Steven Gerrard defends Rangers players and fans after emotional celebrations of imminent Scottish Premiership title triumph; Rangers beat St Mirren 3-0 to move 21 points clear at the summit and will be crowned champions on Sunday if Celtic fail to win at Dundee United, live on Sky Sports
Sunday 7 March 2021 14:51, UK
Steven Gerrard has called for coronavirus restrictions to be respected but conceded it was only normal for emotions to run high as Rangers closed in on a first Scottish title in a decade.
Rangers will be crowned Scottish Premiership champions for the first time since 2011 if Celtic fail to win at Dundee United on Sunday after Saturday's 3-0 victory over St Mirren at Ibrox saw the runaway league leaders open up a 21-point gap at the top of the table.
Rangers players and staff celebrated the victory at full-time with supporters who had congregated outside Ibrox before kick-off, with the group of fans drawing criticism from First Minister Nicola Sturgeon and the Scottish Government for breaching lockdown rules.
Gerrard emphasised the importance of supporter safety after the game but understood the outpouring of emotion from fans and players given the magnitude of the achievement within Rangers' reach.
"I have got to let the players enjoy this," Gerrard told Sky Sports. "It's been a journey of ups and downs, I've only been part of it for three years, but for the past 10 years these fans, ex-players, staff have been through everything. It's only normal that people want to enjoy themselves.
"The priority is that people stay safe and respect the guidelines and rules, but there is another side where you have to realise what these people have been through. I'm absolutely delighted to be in this position, now we've got to go and finish the job off.
"This is an emotional time. You've got to remember these fans are still buying season tickets, passes to RangersTV, memorabilia - they love the club, the club is their life. The players have to respect that, and you cannot turn a blind eye to or disrespect that.
"I totally understand why the players wanted to go to the corner, but at the same time the priority is the fans' safety. We want to remain humble and continue to focus on what's left this season and keep doing well, but you've got to realise that when you are inside this, it's only normal that people will get emotional."
Two quickfire first-half goals from Ryan Kent and Alfredo Morelos set Rangers on their way to a 28th league victory from 32 games this season, before Ianis Hagi put the seal on their win with their third goal in the first minute of the second period.
All eyes will be on Tannadice where Celtic must beat Dundee United to prolong the inevitable, though such a result would give Rangers the opportunity to seal the title at the home of their rivals in the Old Firm match on March 21.
However, with Rangers' Scottish Premiership ambitions all but complete, Gerrard insists his focus is on the upcoming Europa League double-header against Slavia Prague.
"We will see what happens tomorrow, it's out of our control, I can only control the future games and now I will prepare the team for Europe, where we have a big incentive to get into the last eight," he said.
"But tonight we want to let this soak and settle in, we're on a big high because we know we are 99.9 per cent there, and that is an incredible place to be in. This is a monumental achievement, what the players are about to achieve.
"We will recover tomorrow at the training base, have lunch together and I am sure the [Celtic] game will be on in the background, though we haven't planned that.
"We will see what happens, the priority now is to recover ahead of a huge game on Thursday, but it is tough to keep control of a group of players who are on cloud nine."
On Rangers' performance against St Mirren, Gerrard added: "It was a really good performance, really mature, really controlled.
"Coming into the stadium there were a lot of fans about and that can take you to an emotional place, and you can take your eye off the ball, but credit to the players, they stuck to the plan.
"We were deserved winners, had more chances to score more, but were in control from start to finish, score three wonderful goals, and thoroughly deserved our victory.
"In terms of the league at home we've been perfect. Not every performance has been perfect, but it has in terms of results. The players deserve a lot of credit for keeping their focus and trying to stay humble.
"There is still a lot to play for, the league is all but done but we will try to finish the season as strong as we can until the end, there will be no letting up. It's my job to make sure the players are ready for every game."