Chris Sutton on The Betfred Cup Semi Finals: Rangers Manager Gerrard Is Revitalising The Scottish Game
The Betfred Cup is of vital importance.
Scottish football has been on the up for a few years now. Rangers weren’t in the top flight, Hearts and Hibs have only recently come back – these are big clubs. The first competition, the Betfred Cup, is of vital importance. It is a big competition for all clubs but when you look at Rodgers’ record, it was his first trophy for the last couple of seasons and naturally if you get the first trophy under your belt, it takes the pressure off somewhat.
This season with the emergence of Hearts and Gerrard coming in at Rangers there is added importance to it – and Brendan Rodgers isn’t going to let it go easily, which is why he didn’t prioritise the other night in terms of the team he selected at Leipzig. A lot of Celtic fans who I met over there earlier this week were saying the game on Sunday was the most important, which surprised me as I always thought Celtic should go heavy in all competitions.
Rodgers has prioritised Betfred Cup semis over RB Leipzig game and he’ll be rewarded with an extra time win.
It will be a close game between Celtic & Hearts and I think it will go to extra time. Brendan Rodgers has prioritised and taken this game more seriously than the one in Leipzig, where Celtic had a pretty poor performance. It just shows you the importance of domestic trophies and how he values them, having won six on the spin. Celtic have a lot of injuries, but Hearts are missing their three best players in Christophe Berra, John Souttar and Uche Ikpeazu up front.
Hearts have started the season particularly well and have opened up a small gap at the top, but I think Celtic will edge it in extra time.
It’s a showcase day for Scottish football with BT Sport broadcasting both of the games back to back and 100,000 fans combined will see the biggest clubs going at each other. It’s up in the air with Celtic’s form and Hearts’ start makes it more interesting. In the other semi-final, Steven Gerrard has certainly got the team playing very well in Europe while Aberdeen under Derek McInnes would admit they haven’t had the best start to the season, but on their day they can just about beat anybody.
There is a big strong rivalry between Rangers and Aberdeen and both games are extremely hard to call. I don’t see anyone running away with either game and it will be very close.
I wouldn’t put my house on it, but given it looks like Tom Rogic and James Forrest will come back for Celtic, they will have too much for Hearts in extra-time and they can win the semi then before going on to lift the Betfred Cup.
Gerrard has reinvigorated the game in Scotland.
You get a lot of critics down south about the Scottish game. I think Gerrard coming north of the border piques peoples’ interest down there and it has reinvigorated the game in Scotland itself. And eventually, someone had to challenge Celtic, they couldn’t have had it all their own way. Part of that was down to a very good manager in Brendan Rodgers domestically and with the treble only being won four times for Celtic in their history, that shows how difficult it is.
This season Celtic haven’t got off to the greatest start and that is testament to the other clubs. I don’t think many people saw Hearts’ challenge coming at the start of the season, but Craig Levein is a wily old character and he has got them up and running without their star players which bodes well for them.
I think in terms of the Rangers and Hibs challenge – and you can even chuck Kilmarnock in – it makes it really interesting. A year or two ago, you knew what the results of matches were going to be and that’s different now. It can only be good for the Scottish game.
If you’re asking me to summarise Celtic and Rangers this season, you have to be fair to other teams like Hearts, Kilmarnock and Aberdeen in including them too. Rangers are 5th in the league, so there you go. Things couldn’t have gone better in Europe for Gerrard and getting them into the Europa League group stages was a remarkable achievement. They are holding their own and have a good chance of going through, but they have a lot of work to do.
League-wise, their start to the campaign has been slightly disappointing, but he has something going there and has galvanised the support who are right behind him which is good for him and good for Rangers.
In a short space of time Gerrard has brought about a totally different mindset at Rangers.
There is a lot of pressure going into management. A big conundrum for Steven Gerrard was if he was going to be backed by the board - but he has and he’s been allowed to bring in 14 or 15 players. He’s changed things around and while it will take time to gel, in a short space of time there is a totally different mindset. Whereas in the last few years, Celtic haven’t taken them particularly seriously now they are looking at them and they can see Gerrard as a winner as a player. They still have a lot of work to do, but the signs are good from across the city.