Graham Ruthven: Is Steven Gerrard’s tough love going too far?

The frustration of Steven Gerrard with his Rangers players is clear for all to see, but Graham Ruthven wonders if it’s misstep in his new career…

Steven Gerrard must have sat on the Rangers bench, in the wind and rain of Tayside, on Sunday and wondered how he, once upon a time, would have made a difference on the pitch.

Of course, the former England and Liverpool played at such a high level that he would never have found himself at Dens Park, but the hypothesis must have crossed his mind as the Ibrox side struggled to a 1-1 draw.

His frustration bubbled to the surface in the comments made after the game.

“People knock on your door, people shake their head when they’re not in the team, people are disappointed,” Gerrard said, simmering with exasperation, refereeing to the way he rotated his side for the trip to Dundee.

“But when you are given your chance, go and back it up, go and perform, give me a problem or a headache. I think it’s pretty easy and straightforward for me now. I know the players I can trust and it’s a reality check today that we’re not good enough to make five or six changes.”

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Gerrard went on to bemoan “stupid decisions,” admitting his shock and surprise at Rangers’ dismal display. This wasn’t the first time that the former midfielder has publicly dug out his players, though.

In fact, such criticism has become a common feature of his management style. But is this tough love or is Gerrard going too far?

It’s not so long ago that Gerrard warned his Rangers players that they will be ruthlessly replaced if they are not up to the mark.

“If the players we have now don’t improve and start producing the quality in the final third my job is to go and find the players that will do,” he said after the Scottish League Cup semi-final defeat to Aberdeen at the end of October.

This is an argument Gerrard has made more than once, despite having already been backed to a significant level in the transfer market.

Rangers made no fewer than 15 signings in the summer. The £10 million splurged on those players represented the club’s biggest outlet in a single transfer window for 10 years, and yet Gerrard still believes more investment is required.

Inadvertently, he is calling into question his own coaching ability. Are the players signed not good enough? Or is Gerrard failing to get the best out of them?

Of course, his exasperation, as already referenced, is surely rooted in a personal frustration. Gerrard is accustomed to football at a higher level, where players carry out instructions to the letter, where players are quite simply better, capable of more.

At times, it’s almost as if he resents members of his Rangers team for not being as good as he was.

Some will argue that Gerrard is only pushing his players to be better, but he mustn’t allow this exasperation to consume him.

Roy Keane, another world class player who tried his hand at management at a lower level, allowed this and it contributed to the demise of his coaching career.

At just 47, Keane should have plenty still to offer football.

Instead, after a series of regrettable incidents, few are willing to touch the former Manchester United and Republic of Ireland man.

Generally speaking, Gerrard deserves credit for the way he has taken to senior management.

Progress has been made at Rangers – they can make the last 32 of the Europa League this week – and in many ways the 38-year-old has handled the pressure of being manager at Ibrox better than anyone else has over the past few years.

But, repeated criticism of his players has split opinion among Rangers fans.

Is it possible that Gerrard is leaning too heavily on the tough love methods used by coaches he played under?

This is an approach widely considered to be outdated – look at the trouble Jose Mourinho has had at Manchester United this season – and could ultimately see Gerrard, if he’s not careful, follow a path he should wish to avoid.

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