Steven Gerrard failed to lift the spirits of the Rangers fans up last season as the Gers once again finished the campaign without silverware. The Liverpool legend is yet to win a trophy since taking charge of the Ibrox-based club in the summer of 2018.
The new season comes with new hopes and the early activities in the transfer market suggest that Rangers will do everything they can to stop Celtic from making it ten-in-a-row next term.
Both the Scottish giants were invited to France to take part in the Veolia tournament, hosted by Lyon. While the Gers proved their mettle by winning both their matches, their Glasgow rivals were beaten 2-1 by the hosts and could only manage a 1-1 draw against Nice.
However, more than the results, what caught the attention of football pundits and fans around the world was Steven Gerrard’s experimentation with the Rangers team, wherein the young academy graduates got the chance to feature, along with their first-team counterparts.
20-year-old Lewis Mayo, 22-year-old Ross McCrorie and 18-year-old Nathan Patterson were all part of the defence, which managed to keep a clean sheet against Lyon, despite being forced to play with ten men for more than 50 minutes of the match.
However, it is one thing for a youngster to impress in a friendly match and it is a completely different scenario to cope with the pressure of playing inside a packed Ibrox, particularly in a season where Rangers will be desperate to stop their rivals, Celtic from creating history.
Rangers boss Steven Gerrard’s lack of faith in youth
A report published by The Scotsman in May last year showed that Rangers have followed a completely different route compared to Celtic, in terms of giving opportunities to their youth.
The Gers gave chances to just two academy graduates at the start of the 2018-19 season, including a 38-year-old Allan McGregor, who is in the middle of his second spell at the club.
The alarming trend has continued with Steven Gerrard focusing more on bringing immediate success to the club rather than promoting youth, who can be assets for the club in the future.
As a result, several promising youngsters have sought moves away from what the Rangers Head of Academy Craig Mulholland calls “one of the top 15 academies in Europe.”
Steven Gerrard has urged patience from his young players, and following Rangers’ recent 2-0 win over Nice, the Liverpool great heaped praise on academy graduate Jamie Barjonas.
“I’m pleased for Jamie. This is the first time since I have been in a first-team game that he has really shown personality. We know he has got that, we think he is better than what he has shown.”
Steven Gerrard then went on to add that the youngsters should first and foremost commit themselves to the cause of the club.
“I want to bring academy players in but first and foremost they have got to commit to the football club. If you don’t commit to the football club you won’t be seen anywhere near me. And you have got to be good enough. So they have got to train every day like it means the world to them to play for Rangers.”
A message clear enough
18-year-old Nathan Patterson, in an interview with Rangers’ official website on Monday, said that he hopes to follow in the footsteps of so many of his seniors to make it to the first-team in the future.
“At the first-team, you have high demands on you and if you don’t play well, you need to have the mental strength to just keep going. The Rangers Academy is a great academy and it is producing some great players and I want to be another one that is a top prospect.”
However, Rangers’ recent transfer activities suggest that he should not get his hopes too high.
Steven Gerrard will be fighting to save his job next season and, therefore, he might put his faith in players who have been tried and tested at the highest level.
A permanent deal for 37-year-old striker Jermain Defoe is an example of that.
Rangers have brought in many as four players so far this summer – one in defense, one in midfield, one in attack and one between the sticks – clearly suggesting that the Gers are focussing on the new signings to improve every department.
Therefore, the youngsters will need to learn lessons in patience, at least for one more season, provided Rangers manage to stop Celtic from winning their tenth Scottish Premiership title in a row.
If they manage to do so, at least a few of the promising Rangers youngsters might stake their claim in the first-team.