IT didn’t take long after the final whistle had blown at the end of the 0-0 draw with Aberdeen at Ibrox on Saturday for those Rangers supporters who had booed the players off the park to direct their ire towards the manager Steven Gerrard.

He has to be held accountable. He takes too long to make substitutions. Why is he playing him? He hasn’t figured out how to break down a 10 man defence. He makes baffling decisions. He’s too cautious. He isn’t learning from his mistakes. He lacks the necessary experience for the job. Why isn’t he playing him? Social media websites and internet message boards rapidly went into meltdown.

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That two of his most consistent performers and important players, Ryan Jack and James Tavernier, were both missing once again from his side at the weekend was ignored. That Alfredo Morelos, who was starting his first game in over a month, was clearly nowhere near his best and squandered two gilt-edged chances was entirely overlooked.

When your team has dropped five points in the space of seven days and handed your greatest and hated foes a significant, possibly insurmountable, edge in the title race, sympathy and understanding tend to be in very short supply.

Gerrard did have some backers who called for patience and an appreciation of the bigger picture. There were those who insisted that definite progress has been made. The rousing Old Firm win at Parkhead last month and an impressive European campaign did receive honourable mentions.


However, with Celtic bidding to win the league for a record-equalling ninth consecutive occasion this season domestic success is what really matters to the Liverpool great if he is to survive. Reaching the Europa League last 32 is a significant achievement which has been well received. But it will not spare him the inevitable fate of those in his profession if he finishes this term trophyless.

It is, given that it is his first managerial role, given the mess he inherited when he took over, given that he has far smaller transfer budget and wage bill than the team he has to topple, a harsh environment for him to operate in. But Gerrard fully appreciates the reality of his situation. “If I don’t win the next three or four things that are available maybe I won’t be here,” he said last season. “I’m aware of that.”

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Will victory in the William Hill Scottish Cup be enough for him to be kept on if he comes up short in the Ladbrokes Premiership – and Gerrard is rightly refusing to accept, with two games against Celtic still to be played, that his team is out of the hunt – once again this season? Very possibly. That could deny Celtic a fourth straight treble.


The Rangers board, who are far more cognisant of the challenges the Englishman faces than their followers, knew when they appointed him that he would require some time to adapt to the considerable demands of the position and mature as a coach. They could be sorely tempted to persevere. But a cup exit or final defeat, to their city rivals especially, would make it very hard, if not impossible, for them to stand by their man.

The return of Tavernier, who was on the bench on Saturday, will doubtless help Gerrard to haul his team out of their dip in form. The right back’s powerful runs up the flank and crosses into opposition boxes have been badly missed this year. The fact they have been the better team than Celtic in five of their last six encounters, even though they have won only three of them, will also give him hope.

But the margin between triumph and disaster is infinitesimal and any repeat of the Hearts or Aberdeen displays and results in the weeks ahead will increase the pressure from the stands on the man in the Rangers dugout considerably and edge him closer to the Ibrox exit door.

Derek McInnes, who will celebrate his seventh anniversary as Aberdeen manager at the end of next month, has endured some difficult spells during his tenure at Pittodrie. He has, as his longevity in one of the most demanding jobs in Scottish football testifies, come through them all. Is he about to do the same thing yet again?

Those fans who had demanded he be sacked at the end of the goalless draw against St Mirren in Paisley eight days ago gave his players a standing ovation after their match against Rangers at Ibrox at the weekend had finished in an identical scoreline. It was quite a turnaround.


Picking up a point in Govan moved his side to within three points of third-placed Motherwell, who were beaten by Livingston away, in the table. If they continue to perform as well they did at the weekend they will fancy their chances of leapfrogging the Fir Park club.

The players who McInnes brought in during the January transfer window have made their presence felt quickly. Dylan McGeouch brings much-needed bite and creativity in midfield. Matty Kennedy is pacey and industrious out wide. Aberdeen were quite unrecognisable from the team that slumped to a 5-0 thrashing at the hands of the same opponents at the same venue back in September.

Meanwhile, Ronald Hernandez, the Venezuelan right back who was on the bench against Rangers, is an intriguing acquisition. The future, despite the unrest among the support, suddenly looks far brighter for Derek McInnes.