When Steven Gerrard first walked into the room, one of those dark-wood clad rooms that exude history and heritage at Ibrox, he did so with a certain demeanour. He arrived in Glasgow with the air of a man who believed himself, with good reason, to be above the madness of the Scottish game he was joining. He was the adult in the room.
No longer, though. Not even a full season later, Gerrard has been worn down by the same things that have worn down so many before him.
The Rangers boss has spent as much time talking about referees, conspiracies and opposition team tactics as he has his own side in recent weeks and months. Gerrard no longer has that air of being the adult in the room.
This Sunday’s trip to face Celtic in the Old Firm Derby could further accentuate the issues Gerrard is facing. As a rookie coach, the Rangers manager has been afforded as much leeway as a Rangers manager could ever expect to be afforded, but questions against Gerrard are growing more pressing, more acute.
It all started so well. Gerrard made an almost instant impact at Rangers, leading the club through Europa League qualification and to the group stage of a competition they hadn’t reached in seven years. Under the former England and Liverpool midfielder, the Ibrox side became a strong defensive unit, perhaps not exhilarating to watch, but certainly tough to beat.
When the bells rang at midnight on January 31, Rangers found themselves level on points with Celtic at the top of the Scottish Premiership table.
Brendan Rodgers’ side still held a game in hand over their fiercest rivals, but most expected the title race to go the distance. Just a few weeks later, though, and it was as good as over.
With just eight games of the Scottish Premiership season left, Rangers are a massive 10 points off Celtic’s pace.
Gerrard’s side are closer to Aberdeen, who they crashed out of both the League Cup and the Scottish Cup to, in third place than they are to the Hoops at the top of the table.
Rangers’ season is over and if it isn’t, things could get much worse for Gerrard.
He has been backed in the transfer market like no other Rangers manager in over a decade and yet Gerrard still, even after being signed Steven Davis and Jermain Defoe in the January window, wants more “marquee” signings. Given the sense that Gerrard has so far failed to get the best out of his squad, such remarks reek of desperation.
Gerrard, as a coach, still has some growing to do. Some players, like Alfredo Morelos and James Tavernier have thrived under his stewardship, but others, like Jon Flanagan and Kyle Lafferty, haven’t.
The former England captain has struggled all season to change games from the touchline, with an over-reliance on Morelos exposed in the numerous instances of the Colombian’s suspension.
As things stand, Gerrard has just about achieved his objectives for the season, with Rangers still set to finish second and close the gap on Celtic at the top of the Scottish Premiership.
However, Rangers are seemingly losing momentum as they round the last corner and into the final stretch of the season.
Gerrard mustn’t allow that downward trajectory to continue any further.
There’s no way Gerrard will be sacked before the end of the season, even if Rangers suffer a heavy defeat, as has become common in recent Old Firm derbies, this Sunday and slump to a disappointing league finish. However, what happens between now and the end of May could set the tone for Gerrard’s second season at Rangers.
Small spirals have a habit of turning into larger ones, especially in Scottish football.