Gerrard looks back in bid to take Rangers forward
Steven Gerrard believes he will never have an easier team-talk to give than his first as he gears up for his opening match in charge of Rangers.
The Ibrox side suffered humiliation 12 months ago when they crashed out of the Europa League to Luxembourg no-hopers Progres Niederkorn.
But former England and Liverpool skipper Gerrard says the painful memories of that upset should ensure his men are fired up for the task as they kick-off this year’s competition against FK Shkupi.
Speaking on the eve of his first match as a first-team boss, the 38-year-old said: ‘It’s always a test in these rounds.
‘We only have to go back 12 months to realise any opposition has to be respected. We have to take the test very seriously.
‘But it’s about us getting our own house in order, being organised and ready to compete against whoever we come up against.
‘We’re moving forward very quickly and taking giant strides and we’re close to where I want the side to be, so I believe we’re ready for tomorrow.
‘My job is to make sure we’re well aware of the pitfalls . This will probably be one of the easiest team-talks I’ll ever have to do as a manager because we only have to go back 12 months and show them the newspaper cuttings, show them their faces at the end of the second leg.
‘There’s your team-talk right there. It smacks you in the face. If you’re not ready to put that right then we’ve got a serious problem there.’
Rangers will again be overwhelming favourites to see off their Macedonian rivals as they look to book a date against Croatia’sNK Osijek in the second qualifying round.
But Gerrard is wary of the complacency which saw Pedro Caixinha’s Gers fall flat on their faces last term and warned his squad against looking past their opening clash.
He said: ‘Tomorrow is all about attitude. If these players go in thinking it’s easy that’s when we’ll come unstuck.
‘What you’ve got to understand is the opposition are coming into a stadium that is packed to the rafters. This is the biggest night of their careers with all due respect.
‘It’s going to be a huge cup final mentality for them so we can’t have any drop-off.
‘Over the last couple of years and certainly at the moment, this team hasn’t been good enough to take our foot off the gas, so we need to go full throttle.’
Meanwhile, Gerrard has confirmed he is still on the hunt for extra cover at the back after confirming Bruno Alves is on his way out of Ibrox.
The Portugal international has agreed to tear up the final 12 months of his deal after clinching a move to Parma.
Rangers have submitted a 3million bid for Millwall centre-back Jake Cooper and the boss admits strengthening the centre of his defence is his top priority.
‘Bruno’s contract is being terminated mutually,’ said Gerrard. ‘That’s happening today I believe so both parties are really happy and we both move on.
‘He’s about to be unveiled at Parma and we wish him all the best.
‘Yes, there are areas I’d still like to improve – central defender. With Bruno leaving we need extra cover there.’