Steven Gerrard’s comments about Newcastle have only given impetus to his potential exit back to the Premier League
When the prospect of becoming the next Newcastle manager was put to Brendan Rodgers last week, he offered absolutely no scope for anyone to read between the lines.
He pointed out that he had a contract with Leicester until 2025, loved the job, considered himself fortunate to be in it and was 100-per-cent committed. Completely unambiguous.
His comments were so strong, in fact, that his name immediately fell out of every bookmaker’s shortlist. Everyone now knows he’s a non-runner in the race to replace Steve Bruce once the axe inevitably falls.
Compare and contrast that with Steven Gerrard’s response to the same question: all that talk about him taking a ‘keen interest’ in events at St James’ Park and how the Geordie fans ‘deserved a break’.
It wasn’t exactly a manager distancing himself from a job, was it? It was certainly an awful long way from the kind of solid commitment Rodgers gave to Leicester.
All Gerrard had to say was he had absolutely no interest in the Newcastle job and that his only concern was improving Rangers and winning more trophies.
That he did not speaks volumes for me. He had the chance to put an end to the mounting speculation and refused to take it.
Newcastle’s new Saudi-backed owners are eyeing an imminent move for Rangers boss Gerrard
Let’s not forget this also came on the back of publicly expressing his dismay at being unable to spend serious money in the past two transfer windows.
He knows exactly how his comments will be viewed. Whether Newcastle are interested in him is one thing. But there’s no doubt in my mind that he’s interested in Newcastle.
Gerrard’s ideal scenario would be moving from Rangers to Liverpool as Jurgen Klopp’s successor.
The problem for him is that Klopp’s contract doesn’t expire until 2024 and there is nothing to suggest he will leave sooner.
Gerrard’s already been in Glasgow for three seasons and he would need to do another three to take him up to that date.
I’m just not convinced that he fancies sticking around that long — and is now resigned to managing somewhere else in the interim.
In that case, he would actually be no different from any player moving from Scotland. Very rarely do they go straight from one of our clubs to the likes of Liverpool. Usually a stepping stone like Southampton is needed.
Jurgen Klopp remains firmly in place at Liverpool, blocking Gerrard’s path there
An Anfield legend or not, that’s what Gerrard may have to do if he’s to have any chance of eventually succeeding Klopp.
Listen, you can’t fault anyone for having personal ambitions but there’s now a danger this could adversely affect Rangers.
Uncertainty is a major problem for any club. As a player, seeing comments like the ones Gerrard made the other day, you conclude that sooner or later your manager is away. Believe me, the nagging feeling that your boss might have half an eye on another club doesn’t help your mindset come a Saturday.
There’s definitely something going on in the background. Rangers have no excuses at this point. There has been no mass exodus of players. The speculation surrounding Alfredo Morelos and Ryan Kent has gone away.
They should be playing free-flowing football and be confident in themselves but it’s not quite adding up on the park in the way it did last season.
Uncertainty over Gerrard’s future will inevitably have an effect on Rangers players
They’ve now dropped points in three league games, have been dumped out of the Champions League and haven’t yet got a point on the board in the Europa League.
Ongoing speculation surrounding their manager is not going to help them. The issue of fans returning to stadiums and how it has affected them is also a live issue.
There should be nothing better than playing in front of supporters but the evidence tells you Rangers were a better team without supporters there.
Neil Lennon used to tell us to feed off the crowd — not to play to it. You do begin to wonder if there’s something psychological at play at Ibrox. Top of the league they may still be, but they haven’t been on the top of their form since the first whistle this season.
Allan McGregor’s clanger at the end of the game on Saturday has let Celtic back into the title race and unquestionably has given Hearts belief they can maintain the pace.
For Robbie Neilson’s side to be unbeaten after this number of games is simply outstanding.
I remember last season hearing a caller to a radio station demanding that the manager be sacked after a bad result even though they were top of the league. Talk about an overreaction.
They’ve now beaten Celtic at home and drawn at Ibrox yet the fact they haven’t lost in their seven other games is just as impressive.
The crucial thing will be keeping their defensive unit together.
They’ve only conceded six goals to this point — that’s one fewer than Rangers. That owes so much to Craig Gordon.
Maintaining this over 38 games is a huge challenge but they’ll take huge confidence from the fact neither Celtic nor Rangers have been firing on all cylinders.
Can they split the big two or even do the impossible and do what Leicester did in 2016 by winning the league? You can bet your last penny that Neilson will spend every waking hour convincing them they can.
Competitive top flight is reason to be cheerful
When Rangers were working their way back up the leagues, comedian Kevin Bridges joked that what was once a two-horse race had turned into showjumping.
There’s every chance this season’s title fight will eventually revert to Celtic and Rangers fighting it out on the home straight but, for the time being, we have a league worthy of the name. And it’s so refreshing.
Celtic are still in a transitional period. Back-to-back away wins for Ange Postecoglou is a good sign but they are a long way from being the finished product.
Rangers have dropped off after their outstanding domestic form last season. There’s a vulnerability about Steven Gerrard’s side which wasn’t there last season.
Hearts are second top and still unbeaten after their draw at Ibrox. There’s a steeliness and a determination to Robbie Neilson’s side, which tells me they are not going away.
Hearts’ draw at Ibrox ensures that they remain unbeaten and looking very impressive
Hibs lost to Dundee United on Saturday but they are still in and around it. When they are on it, they are a threat to anyone.
United themselves are now delivering big results under Thomas Courts. To be sitting third at this point is remarkable.
Motherwell put a good run together and are capable of doing so again. The same applies to St Johnstone.
St Mirren are six unbeaten and have won three games on the spin. Given how tight the league is, that’s an outstanding run of form.
Of the major sides, Aberdeen are the only ones who’ve really struggled.
Even Ross County, who are bottom of the table, have shown a fight and determination which suggests they are not going to roll over.
I watched Watford lose 5-0 to Liverpool the other day and there was nothing in that display to encourage the home fans. County have much more about them.
There are only eight points now separating the top seven. Anyone successfully predicting the outcome of the six games each week on their coupon is doing extremely well. No manager will feel they can rest players.
Competition is the essence of all good leagues. It draws the neutrals in. It attracts TV companies, viewers and sponsors.
Fans of the big clubs won’t like it as things aren’t going their way, but you can’t deny it’s good for business.