Steven Gerrard is going back to the old school, says Rangers legend Archie Knox as he hails new boss with club on verge of European record
- Rangers take on Spartak Moscow in the Europa League on Thursday evening
- Steven Gerrard’s men are aiming to go 11 successive European games unbeaten
- Club legend Archie Knox hailed the impact Gerrard has had since taking charge
A slice of history could be claimed by Steven Gerrard’s Rangers on Thursday evening.
Avoiding a loss to Spartak Moscow would make it 11 successive European games unbeaten in a single season, surpassing the record set by the Ibrox class of 1992/93.
Archie Knox was assistant to Walter Smith during that epic run to the brink of the Champions League final a quarter of a century ago. And, while the current Rangers side may be locked in the more modest confines of a Europa League group, the 71-year-old coaching legend has plentiful admiration for how Gerrard has tackled his own continental challenge.
Steven Gerrard is on the brink of Rangers history in Europe ahead of Spartak Moscow’s visit
If his side can avoid defeat, they will hit 11 successive games in Europe unbeaten, a club record
Indeed, Knox – who was inducted into the Scottish Football Hall of Fame on Sunday – detects a pleasingly old-school quality about aspects of the former England captain’s management.
Players are left in little doubt about the standards to which they must adhere. Those who fail are not given sugar-coated appraisals. Everyone knows where they stand.
That clear thinking has, Knox argued, helped drive Gerrard’s side through an intense, eight-game qualifying programme and their subsequent positive results against Villarreal and Rapid Vienna.
‘I know Steven Gerrard doesn’t have managerial experience but he has so much football experience,’ insisted Knox.
‘He captained Liverpool, won over 100 caps for England and captained them as well, so I think everyone will have been in awe of him.
‘His approach to management will be the same as he approached playing. He will do it the same way. There will be sports science and all that stuff, but with him I think it’s the old brigade kicking in at Rangers.
In his first job as a senior No 1 boss, Gerrard has got Rangers purring in the Europa League
According to Rangers legend Archie Knox, Gerrard has brought an old school grit to the role
‘You go to training, you get on with training and if you don’t work at the level which is needed then you won’t get a game. I have seen that within Gerrard so far. It comes through loud and clear that he’s that way inclined.
‘Plus, the fact if you don’t perform – and the lad (Nikola) Katic didn’t have his best game at Hamilton on Sunday – then you’ll get taken off. He knows how to deal with players and, while he gives off a calmness, when the goals are scored he is really up for it. He has that passion.
‘Gerrard will use his own European experience in these games. He’s not scared to make changes to get the result, so they have all been bang at it so far.
‘That will keep going. A difficult bit will come when the loan players have to go back, or if he tries to recruit them, as I don’t think he’s had anyone who hasn’t really looked the part.
‘They still have some massive games, but if they win on Thursday then Rangers will have a great chance of getting through from their group.’
In truth, further European progress would be a bonus in Gerrard’s debut season. With the aim of group-stage football successfully achieved, greater focus lies on efforts within the Premiership.
Sunday’s 4-1 win over Hamilton may have been far from convincing, but it at least ticked the box of a first away league success. While a newcomer to the Old Firm environment, Gerrard will be keenly aware of his domestic priorities as the Ibrox club pursue a first major trophy since 2011.
Rangers icon Knox was himself inducted into the Scottish Football Hall of Fame this week
‘He knew that right from the word go,’ added Knox, who was also No 2 to Sir Alex Ferguson at both Aberdeen and Manchester United.
‘It was the same at Liverpool, it’s the same at Celtic. You have to win. Sometimes how you win doesn’t really matter.
‘Take the Hamilton game, for example. They equalise and for a while I thought that Hamilton might win, as Rangers have been poor away from home. But they got a win albeit the penalties were soft.
‘Nobody will remember that if they finish first, or second for that matter.’
Knox also takes encouragement from the way in which Gerrard – previously Under-18s coach at Liverpool – is looking to the future. Teenage winger Glenn Middleton has already been promoted to active first-team duty, with the Ibrox boss casting his eye over further academy prospects during training sessions.
‘In the English Premier League, and maybe to an extent up here, the manager is all about the first team,’ said Knox.
‘In older days, Alex, Walter and Jim McLean watched the youth games. A lot of that doesn’t happen now but I know for a fact that Gerrard is interested in what is coming through, what is happening at the academy and he’s been taking some of these lads into the first-team training.
‘Maybe this is because he saw how it worked at Liverpool and, of course, this is how he got his chance. If a kid shows their worth then they will get a chance. It’s all you can ask for.’
Knox spent a total of seven years by Smith’s side at Rangers, winning six titles to compete the nine-in-a-row era. In a scenario that now seems unthinkable, he abandoned Old Trafford for Ibrox in 1991 because there was more money on offer.
Gerrard’s message has clearly got through to the players, feels Knox, as they continue to thrive
But while further progress in Europe is a boost, Rangers know the league is the obvious priority
‘Alex wasn’t best pleased when I told him,’ Knox recalled. ‘But when you have a wife, two kids and a mortgage then you do what’s best for your family and that was the only reason for me quitting.
‘Nobody in their right mind would leave Manchester United, although we had a tough time of it when we first went there.
‘But if somebody’s paying you more money… talk about changed days. Then again, some players are now getting ten times what I earned in a year as their weekly wage.’
A manager with Forfar Athletic, Dundee and Scotland Under-21s, Knox had further spells as assistant with Scotland, Everton, Millwall, Coventry, Livingston, Bolton, Blackburn and Motherwell during a coaching career that spanned 37 years. That has now been recognised with his induction to the Hall of Fame at Hampden.
‘When Alex got his OBE, I asked him if he knew what it stood for. He said: “Aye, it’s the Order of the British Empire”. I told him: “Naw, it’s for Other Buggers’ Efforts”,’ laughed Knox.
‘It’s an unbelievable honour, just fantastic. It’s up there with anything I have achieved, especially as I haven’t done anything for quite some time now and you look at the people in there with hundreds of caps and having done everything in football. It’s great.’
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