Sport David Weir on the Rangers heroics that have bought Steven Gerrard time as he urges fresh Europa League push

08:50  21 october  2020
08:50  21 october  2020 Source:   msn.com

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Some will argue this is the start of a European campaign that Rangers could do without.

Traversing the continent in the middle of a global pandemic, potentially risking the integrity of their bio-secure bubble and adding significantly to the huge workload already facing Steven Gerrard and his players.

All to play in a competition which they almost certainly won’t win, while undermining their chances of winning the one they absolutely must.

But Davie Weir adopts a very different point of view.

In fact, the former Ibrox No.2 and skipper believes were it not for the huge strides made by Gerrard and his players in the Europa League over the past two years, then the manager might not have been afforded the time to build a team capable of winning a title on home soil.

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That Rangers are sitting four points clear at the top of the Premiership after Saturday’s win at Celtic Park is down in no small part, says Weir, to the fact Gerrard bought himself some badly needed breathing space on his travels while plotting to go the distance domestically.

“What you are seeing is the benefit of two years’ very hard work on the training ground and there’s no doubt the really good results Rangers had in Europe bought the manager that time,” Weir said yesterday as Gerrard and his players packed their bags for a date with Standard Liege in Belgium.

“You have to give him credit for that.

“Yes, there may have been a lack of domestic success but the progress that’s been made in European competition has given them a bit of a cushion.

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“But there’s no doubt about it, they are well coached. You can see that in the way they play and, funnily enough, it seems to suit them when they are up against better teams.

“They may have struggled more trying to break teams down but they’ve also been much better at doing that recently too which is a sign it’s all really coming together.

“They have added better players and better attacking options which makes them more dangerous going forward and hard to predict.

“I expect you’ll see that against Standard Liege again.

“Europe suits them because they are coming up against teams who are a bit more aggressive and expansive.

“That allows Rangers to pick them off rather than having to dictate the tempo all the time.

“They have taken that European system and made it work for them against Celtic.

“They’ve been the better team in the last few Old Firm games. They might not always have got the result but they’ve had the better performances.”

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  David Weir on the Rangers heroics that have bought Steven Gerrard time as he urges fresh Europa League push © Daily Record

Weir has watched this blossoming from a distance even though he and Mark Warburton gave the club a leg up by leading them back into the top flight during their time together in the dugout.

And he’s delighted at least one legacy of that journey has continued to progress under Gerrard.

James Tavernier may not have been a house- hold name when Warburton picked him up for a snip from Wigan almost five years ago but he’s now wearing Weir’s old armband as a key man in Gerrard’s first XI.

Weir said: “James has had to deal with a bit of stick over the last couple of years but, when you’re at a club like Rangers or Celtic, that’s always going to be the case.

“There will be periods in your career when you experience difficult times. You just have to be able to handle it and

navigate a way through.

“But he’s obviously been well supported by all the managers who have had him.

“It’s no coincidence he’s been such a prominent performer for all of them.

“That’s primarily because of what he gives you in the final third, from penalties to free-kicks to his general play.

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“His delivery is out of this world. Without being too dramatic it’s as good as anything I’ve seen – the quality and consistency of his delivery from general play and set-pieces.

“He has this ability to put the ball wherever he wants it to go. If you have the right people on the end of that then you’re going to get success.

“The way Rangers play now he is not as exposed as he was defensively. They’ve developed a system that suits him and Borna Barisic on the other side. You have to give the coaches great credit for getting the best out of them.”

And Weir admits Tavernier’s captaincy has been a whole lot more punishing than his own time as the leader of Walter Smith’s team of title winners.

He said: “I was captaining Rangers during a successful time for the club and James hasn’t had that good fortune.

“It’s taken him time to get used to wearing the armband and that’s natural because it’s a big responsibility.

Alex Curran in a blue shirt © Ian MacNicol/Getty Images

“It’s been a really tough time for Rangers in terms of not winning trophies so ultimately the captain is going to come in for stick.

“So he’s had to come through some difficult times but he has dealt with them really well.

“I’d say it must be even harder to be the Rangers captain in these days of social media.

“In my time fans would let you know if they weren’t happy during the games.

“But these days people vent their frustrations 24 hours a day.

“It’s horrible, it’s faceless and it’s hurtful. That makes it even harder to be the public figure of a club like Rangers but Tav has taken it all in his stride.

“He has a really good manner about him. He’s a happy, positive person, a good team-mate and a good athlete.

“He ticks all the boxes, he wants to do the right thing and is genuinely a likeable kid.

“So I’m pleased to see the way things are going for him and I hope that it’s a sign of better days to come for him and for the club.”

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