Steven Gerrard: What next for Rangers and their boss after Scottish Premiership title win?

Rangers were confirmed as Scottish Premiership champions after Celtic failed to win away to Dundee United on Sunday; Steven Gerrard's side remain unbeaten in the league this season with six games remaining


Rangers brought an end to a decade of despair at the weekend as Steven Gerrard's side secured their 55th top-flight Scottish title - but where do Rangers and their boss go next?

Since their demotion to the third division in 2012, it has been a long and, at most times, arduous return to the top of Scottish football for Rangers and their supporters.

However, in the midst of an undefeated league campaign so far following two false starts since his appointment in 2018, Gerrard has delivered what Rangers fans have been waiting for, stopping Celtic winning 10-in-a-row in the process.

Steven Gerrard and the Rangers players celebrate their title win at the club's training ground after the team were crowned champions of Scotland

But what comes next? Delicate contract talks, potential big-name sales and getting it right in domestic cups will all be part of Gerrard's and Rangers' thinking now.

Here, Sky Sports News looks at what new challenges may immediately present themselves, what needs to be done over the summer and what fans can expect from the title-winning manager and his Rangers team as they now aim to stay at the top of Scottish football.

Improving in domestic cup competitions

Failure in both the League and Scottish Cup competitions in Gerrard's first two seasons were major points of criticism for the Rangers manager. Defeats to Aberdeen in both tournaments in year one was followed by a League Cup final loss to Celtic which served only to galvanise his side after they deserved more from the day.

However, defeat to Hearts in the Scottish Cup quarter-final at Tynecastle in February left Gerrard scratching his head and looking for answers that did not appear to be forthcoming as Rangers' season cracked before the coronavirus curtailment.

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Only his side's league and European form kept the noise at a minimum following a shock 3-2 defeat to St Mirren in the Betfred Cup in December this time around. Celtic had already been knocked out and Rangers were expected to take advantage but the Paisley side deserved to progress after an injury-time winner.

Rangers Gerrard

Title celebrations will mean all that is forgotten for now but Rangers' Scottish Cup campaign is set to get started in April and supporters will be keen to see previous disappointments atoned for.

Gerrard is expected to provide those fans with memorable days out at Hampden as well as title wins and forays deep into Europe. Silverware at the national stadium is a logical next step for the club and their manager.

Contract renewals?

Goldson Rangers

James Tavernier and Connor Goldson have been standout performers for Steven Gerrard since his arrival at the club. Their levels raised again this year. Gerrard depends on his captain and vice-captain like few others in his squad.

Goldson's level of consistency since moving to Glasgow from Brighton has been astounding considering he feared he may have to retire after needing to undergo open-heart surgery in February 2017.

He has played in every minute of Rangers' campaign so far this season, becoming the quickest player to reach 150 competitive appearances for the club in just 965 days in the process in his side's 1-0 win over Livingston last week.

He has made 45 appearances this season, scoring eight goals, and has been the bedrock of a defence which has conceded just nine league goals and kept 24 clean sheets.

Tavernier has scored 11 league goals and provided nine assists from right-back. He has been the very definition of a modern full-back since arriving at the club under Mark Warburton. The Rangers skipper is expected to be among those at the front of the queue when the individual accolades are handed out at the end of the season.

Both are entering the final year of their contracts this summer - Tavernier will turn 30 in October, Goldson 29 in December.

The emergence of Nathan Patterson as back-up to Tavernier has no doubt eased any long-term concerns Rangers may have had over that position but he could still do with more time learning from his captain, while the thought of a Rangers central defensive pairing without Goldson seems strange now.

Rangers manager Steven Gerrard and captain James Tavernier celebrate
Image: Rangers manager Steven Gerrard and captain James Tavernier celebrate

Tavernier, in particular, has been linked with a move back to the Premier League in the past but he always said he had unfinished business at Rangers. Does that include potentially leading his side out at Ibrox in the Champions League?

Players entering the last year of their contracts always provide food for thought for club officials but the idea of any uncertainty over the future of two of Gerrard's main men lingering past the summer will not be one anyone wishes to contemplate.

What about Allan McGregor, Steven Davis and Jermain Defoe?

Allan McGregor was in inspired form for Rangers to preserve a clean sheet
Image: Allan McGregor has been in inspired form for Rangers

The elder statesmen of the squad have all played significant roles in the team's success this season.

Both McGregor and Davis returned to the club under Gerrard as seasoned professionals who had already won plenty of titles in Scotland before playing in the Premier League.

That experience has been vital this season, their influence branching out through the whole squad. But their individual performances on the pitch have belied their years. Davis may have dropped a little deeper but still has just as much impact on games at home and in Europe at the age of 36.

Gerrard revealed in January that he was keen to see the Northern Ireland captain remain at the club past this summer.

"He's extremely important both on and off the pitch. He sets standards that we try and match on a daily basis. The level he's playing at, his consistency, his hunger for the game is still there. He's a top professional so a lot of people look up to him and follow what he does. For me, it's an absolute must that he's here beyond this season," he said.

GLASGOW, SCOTLAND - MARCH 06: Rangers fans greet the arrival of their players and manager pre match during a Scottish Premiership match between Rangers and St Mirren at Ibrox Stadium, on March 06, 2021, in Glasgow, Scotland. (Photo by Craig Williamson / SNS Group)
Image: Rangers fans greet the arrival of their players and manager pre match against St Mirren

McGregor turned 39 in January but there has been little from him to suggest that it might be time to hang up the gloves. A world-class save against Celtic on January 2 has been followed up by terrific displays in the league and in Europe.

Jon McLaughlin has proven a very able deputy for McGregor this season, keeping eight clean sheets in nine league matches, but will turn 34 in September and Robby McCrorie has struggled for game time on loan at Livingston. It is a position Rangers may have to start thinking about for the long term but Gerrard has no desire to see McGregor leave just yet.

"We all know his age, we all know his situation and in the coming weeks I will be sitting down with Allan and having a real good conversation to see what is next for him," Gerrard said in February. "He will be a major factor in what happens moving forward. We will respect him. He knows his body, he knows where he's at, he knows where his hunger levels are.

"He knows how he wants the short, medium and long term to look. He's at that age now where he will be doing a lot of thinking about what's next. In my position, I hope that's to still work with Allan moving forward.

"But I don't know how the next weeks and months are going to shape his future. But we will be very respectful. We will listen to him and make a decision together on the back of that."

Rangers do have to prepare for life after McGregor and Davis at some point but the idea of losing them both in the same summer will be unthinkable for many at the club.

Defoe's future is probably more uncertain. His impact on the training ground has been praised by Gerrard and his fellow players, especially youth members training with the first-team squad.

Jermain Defoe celebrates winning the league at Auchenhowie as Rangers are crowned champions of Scotland
Image: Jermain Defoe celebrates winning the league at Auchenhowie

Injury has limited his game time this season, while Gerrard made the decision to leave him out of the Europa League squad but the 38-year-old has still managed four goals in 14 appearances this term, including a brilliant first-time strike against Livingston in October.

But Rangers may look to strengthen their forward line again for a tilt at the Champions League group stages and Defoe may decide to look elsewhere for more game time in a bid to carry on playing.

Big-name sales?

Rangers' Borna Barisic (R) and Glen Kamara
Image: Rangers' Borna Barisic and Glen Kamara have impressed

A number of Gerrard's squad have been linked with moves away over the past 18 months, particularly as the club continued to rebuild their reputation on the European stage.

Glen Kamara and Borna Barisic have excelled in Europe and will both be monitored closely by others this summer when Finland and Croatia compete at the European Championships.

The 28-year-old Barisic was linked with moves to Serie A and the Premier League last summer, leading Gerrard to insist that he was not for sale, adding: "If someone did come, they would have to bring an awful lot of money with them".

A stellar summer tournament would surely see that interest revived but the club would be keen to keep a player who has offered so much to the team's style of play.

Likewise Kamara, signed for £50,000 from Dundee, has developed rapidly under Gerrard and his coaching staff. Gerrard is keen to tie him down to a new contract. But big performances against the likes of Benfica in the Europa League led to talk of a move abroad which would only be intensified should he continue to impress at Euro 2020.

This would present Gerrard with a conundrum. Kamara's midfield partner Davis is 36, and, while the manager is keen for him to stay next season, it is in the club's best interests to plan for the future. Ryan Jack has struggled recently to register a consistent run of games, with Gerrard admitting he will need to be managed due to injury concerns.

The club have already secured the signing of Nnamdi Ofoborh on a pre-contract from Bournemouth but sporting director Ross Wilson and Gerrard may feel it important to assess midfield targets again come the summer to prepare for another big season packed with fixtures.

Alfredo Morelos celebrates winning the league at Auchenhowie as Rangers are crowned Champions of Scotland
Image: Alfredo Morelos celebrates winning the league at Auchenhowie as Rangers are crowned champions of Scotland

Up front Ryan Kent was the subject of a bid from Leeds last summer and has enjoyed a productive season under Gerrard's tutelage - he may attract more interest on the back of an impressive domestic campaign and eye-catching performances in Europe.

Then there is Alfredo Morelos - seemingly on the verge of leaving the club for the past two summer windows. Rangers rejected a £16m bid from Lille last time around and it seemed to take the Colombian a while to settle following a summer of speculation but he has found a rich vein of form since the turn of the year.

Will he be so keen to look abroad again with the prospect of Champions League football on the horizon?

Can Rangers impress in the Champions League?

Ally McCoist and Steven Gerrard embrace during a match in the Europa League 2:20
Ally McCoist says Steven Gerrard has restored Rangers' style and belief

The sound of the Champions League anthem has not been heard in Govan for nearly a decade - Gerrard will be desperate to lead his team out against the best in Europe.

They have impressed in the Europa League over the past three seasons. Reaching the group stages in Gerrard's first campaign was an achievement in itself given their continental standing when he took over but the club have now reached the last-16 on two occasions. This term they are still unbeaten, topping a group which contained Benfica. They will meet Slavia Prague in their last-16 first-leg tie on Thursday.

The Champions League group stages are the next step - but first Rangers must navigate a third-round qualifier and a play-off tie. Reaching that stage would secure an important financial boost for the club.

Kemar Roofe celebrates making it 2-0 during the UEFA Europa League match between Standard Liege and Rangers
Image: Kemar Roofe celebrates making it 2-0 during the UEFA Europa League match between Standard Liege and Rangers

Rangers' run on the continent over the past three years has helped the club financially. Board members recognise that the books still need to be balanced either by their buy low-sell high player transfer model or European prize money. Investors continue to back the club but Rangers are looking to move away from that going forward.

A guarantee of around £30m for a Champions League group stage appearance would go a long way to keeping a host of stars while easing short and long term dependency on investors, especially amid the fallout of a global pandemic and empty stadiums.

Give youth a chance?

Nathan Patterson celebrates after scoring to make it 2-1 Rangers vs Royal Antwerp
Image: Nathan Patterson celebrates after scoring to make it 2-1 for Rangers vs Royal Antwerp

Much has been made in Scotland of the progress of Rangers' development teams in recent years, which has seen the youngsters win overseas tournaments, including the Alkass Cup.

A modern youth setup is in place at Auchenhowie, with Billy Gilmour's move to Chelsea in 2017 a sign of the talent in the Rangers academy.

Nathan Patterson made the step up to first-team football this season and, despite his covid lockdown indiscretion, has enjoyed playing time recently due to Tavernier's injury and has impressed domestically and in Europe.

He recently signed a new contract, as did Kai Kennedy and Leon King, two more very highly-rated youngsters who had been linked with the likes of Manchester City and Bayern Munich. Despite having only just turned 17 in January, King has been integrated into the first-team picture this season, making his debut in the Betfred Cup against Falkirk in November.

Stephen Kelly may also be ready to push for more playing time under Gerrard next season. The 20-year-old midfielder spent time at Ayr in the Championship last term and has made 24 appearances for Ross County in the top flight this season, impressing boss John Hughes.

"He has a massive career in front of him. He is a lovely kid and he trains so well, I can't get him off the training pitch. He is in the indoor hall when we are finished; he is always the last one out," he told the Press and Journal.

Leon King made his debut for Rangers in November
Image: Leon King made his debut for Rangers in November

"He is pinging balls with both feet, he works on his free-kicks. Stephen tries to get other guys involved as well, to try and improve himself. You have to just stand back and admire that. It shows in his game the way he passes the ball, his technique of passing. Everyone thinks these things just happen but trust me that's not the case."

Kennedy has impressed in loan spells at Inverness Caledonian Thistle and Raith Rovers and may push for a stay at Ibrox next term although Gerrard and the club could decide it is best for him and King to get temporary moves elsewhere for regular starts.

Others, including Ciaran Dickson and Josh McPake, have also enjoyed some playing time under Gerrard, who may feel more comfortable relying on youth in certain instances now that the pressure of chasing down Celtic has been eased.

Meet the Celtic challenge

GLASGOW, SCOTLAND - JANUARY 02: Rangers' Connor Goldson (left) holds off Celtic's Odsonne Edouard during a Scottish Premiership match between Rangers and Celtic at Ibrox Stadium, on January 02, 2021, in Glasgow, Scotland (Photo by Craig Williamson / SNS Group)
Image: Rangers' Connor Goldson (left) holds off Celtic's Odsonne Edouard

Rangers' title win cannot and should not be put down to Celtic's faltering campaign, but there is no denying the Parkhead side dropped points this term where they have previously looked infallible.

Defeats to Ross County in league and cup, as well as a home loss to St Mirren for the first time since 1990 helped to put the brakes on their quest for 10-in-a-row, which ultimately saw Neil Lennon leave the club in February.

Perhaps even more striking was the announcement that Peter Lawwell, who has been CEO of Celtic since 2003, will be retiring at the end of the season, to be replaced by Dominic McKay from the Scottish Rugby Union.

It will signal a summer of change at Celtic after Lawwell had overseen nearly a decade of dominance in Scotland.

Changes are not only expected at the top of the club and in the dugout, but on the pitch as well with the likes of Odsonne Edouard, Kristoffer Ajer and Ryan Christie all linked with moves away.

Rangers fans celebrate outside of the Ibrox Stadium after Rangers win the Scottish Premiership title. Picture date: Sunday March 7, 2021. 0:52
Former Rangers midfielder Stuart McCall says the loyal support of the club's fans as they worked their way back through the divisions has been crucial to their title success

The club are also yet to make an announcement on the future of captain Scott Brown, whose contract expires in the summer.

Rangers should expect a renewed challenge from a wounded Celtic, but it remains to be seen how many members of a squad which enjoyed so much success will remain to take part.

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