Gerrard eager to build after Rangers seal first unbeaten season since 1899

·4 min read
<span>Photograph: Ian MacNicol/Getty Images</span>
Photograph: Ian MacNicol/Getty Images

A Rangers domestic campaign that started with a narrow victory in Aberdeen concluded with a trouncing of the same opposition and the claiming of a place in history. Rangers, confirmed as champions in March, completed the club’s first unbeaten top-flight league season since 1899. If the support – who filled the streets around Ibrox as the trophy was presented inside – were giddy at that feat, Steven Gerrard’s insistence that he has no plan to trade Glasgow for a Premier League job must have been met with similar glee.

“It’s not about me right now,” he said. “It’s about the club and what is next. You cannot stand still here. We will go again and try to build on this success.

“I’m happy here. I have had to make a lot of sacrifices family wise but I want more. I am determined to build on this.”

Related: I was there when Rangers’ unbeaten season crumbled on the final day | Robin McKie

It seems incredible to recall that 12 months ago, after Celtic took delivery of a ninth title in succession, there was widespread and legitimate questioning of Gerrard’s managerial ability. The noise that surrounded the premature ending of 2019-20 included strong complaint from Rangers, but the reality is Celtic were cantering to the championship anyway. Gerrard has now said that an elongated close season did Rangers a favour.

“It’s about using the hurt and the setbacks to drive you more,” he said. “The way the season was curtailed last year gave us a chance to reset. From the first day of pre-season, these guys have given me everything and more.”

The upshot is 32 wins from 38 Premiership games. Rangers scored 92 league goals while conceding 13. Their points tally of 102 saw them finish 25 clear of Celtic. It is stating the obvious to say Rangers have been by far the finest team in Scotland, with the application of a consistency level they had been unable to find during Gerrard’s previous two in office.

Rangers fans celebrate outside Ibrox Stadium after the team lifted the Scottish Premiership trophy for the first time in 10 years
Rangers fans celebrate outside Ibrox Stadium after the team lifted the Scottish Premiership trophy for the first time in 10 years. Photograph: Andy Buchanan/AFP/Getty Images

“I’m so proud of the boys and all the staff,” he said. “I was asked to come here at a really difficult time and it had been even more difficult before that. It was about having a vision, the right people in the right places, the right support from the board and then fighting for it. That is what we have done every day for three years; fought to get to this point.”

There are contextual elements that celebrating Rangers fans will care little for but are worth making anyway. Another “invincible” season – Celtic achieved the same in 2016‑17 – is not particularly healthy for the complexion of Scottish football. Aberdeen have eased to fourth in the Premiership while holding a negative goal difference.

That Slavia Prague swatted Rangers aside in the last 16 of the Europa League should temper routinely excitable analysis of just how strong Rangers are. Gerrard gives the impression of being perfectly well aware of wider issues, just as he admits a trophy return of one from a possible nine is not good enough in respect of a club that continually tells the world it prides itself on success. And yet, celebration of this title is perfectly valid; a decade, which included financial implosion and Third Division football, has passed since Rangers’ last one.

A ridiculous own goal from the Aberdeen goalkeeper, Joe Lewis, set Rangers on the path to victory in match No 38. Lewis seemed totally confused by a deflected, but harmless, James Tavernier cross.

Kemar Roofe capitalised on fine wing play from Ryan Kent to notch Rangers’ second – a deflection was again involved – before Aberdeen’s Lewis Ferguson supplied a 57th minute candidate for miss of the season. Roofe’s second confirmed a home victory that never looked in serious doubt, with Jermain Defoe stroking home the fourth in the dying minutes.

Rangers later “encouraged” their fans to “disperse from Ibrox”. Regardless of venue, this had the feeling of a party that will rumble on for quite some time.