Steven Gerrard's Rangers started the new Scottish Premier League season with a 1-0 victory over Aberdeen on Saturday, and while it has been a decade since the side were last crowned champions of Scotland, the drive to succeed this season is fuelled by their rivals.
Celtic made it nine consecutive league titles with their success last season, and manager Neil Lennon heads into this new campaign looking to make history by leading Celtic to becoming the first club to claim ten straight Scottish championships.
The history makers
It was under the management of Walter Smith that Rangers last won the Scottish title back in 2010/11. Their subsequent fall from grace and journey back to the top-flight will make the next title all the more significant, and preventing their city rivals from achieving a tenth title in the process would be be particularly poignant.
It was back in 1974/75 that Rangers last denied Celtic a tenth consecutive title success, while revenge was served in 1997/98 when Celtic did the same to prevent Rangers from achieving the same feat. They are two of the most significant title wins in the respective history of each club.
The desire to become the first club to win ten straight titles is as strong as the determination to not let their rivals succeed in doing so. One of the most intense and historic rivalries in the history of the world game, this fixture does not require extra ammunition, but there is an extra edge when this particular situation arises.
History didn't repeat itself for Steven Gerrard on Saturday. His first game as Rangers manager also took place at Pittodrie on the opening day of the 2018/19 season, and while his side went one goal ahead, Aberdeen equalised in stoppage time. Two years later, a solitary goal from Ryan Kent was enough for victory.
When Sir Alex Ferguson ruled Scotland
Sir Alex Ferguson was the last manager to take the Scottish league title outside of Glasgow as he guided his talented Aberdeen side to glory with back-to-back titles in 1983/84 and 1984/85. Since then, the trophy has been shared between Rangers and Celtic, with the blue half of city leading 54 to 51 in total.
Striker Alfredo Morales has scored 30 goals for Rangers during the two seasons that Steven Gerrard has been in charge at Ibrox, but the future of the Colombian remains very much in the balance. Changing room unrest is an issue that the manager will be desperate to avoid this season in particular, and he will need all his players pulling in the same direction.
However, the fee for Alfredo Morales would enable Rangers to strengthen their squad in the summer transfer window, and bringing this matter to a close one way or the other will be a priority for Steven Gerrard as he prepares to go head-to-head with Celtic for the title. Morales is proven at this level, but he is not irreplaceable either.
A Liverpool legend, there is no doubt that Steven Gerrard can turn to his former club for support should he need to boost his squad. Anfield youngsters like Harry Wilson, Rhian Brewster, Ben Woodburn, Harvey Elliott, Sheyi Ojo and Curtis Jones will all be on the radar of the manager, and all are capable of making a positive impression north of the border.
But the real deciding factor will be on the performance of Celtic this season. The current dominant force in the Scottish game, Neil Lennon has returned for a second spell as manager and knows what it takes to lead the club to success. Rangers will only upset the league title holders if they become complacent.
However, Neil Lennon and Celtic understand the importance of claiming a tenth title in the same way that Steven Gerrard and Rangers appreciate the importance of not allowing it to happen. There can only be one winner, and while the rest of the league are nothing more than a support act, this is set to be one of the most intense campaigns for a number of years.
Steven Gerrard is a legend as a player, but his managerial career remains in its infancy. Eventually, it is inevitable that he will return to Liverpool as manager one day, but it is a position he will want to earn on coaching merit rather than through the strength of his name within the corridors of power at Anfield.
Steven Gerrard and league title vindication
As a player, Steven Gerrard never won a league title, with his regrettable slip against Chelsea in April 2014 being a crucial moment in preventing him from captaining his team to English Premier League glory under Brendan Rodgers that season. The club finally lifted the trophy last month, but former captain Steven Gerrard had long departed.
To lift the Scottish title with Rangers this season, and with it deny Celtic a tenth consecutive triumph, would be a significant achievement for Steven Gerrard.
It would vindicate his status as a manager, and his desire to succeed will ensure that his determination to deliver at Ibrox will not waver, regardless of the size of the challenge ahead.Published 01 Aug 2020, 20:41 IST