Gordon Smith has given his take on what Steven Gerrard needs to do before launching a bid for silverware next season and has expressed his surprise at the imminent release of Andy Halliday.
The 2019/20 Premiership season was ended by the SPFL last week, with Celtic declared champions.
It’s now nine campaigns without a major trophy for Rangers and the pressure will be on next time around to thwart Celtic’s bid to pick up ten consecutive league titles.
Smith – who won five major honours during his time as a player at Ibrox, including a treble in his first season – thinks that Gerrard must find the answers to his side’s dramatic dip in form in 2020 without losing sight of how hard they pushed their bitter rivals over the first half of the campaign.
“Up until the end of December, Rangers were strong,” Smith told Rangers News. They outplayed Celtic in the League Cup final, then they went to Celtic Park and won and were the better side. The turnaround was unbelievable [after the winter break].
“What Steven Gerrard has to do, is to get back to what he had over that first part of the season. He’s got to work out ‘what was it we were doing that was different?’ What actually made Rangers stronger than Celtic during that spell?”
Rejecting the theory that a poor mid-season training camp was the catalyst for the drastic slide in form, the former Rangers director of football and SFA chief executive suggested it may be the mentality of the players that needs to improve.
“A lot of people said it was to do with the training in Dubai – it can’t just be down to one aspect, that’s nonsense,” he said.
“He [Gerrard] needs to decide whether the players can handle it. Maybe they were a lot more comfortable until they won on 29 December and everybody said ‘Rangers can win the league now’. It’s maybe that some of those players could not handle the fact that they were now being predicted as champions.
“That’s what Steven Gerrard has to determine – who are the players I can take forward that are going to challenge for this league right through the whole season?”
Rangers announced last week that six players will leave the club at the end of their current contracts [Rangers.co.uk] and although Smith expects more to depart over the course of the summer in order to make room for new arrivals, he confessed he was surprised to see utility player Andy Halliday on the exit list.
“I think there might be more yet, they might be selling one or two as well if they can get some money in for those that aren’t really part of the first team,” he said.
“I always thought Andy Halliday was a good character and could do a job. So, I was quite surprised that he would be allowed to leave because he can fill in at full-back and in midfield.
“From that point of view, I think that Halliday maybe should have been a player kept on, but there might be more out the door yet, even now.”