arrived to bring “accomplished professionalism as well as quality, class and poise, just as he did under Walter Smith.”
More quality came later in 2019, including Ryan Kent and Joe Aribo, while Ianis Hagi arrived in 2020. These signings, coupled with the ‘tactical brain’ of Michael Beale, who was at Liverpool academy before Gerrard summons him, and assistant Gary McAllister. makes the Rangers a team that could compete again.
Gerrard’s Rangers aren’t just competing with Celtic now, they’re superior to them and consistently exceeding expectations.
Tanner believes the way the manager conducts himself indicates why these players behave so well.
“My take on the modern manager is that he or she has to be the leader of people,” Tanner told talkSPORT.com.
“They also have to stimulate and do whatever the sports psychologist would want and whatever it takes to win a football game.
“Gerrard conducted himself in the right manner at all times. He is a great ambassador for himself, the Rangers Football Club and also for the Liverpool Football Club where you learn to behave in the right way.
“The way he expresses himself at press conferences, I am a big admirer. He speaks honestly. After the remarkable match in Antwerp where everyone was salivating how thrilling a football match had been, the day after Steven Gerrard said: ‘I could sit here, like many managers would, and tell you that kind of thing happens one of these nights but I’m not going to tell you. I will tell you that our defense was not good enough and needs to improve.
“He’s an honest man in public, honest with his players and honest with himself. He’s someone who operates in the present and that’s what Dave King must have seen when he spoke to him.
“I listened to them all, I spoke to them all and I made many managers lie to me, to the public, to their supporters but also to themselves. Gerrard is different.
As of this writing, Gerrard has no trophy to show for his efforts with the Rangers, although one is coming very soon. However, there is an argument that he overshadows what Rodgers did at Celtic.
A quadruple hat-trick was a breathtaking achievement, but Celtic was always put in his shoes when playing in Europe under Rodgers.
The Rangers are tearing up the rulebook when it comes to Scottish teams seen as a soft touch on the continent.
They have reached the last 16 of the Europa League two seasons in a row and have done better than Leicester, while talkSPORT’s Ray Parlor would not like to see Arsenal take on them.
“In terms of Europe, he brought back pride and credibility and next year he will have a chance where it really matters in the Champions League,” added Tanner.
Rangers fans will always have the feeling of belonging to the Champions League. Tanner refers to how the competition as we now know it in its group stage format was actually the idea of former Rangers secretary manager Campbell Ogilvie and the competition’s eight-star on the ball logo represent each of the teams involved in the inaugural Champions League season. The Rangers were one of those teams in 1992/93.
By performing so well in Europe, his honesty at all levels and the winning mentality, Gerrard restored the identity that Rangers had lacked for so many years.
Surely this is just the start of the young manager’s relatively new career and what Rangers fans will love most about Gerrard’s history in Glasgow is that it doesn’t seem to end anytime soon.