Steven, welcome to Scotland. Congratulations on landing the Rangers manager’s job.
First of all, let me ask you about that amazing reception you’ve just got today from the fans.
Yeah, it was powerful. Really amazing. Got the emotions going straight away. And it was fantastic to meet them. And, you know, I’m really looking forward to walking out here in front of a full house and them getting behind me and the team and hopefully, you know, it’s the start of a very long relationship.
Feels a bit strange for me because I was talking to Steven Gerrard, the pundit, just a few weeks ago, now it’s that manager, of course. Talk me through the process when the club first got in touch with you and your initial reaction to that.
Yeah, I mean it’s been a bit of a whirlwind, if you like. I’m not sure the exact day, you know, maybe a week, eight days ago. I got a phone call off Liverpool, and Liverpool said to me, Rangers would like the opportunity to speak to you, what would you like to do? And I said, yes, I’d like to sit down and speak to them and hear what they’ve got to say. So that was the beginning of it. And then since then, you know, we’ve had lots of discussions and talks and, you know, I’m really excited to be on board as the manager and I’m really looking forward to the challenge I had.
And what did the club have to say to you? How did they persuade you?
They didn’t have to persuade me. You know, I’m well aware of the size of this football club, they’re the history and the tradition. You know, it was a fantastic opportunity for me and one that I’m really looking forward to. I’ve got confidence and belief in myself and my staff, that we can come in here and make a difference. And we want to give these supporters a team to be proud of and try and create a winning team. That’s the most important thing.
When you were discussing the move though, I’m sure you had to seek some assurances to make sure that this place was set up in the right way for you to come here. What did you ask of the board?
Lots of questions and yes, you know, I think when you, when you speak, when you talk about an opportunity, it’s very important that you feel like people share the same ambition as yourself. So yes, it’s important that I got the right support and the right people are around me and we become a team and everyone has that belief and confidence and ambition that we can go on, you know, go on a journey that’s full of fun and some good times.
What did Dave King say to you? What is his ambition? Because you said he’s matched yours.
He wants to win. He wants to bring success back to this football club. And that’s what I believe in as well. And that’s the opportunity that’s there and it’s going to be a tough challenge. You know, the challenge is big, I’m aware of that. There’s going to be a little bit of turbulence at times along the way, of course, but very much looking forward to getting my teeth into the job and, you know, really assessing the squad, the current squad. And also looking forward to sitting down with Mark and Andy and really identifying some people that we can bring in to improve us. And then we can really look forward to winning some football matches.
Right now is recruitment the most important thing?
No, I think the important thing now is to assess the current squad. So I’ll watch the remainder of the three games. I’ve also watched, you know, games this season and so I’m aware of the squad and the players. So it’s important we assess that first, see what we’ve got and then we look at areas where we think we can improve.
I guess the question everyone wants to ask, Steven, everyone wants to know, is there a lot of money for you to spend?
I don’t think that’s important. I think what’s important is that, you know, Dave King, the chairman, has ambition, the board are ambitious and also Mark Allen and Andy [inaudible 00:03:44] want to bring some good times back to this football club. You know, and I share that and that’s what we all want to achieve together. But it’s not just about how much is available and what I have at my disposal, it’s about, you know, is this football club ambitious and do they want to bring the good times back, and they do.
The board are vitally important to you, Mark Allen as well. But are you in charge of transfers, on who comes? Do you get the final say?
Yes, but at the same time it’s not just about me having the final say. What’s important is that where a team and we work together and we make decisions together. You know, it’s great to have Mark and Andy there. We can all bang our heads together and we can talk for as long as needed that we identified the right players. So it’s not just about me and I, it’s about us and we, and together we’ll try and make the best decisions for this football club.
A lot of people are saying, Steven, this is a big risk for the club, for the Rangers, but it’s also a risk for you, because you were in a good position, weren’t you, at Liverpool? That the feeling was you could stay there for a while. Maybe one day you’d be the Liverpool manager, you didn’t have to leave. Is it a big risk for you as well?
Well, in life, I’m not scared of risk. I think sometimes, you know, you’ve got to embrace a little bit of risk and you’ve got to embrace a big challenge. And that’s what I’m trying to do here. It doesn’t phase me, it doesn’t intimidate me. I’m excited. I can’t wait for it. But yeah, you know, people all have their opinions and from outside, you know, players, ex-players, journalists all have their own opinion-
You throw ones up here?
… if that’s fine, I’m fine with that. You know, I’ve had many opinions on the game myself, over the years. And that’s what football is about. My respect to the people’s opinions. But the important thing is what I feel and what I think. And I have every confidence that this can be a success.
The big goal, of course, is to catch [Celtic 00:05:38] in the end, what’s the plan to do that?
The big goal for me is create a winning team, a team that’s competitive and a team that goes out and makes the supporters proud. And when I get that, and I’m happy that I’ve got that, we’ll welcome any challenge, whether that be from Celtic, whether it be from [Aberdeen 00:05:58], [inaudible 00:05:58], anyone domestically. When we get our house in order and we get it right, we’ll embrace any challenge that people want to throw at us. And that goes for the same around Europe as well. We’re a Rangers football club, there’s going to be challenges, there’s going to be tough, tough competitors out there that want to take us down. That’s life.
You’ll feel, of course, that even next season is to close the gap at the very least, but you’ll also know you need time, don’t you? You need time in this job?
A lot of people say you don’t get time, Steven, but you need it don’t you? The gap’s big.
The plan is to win football matches. And then in terms of closing the gap and success, that’ll all look after itself. I’ve been in here for a couple of hours, it’s important that I assess the squad and we get the ball rolling in terms of how can we help these players, how can we help the squad, how can we grow, how can we improve and how can we take it forward? So I’m looking very much in the short term. I’m looking very much at the next game. How can I improve this Rangers team and get it buzzing and get a pumping and get their support behind us. That’s the challenge for me, not will I be here for three months, six months, five years, ten years, that’s not important now. The important thing is to improve what I can control.
You are up against your former manager, [Brendan Rogers 00:07:08]. Was that in your mind when you took this job? Is that a little bit of an extra incentive to be the one to try and stop them, Steven?
Not at all. Not in my thinking. You know, I’ve got respect for Brendan and really enjoyed my time under him as a player. And Brendan’s one of many managers up here in Scotland that’s going to present a challenge to myself and the team and we embrace that and we face it. And I’m [inaudible 00:07:33] up, but we can’t be concerned about what’s going on at all the different teams in Scotland. Our priority is us and we need to make sure that we’re right.
I completely understand that. But you do know his coaching methods. You’ve been in the dressing room with him. [Gary McAllister’s 00:07:46] also worked with him, as well. Against other coaches, does that give you an advantage? You know how he thinks, how he does his business.
There’s two ways of looking at it. Yeah, you know, we know stuff about certain managers in this league and certain teams and you’re trying to use that to your advantage as well. But they also know that we know that. So you’ve got to be ready for different things that are thrown upon you. You know, maybe they might try different things. So, you know, we’ll try and be ready for whatever is thrown at us.
You have been to a [inaudible 00:08:15] game this season? No doubt [inaudible 00:08:17]-
I’ve been to three.
No doubt, you’ve been watching closely the last couple as well. And lots of people were saying during the five-nil, the recent defeat, that you’d be watching on it and thinking this is not for me it’s too big a task. What were you thinking during that game?
That was quite opposite, it was quite the opposite. You know, obviously it wasn’t a good result or good performance in terms of, from a Rangers point of view, but I see loads of scope and opportunity in there to improve things, to try and get more out of the current players and the current squad and also try and look for areas where we can improve and so it was quite the opposite, actually.
Have you spoken to a lot of former managers, former players who’ve been here and done it before-
… in Glasgow? What advice did you look for? I mean Gary McAllister knows all about it, he’s worked with us before.
It was more about the feeling that I got. You know, I’ve had some opportunities since I’ve come back from America to go into [lead 00:09:11] teams, to be number two as a team, and coaching opportunities. At the time, the right one for me was to go back into the academy and get on the pitch and learn and make some mistakes away from the cameras. And you know, when I got the call off Liverpool about the opportunity to speak to the Rangers, I got a really special feeling that I wanted to explore. I’ve explored it, I’ve asked the necessary questions that I needed to ask and I’ve made my decision. I totally understand that there’s risk involved and how big the challenge is, but as I said to you before, you know, my parents brought me up as a young kid to face a challenge and [inaudible 00:09:50] head on. And if you believe you can take that challenge on, go for it.
I know Gary McAllister. I mean, I’m sure he’s desperate to come here as well. He watched Scottish football for loads of years. What’s he said to you? How big is his experience for you?
Well, he’s just as excited as me. You know, like all the other staff will be, once we get off and we get our teeth into it. And you know, when I was looking for an assistant, Gary ticks all the boxes. He’s a class act. He was a class act on the pitch. He was a class act off the pitch. He’s loyal. I trust him. He ticks a lot of the boxes where maybe people say that I’m not as experienced. So I think together we’re a good partnership and a good team and we’re really looking forward to it.
And what are the plans for the next few weeks then? Because this club has three massive games to go before the end of the season. They’re trying to make sure they’re in the Europa League qualifiers. As you know, the top three is the guarantee at home, to finish in there. You could have got in earlier and maybe help, maybe talk to the players, but did you want to take a backseat at the moment?
No, I think it’s important that I respect Liverpool football club and [inaudible 00:10:56]. I’ve had things in the [inaudbile 00:10:57] for a long time that I have to honor and respect and they’ll take care of themselves in May. The contract starts from the first of June. So from the 1st of June, officially, I become the Rangers manager and then the priority is Rangers and we try and get our teeth into the, you know, into the challenge, if you like. So I think it’s important now that I take a step back after today and really look into the team. So I’ll be following the games and I’ll be studying them very, very closely. But at the same time I have to give the [inaudible 00:11:30] people who are leading the team the respect they deserve and step back.
You had a clear message to the Rangers fans when you were in the press conference. Bring it on, you said, let’s go. Can you elaborate a little bit more, as far as what would you like to say to them listening to this tonight?
I just want them to really get on board with it and get behind me and the team when that time comes. That’s a [gimme 00:11:49] here, you know, the support up here is incredible. You’ve seen welcome that I got out there from, I think it’s close to 7,000. I could feel the power of it and I’m going to need that power and that support behind me and so will the team. You know, my plan is to try and create a team that they are proud of and that they want to really come to this ground and support on all the grounds around the country and around Europe. That’s the plan for me. And the message is yeah, let’s go. Let’s get it on.
Is this your biggest challenge since [halftime 00:12:18] in Istanbul?
It’s a difficult one to judge, when you’re comparing it to when you’re the player, it’s completely different. It’s a huge challenge, but it’s certainly one that I’m looking forward to.