Craig Levein and Neil Lennon have welcomed Steven Gerrard to Scotland with a mix of excitement, intrigue and scepticism.
The Hearts and Hibs managers are keen to see how Rangers fare after appointing the former Liverpool captain on a four-year contract.
Levein believes Gerrard’s arrival is a huge coup for Scottish football, although Lennon pointed out the risk factor for both Rangers and the new man.
“I think it’s hugely exciting,” said Levein. “I don’t know Steven but I know Gary Mac [McAllister, Gerrard’s assistant at Rangers]. He’s a lovely guy with a wealth of knowledge and it brings gravitas to the Scottish game.
“We had Brendan Rodgers joining us, who had been at Liverpool and was one game away almost from winning the Premier League title. That brought a lot of excitement and he’s done exceptionally well. It’s a different case with Stevie, he’s a fresh young manager who’s starting out in the game and taking on a big role.”
Levein compared Gerrard’s appointment to that of Graeme Souness at Ibrox in 1986. “When Souness arrived it was a blow for everybody else because they started to blow everybody out of the water financially and we all suffered trying to keep up. It’s maybe similar. It’s a hugely significant thing for a player of Stevie’s stature to cut his teeth with his first managerial job in Scotland. I think it’s great for everybody in Scotland.”
Might it help other Scottish clubs attract players? “I don’t think it can harm us. It’s a positive story and whatever the spins off are from that, then great. I wish him all the best but not when he’s playing us,” added Levein.
Trying to close the gap on rivals Celtic will be one of the most daunting tasks of Gerrard’s football career.
“I think the quality of the managers in the league is high,” said Levein. “Derek McInnes stayed when he had chance to go to Sunderland and that was positive that he was sought after. Brendan has had suitors in the last wee while, the quality of managers is pretty good. It’s a fantastic job to take for your first job but I tell you what, it’s a toughie.”
Hibs manager Lennon feels Gerrard is taking a gamble. Likewise Rangers by appointing an inexperienced manager.
“I think it’s a risk for him in his first job,” he commented. “And it would be a risk for Rangers as well. It might be a calculated one. They tried a guy from outside Scottish football in Pedro Caixinha, then they tried a guy with no managerial experience – and now they’re looking to do that again. It’s laced with a lot of risk. All right, he’s a big name – and he may come in and do very, very well. Steve will have to consider what the outcome is for him as well. Is it the first step on where he wants to go in his managerial career? I don’t know. But will it be a progressive step?
“I think it’s a good time to go into Rangers. Any manager with decent experience could turn it around very quickly. But it’s fraught with a lot of risks, not just in the game but outside the game as well.”
Lennon managed Celtic for four years after playing and coaching there for a year – a grounding he regards as critical. “Steven is different. He’s coming from the outside. If he is as good a manager as he was a player, we are all knackered. Forget it, you know? But it would take some doing to be as good as he was as a player.
“If the remit is to finish second next season, with the budget and the support that they’ve had this season, that’s fair. They should have been out of sight in second this season, with the money they’ve been able to spend in comparison to ourselves and Aberdeen.
“So I don’t think it’s that insurmountable in that aspect. But there is a lot of work to be done.”