As Rangers secured another terrific success at Rugby Park, the question must be asked – is Steven Gerrard learning from Walter Smith?
The comparison might be scoffed at by some. The historic Smith led Rangers to nine-in-a-row as well as ended the dominance of Celtic under Gordon Strachan. Regardless of the comparisons, Gerrard is nowhere near that level as of yet.
However, comparing both managers’ ethos and style of play and there are striking resemblances.
Firstly, there’s the mentality.
Smith made his teams notoriously hard to beat. Away from home, he prioritised organisation and respected the opposition’s threat. He refused to go gung-ho, and rightly so.
Instead, he instilled belief into his sides and a strong team-ethic that was essential to their game-plan. This resulted in players believing in the manager and what he stood for.
Gerrard is building the same. He’s yet to be brought down to mind-games, and believes in the squad he’s forming. Against the likes of Osijek and Maribor, Rangers couldn’t have knocked them out without belief or defensive organisation.
The concession of just four goals since arriving shows that the new manager is also prioritising the same aspects Smith did. This is particularly relevant when looking at what Rangers legend did when he succeeded Paul Le Guen.
Seeing a dominant Celtic ahead of him, he went about making his Rangers side a solid unit. This helped to fend off the likes of Hearts for second spot in the table before taking on the Champions. Smith very quickly added talented ball-playing players to his side and won the league within the next two years.
Something similar in this case and Gerrard will have stopped 10-in-a-row.
It’s important to also remember that Smith’s sides, when given the opportunity, could play some beautiful football as well. Going to the likes of Hearts, Aberdeen, and Celtic it was all about winning the battle first. Only after that did Smith want his players to try and turn on the style.
Gerrard is frighteningly similar. Since coming into Ibrox, the manager has built a battle-hardened outfit. This has helped get some huge morale-boosting results early on in the Gerrard era. However, he’s clearly keen on playing good, passing football when the opportunity arises. Take the third goal at Killie as proof.
Early similarities are there, and future ones will no doubt arrive. Gerrard has begun to replicate Smith’s style of management. It’s replicating his success that’s the trick.
However, to answer the question is Steven Gerrard learning from Walter Smith? Undoubtedly.