7500: How’s your season going then - confident of retaining the SPFL title?
Stewart Franklin: Our position at the top of the table is somewhat deceiving as we’re not hitting the heights of last season. However, that was somewhat exceptional in terms of our defensive stats in particular, so it’s not a huge surprise to see our form dip; especially with key players injured over the course of the campaign so far.
As such, it’s a positive to still be leading the league and with a good chance of qualifying from our Europa League group.
7500: Looking back at the initial appointment of Steven Gerrard at Rangers back in June of 2018, what was the perception amongst the fan base?
Stewart Franklin: One of excitement, tempered with some doubt given Gerrard’s lack of top-level management experience. It was seen as a gamble, but it has certainly paid off for the most part.
7500: During Gerrard’s long and storied career as a player, football fans remember him for his leadership, determination, and strong work ethic - has that translated over to who he is as a manager/coach?
Stewart Franklin: Yes, I’d agree that those virtues remain part of Gerrard’s make up. He’s clearly a clever guy and has surrounded himself with a coaching team that he trusts and that does much of the heavy lifting. He’s also very good with the media, so his transition from one of the UK’s most well-known modern era players to manager has been fairly seamless.
7500: With over 120 wins and an approximate 64.77 winning percentage as Rangers boss, it’s clear that Gerrard has found a successful style of play. How does he typically like to setup?
Stewart Franklin: Rangers usually play some form of a 4-3-3, with a heavy reliance on our wing backs for attacking width and a single focal point in attack - often with two number tens behind the central striker.
Structure is important and you can see the players are well coached in order to control games in the domestic league to perhaps a more cautious outlook in Europe where we like to counter quickly.
7500: Throughout history, many football managers have been criticized for being one dimensional in terms of their tactics and game plan. In terms of tactical flexibility, how does Gerrard stack up?
Stewart Franklin: 4-3-3 is definitely the favoured system, but we do often change within that - sometimes you’ll note a 4-2-3-1 and sometimes it will be a 4-3-2-1, but rarely anything beyond that. I think we’ve used a 3-5-2 once and it wasn’t seen again despite some fans feeling we can be too predictable at times with the usual system.
Fans also feel that Gerrard can be slow to change things in games (e.g. subs) and too loyal to his perceived favourites in the squad.
7500: With Gerrard’s move to Aston Villa now official, how do Rangers fans feel about the news? Are there any hard feelings?
Stewart Franklin: Most supporters have been pragmatic about Gerrard’s likely future away from Ibrox from the outset, but I’d suggest the timing is far from ideal should the deal go ahead.
The recent passing of Walter Smith is still raw and with two important games this month (a League Cup semi is our next match and a must-win Europa League match v Sparta Prague), it’s fair to say many fans are disappointed. However, that will be tempered by what Gerrard has managed to achieve in his three full seasons at Ibrox.
We also see this as opportunity to improve the form of the team.
7500: From your point of view, do you believe that Gerrard can be a success at Aston Villa and in the Premier League?
Stewart Franklin: I absolutely believe Gerrard can be a success. Finance is much tighter at Rangers (and in Scotland generally), so having more money to spend on a higher quality of player should help Gerrard improve further if he can persuade Villa to invest. As we’ve seen at Rangers, success (even relatively speaking, such as European qualification) may not happen immediately, but Gerrard has a lot to prove and is clearly focussed on how he can deliver that.