What must Rangers do next season to mount a challenge on superior Celtic?

When Rangers returned to the top flight of Scottish football in 2015, there was an ever-present feeling that the club would once more become Celtic’s main title rival. That has proven to be the case, but there is still a vast gap between the blue and green factions of Glasgow.
While next season may be too soon for Rangers to make a genuine challenge for the SPL title, the ambition is very much there. So too is the incentive to snap Celtic’s streak of seven straight titles, which has taken the Parkhead club’s tally to 49. Rangers have 54, and if the status quo continues, it is just a question of when – not if – Celtic finally exceed that number and lay claim to total, undisputed dominion of Glasgow.
It has now been over thirty years since a trophy representing the Scottish top flight left the confines of Glasgow, and if Rangers are to capitalise on the continued weakness of the rest of the SPL, a clear vision from the board is a vital start. However, such a vision is not forthcoming at this time.
The resignation of Paul Murray and Barry Scott as directors has merely served to continue the series of downturns, which have plagued the club at board level since the apocalyptic year of 2012. Power struggles and resignations only ever disrupt what happens on the pitch.
Celtic’s dominance in the SPL is set to continue, and as you can see, the odds in favour of the Bhoys retaining the title in 2019 are as immovable as ever. Ultimately, the board must establish a clear vision and replace Murray and Scott with reliable, tested figures before Rangers can really ‘do’ anything on the pitch to change the situation.
Gerrard cannot do it on his own.
With key talents being sold to sustain financial balance, the way forward is clear as mud. Despite being forced to manage a dressing room with zero chemistry as a result of quickfire sales, now-former Rangers manager Graeme Murty achieved exactly what was expected of him and could do little else. His integration of Alfredo Morelos into the squad was also important, serving to make Rangers more of an ‘international’ draw.
The circumstances surrounding his departure mean that the Rangers board is now public enemy number one in Scotland. Such is the fury and disgust, even Celtic manager Neil Lennon has seen fit to condemn the Rangers board, with the rumours of Steven Gerrard’s arrival at Ibrox overshadowing Murty’s final days at the club.
With Gerrard now confirmed as Rangers manager, the question on everyone’s lips is whether or not Gerrard can finally smash the proverbial ‘glass ceiling’. At present, given his lack of managerial experience, he could only do so with help and advice from a more experienced figure.
As he was for Graeme Murty, Walter Smith could be a major influence on Gerrard. The man from Whiston can also turn to the likes of ex-Ranger and fellow Liverpool legend Graeme Souness for advice. However, just how effective an adviser proves to be depends (again) on the board becoming much more organised.
Liverpool connections vital towards squad ‘core’
At the very least, however, Gerrard does not need any help in making the most of his Liverpool connections to benefit Rangers. There is no doubt that the Ibrox faithful will see some ex-Liverpool players coming in this summer, with the likes of Lazar Markovic and Glen Johnson perhaps being fair game in that regard.
However, Gerrard will need to firstly establish a core group of players, and impress upon them his long-term vision, in order to maximise his chances of keeping them at Ibrox to the benefit of the club. As such, there will also be a greater emphasis on bringing Rangers’ youths into the first team, along – perhaps – with several standout players in Liverpool U23 squad as loan signings.
With Gerrard himself being young and fresh to his new calling, this will either work wonders or prove to be a disaster, but there are many historical precedents in place. For instance, Eddie Howe’s management of Bournemouth, to three successful survival campaigns in the Premier League, serves as topical example of this working in a much more competitive and unforgiving league.
Regardless of success stories elsewhere, Rangers need more than just a manager. The fact remains that the current squad is not good enough – or at least not motivated enough – to trouble Celtic. The hard work to restore true parity within a football hotbed has only just begun