As long as Rangers avoid defeat against Aberdeen at Ibrox this weekend, Steven Gerrard will complete an unbeaten league season with the new Scottish champions. Gerrard has not just stopped Celtic’s nine-year-long domination but obliterated Rangers’ arch rivals. Celtic are 23 points behind with one game remaining, specks in the far distance.
How does a manager follow that?
Gerrard could always try to repeat the feat next year and make deeper inroads into Europe after exiting the Europa League at the last-16 stage this season. But timing is everything in job jumping and after what he has achieved this season his stock is impressively high.
His dream job at Anfield is not available – and he is not ready for it yet in any case. He had been a Liverpool academy coach for little more than a year when the Rangers position came his way and while three years in Glasgow represents invaluable experience, the Scottish Premiership in no way equates to the Premier League.
There are other options in England worth pondering though.
There is a vacancy at Tottenham. Ryan Mason is in charge until the end of the season but almost certainly not beyond that.
There is also likely to be a change at Crystal Palace where Roy Hodgson’s honourable tenure appears to be drawing to a close.
The best fit for Gerrard however at this stage of his career is Newcastle United.
Steve Bruce remains in post and says he wants to stay but after the pummelling he has taken it would seem merciful for him to ride off to the sunset at the end of the season with a suitable generous remuneration package from Mike Ashley. A pair of trainers maybe. Or a sweat band.
Any replacement would need to be eyes-wide-open about what he is getting into but despite the brakes that are permanently on under Ashley’s ownership, there is an enduring appeal about Newcastle.
It is a club which stands for a city and a supporter base that stands for great football.
Gerrard may recall the applause which came his way from a chastened but admiring St James’ Park when he was substituted late on in a 6-0 drubbing of Newcastle by Liverpool eight years ago.
It is a marriage that could work.
Gerrard’s passion as a manager would connect with the Toon Army while the style of football he has developed at Ibrox, after a cautious start, would certainly represent an upgrade on what they have sanguinely become used to.
He would probably be forgiven the inevitable mistakes which come from someone at his stage of development on the simple grounds that he is not Steve Bruce.
If he could make a success of Newcastle – and in reality, under current conditions, that means a top-half finish – he would be an instant hero on Tyneside. After all Rafa Benitez, whom Gerrard learned under at Anfield, is revered after guiding them to 10th and 13th place finishes in his two full seasons as manager.
And for Gerrard, beyond a buttered ego, there would be a strategic long-term benefit for him in moving to the north-east too.
He couldn’t say so in public – Newcastle would resent being seen as a stepping stone – but a couple of seasons managing elsewhere in the Premier League would set him up perfectly for a move back to Liverpool when Klopp’s contract is up in 2024.
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TV deal No 1.
The Premier League’s as-you-were extension with Sky, BT, Amazon and the BBC is welcome in as much as it spins off an extra £100m for football lower down the ladder.
That money is overdue but welcome after the shortfalls caused by coronavirus shutdowns and so many games played behind closed doors.
The interesting part is how viewers will react to going back to 200 matches per season being screened live in the UK rather than every game – 380 – as we have grown accustomed to in Covid times.
The genie is out of the bottle on this. Shoving it back in – especially when the blacked-out fixtures can be watched abroad – feels like a retrograde step.
Even though it can feel like football is coming out of ears at times, too much choice is always better than too little.
TV deal No 2.
Diamond League athletics will be on the BBC for the next four years which would be good news if only the corporation chose to give it a proper platform.
The smallprint of the announcement gives the Beeb recourse to tucking away meetings on the red button or online instead of screening them on one of its main channels.
If the Tokyo Olympics goes ahead this summer and stars like Dina Asher-Smith do their thing, live athletics could be a valuable property for a broadcaster.
In their rush to show repeats of Mrs Brown’s Boys, let us hope the BBC realise that. But don’t bet on it.
Conor McGregor tops the Forbes sporting rich list for the past year. Could there be anything more depressing?