Laudrup: Rangers will be remembered forever if they stop Celtic's 10
BRIAN LAUDRUP: Steven Gerrard’s Rangers will be remembered forever if they can stop Celtic winning 10 in a row… We JUST failed to do it when I was at Ibrox, but losing Gazza and Mark Hateley certainly didn’t help
- Celtic are bidding to win a 10th-straight league title going into the new season
- We had an opportunity to do likewise at Rangers during the 1997-98 campaign
- Despite being in control we let the title slip from our grasp to lose to Celtic
- Their fans remember that title win fondly as it stopped us achieving a great feat
- Rangers are in a dilemma over star striker Alfredo Morelos’ future this summer
Rangers legend Brian Laudrup is a new columnist for Sportsmail. Here he provides his first column on Scottish football
Twenty-three years on from my final season at Rangers, 10 in a row is the phrase back on everyone’s lips in Glasgow.
The roles have obviously been reversed. Celtic have the chance to make history and claim something that has never been done before. Rangers are cast as the team doing everything in their power to stop it from happening. Whatever happens in the months ahead, it is going to be an incredible season.
We were favourites to go and win the title in 1997-98 but couldn’t quite make it. Ten in a row slipped out of our grasp right at the end. Now the huge challenge for Steven Gerrard and his players is to go and upset the expectations at Parkhead.
As much as it is not a nice memory for me, the Celtic team that stopped Rangers in my days will always be remembered by their fans. Exactly the same would apply at Ibrox this season. By taking that extra step, by winning one title, the Rangers players could claim their own fantastic piece of history. The prize on offer is huge.
Laudrup was instrumental as Rangers surged to nine league titles in a row in the 1990s
But they couldn’t get over the line for a 10th and the pain of missing out still hurts
We all know how they faded after New Year last time around, but this Rangers team has so much talent going forward – so many interesting, young, skilful players. They just need that source of belief to really feel they are good enough to go and do it.
This season is where boys need to turn into men. They have to. You can be young, you can be inexperienced. Maybe you have not achieved that much yet in your career. But this season each and every player has to step up. It’s going to be hugely interesting and exciting to see whether Rangers can take that step.
On their day, they are a real match for Celtic. That’s been proven. But it’s about doing it over 38 games. And that remains to be seen.
Gerrard has done a fantastic job, especially in Europe. But they have been together for a couple of years and it is now all about getting over the line.
You can play attractive football, you can get a lot of praise for playing in Europe, but it is about winning something at the end and the title is obviously at the top of the list. There is no way around that and Gerrard will know it better than anyone.
The biggest concern for the Rangers management team will be whether they can make this squad go for the 10 months that is needed, not just five or six months.
Celtic are looking to win a 10th straight league title – captain Scott Brown with the trophy
Steven Gerrard’s Rangers side will be immortalised by fans if they can stop Celtic
Last season, they were maybe a little bit too reliant on Alfredo Morelos at times. They needed attacking players around him to share more of the burden.
I also think they could have more experience to go beside the likes of Allan McGregor and Steven Davis. Young players often go through difficult spells and that is when they need guidance. Gerrard might well look into that, because it’s more important than ever this season.
The psychology of the situation is interesting. With Celtic having won nine championships in a row, it’s quite normal as a human being to expect to carry on like that and keep winning.
I’m not saying any player would give less than 100 per cent of their effort or ability, but sometimes that mindset can take a little edge off a team.
When I think back to 1997-98, I’m definitely not looking for excuses. It’s more about trying to work out what happened.
Looking back at 1997-98, Laudrup says Rangers had lost a bit of an edge from previous season
Part of it was maybe down to the fact we lost a number of very experienced and talented players – I’m thinking about Mark Hateley leaving, Gazza leaving.
I also have to admit I never reached the heights of the nine-in-a-row season. I can’t tell you why. But sometimes you have seasons where all the effort and energy doesn’t translate into peak form.
I’m certainly not blaming the gaffer in any way at all, but I think a big factor that season was when Walter Smith came out and said he would be leaving at the end.
In a way, that changed the dynamic of our group. A number of players had to come to terms with their manager, their gaffer for so many years, leaving. I think that made people realise this team was about to be ripped apart. That was the feeling within the dressing room.
Losing Mark Hateley (left) and Paul Gascoigne probably played a part in the failed quest
Huge names like Gazza, Ally McCoist (3rd left) and boss Walter Smith celebrated nine in a row
There were a number of players advancing in age, a number who owed a lot to Walter. They thought: ‘Okay, with Walter leaving, I’ll be leaving as well.’ In my case, I would join Chelsea at the end of the season. In some respects, all of that maybe took a couple of percentage points off the team.
Looking back now, we only lost once to Celtic and looked to be cruising to 10 in a row with four games to go. But then we lost to Aberdeen away and Kilmarnock at home. We lost what would have been the biggest achievement in the club’s history in the space of three or four weeks.
It just shows it not always about the Old Firm games. You need that 100-per-cent concentration over the full marathon of the league.
That will definitely be the case in the crazy season coming up. I can’t wait for it to start.
Losing at Kilmarnock shows that you need to be on it for every game – not just against Celtic
GERRARD CAN’T AFFORD TO MAKE WRONG CALL ON MORELOS’ FUTURE
Some Rangers fans might read about the possibility of Alfredo Morelos leaving for Lille and wonder what is happening because we are only four days away from the start of one of the most crucial seasons in the club’s history.
Jermain Defoe is out with an injury. Steven Gerrard has already been talking about strengthening in that department. So is it really the time to be selling an established striker?
But you have to look at the other side of it. If Rangers were get an offer for Morelos that meets their asking price – and that remains to be seen – the management team might feel they can get two, three or even four players with that money who could make a real difference.
Rangers have a key decision to make this summer whether to keep or sell Alfredo Morelos
Colombian Morelos is their star striker but cashing in on him could lead to squad investment
Reinvesting could be the key to building a better overall squad. Of course, you can’t guarantee success with new signings but Rangers must have something up their sleeve. We have seen names being linked and they will have prepared a plan to quickly activate.
The burden of goalscoring has been on the shoulders of Morelos for three seasons now and he has done extremely well at the club overall. He must be a nightmare for defenders to play against and he has this edge that I really like when it is controlled. But we have to be honest and say there have also been times when he has been a liability. He has given Gerrard some big concerns with his red cards and disciplinary issues.
Last season, Morelos was fantastic in Europe and very good in the Premiership up to Christmas. Maybe the one thing you could say is that he has never really convinced against Celtic. I think that would be a fair judgment.
In any case, replacing him would not be easy because the team has relied on him so much. Any new striker would have to hit the ground running. It couldn’t take weeks and weeks.
Gerrard will also be asking if players such as Ianis Hagi, Ryan Kent and Joe Aribo – who has done extremely well in pre-season – can help to carry the burden? Can they score goals from midfield? That’s hugely important.
Gerrard will be asking the likes of Ianis Hagi to help ease the goalscoring burden at Rangers
If Rangers do sell Morelos and get other players in, it could be an excellent piece of business in the long term. There would be a fantastic profit on the £1million or so paid to HJK Helsinki.
The concerns would be in the short term. If he was to go and Rangers don’t win against Aberdeen on Saturday, we all know what the headlines will be if they fall behind Celtic after one week.
That’s where the gamble lies.
It’s going to be interesting to see whether it is a gamble Gerrard and Rangers are willing to take.
Losing Morelos just before the season starts could have an early detrimental effect on Rangers
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