Six months into his job as Liverpool’s under-18s coach Steven Gerrard admitted he felt he had aged two years.
That was working with the cream of the club’s academy players at a world-class facility, with his performances – and mistakes – largely made away from the critical eye of public scrutiny.
The club’s former captain, given something of a head start in that he was hero-worshipped by his young charges, will find the spotlight far more intense at Ibrox but believes the grounding he has had at Kirkby academy will stand him in good stead.
“I have made mistakes, I have made loads of them, but that is why I am here and you don’t know about them until I tell you because of the job I am doing,” he said back in December.
“That was one of the main reasons why I decided to take the job so I could make mistakes without getting judged in every single newspaper and every social media site.”
His season began inauspiciously with a 1-1 draw at Derby in the Premier League U18 North Division, but by Christmas he had guided the side into the top three.
He showed a willingness to be flexible tactically, switching from playing five at the back to a flat four, and from starting with two up front to playing with two out-and-out wingers.
Gerrard oversaw the development of talented teenagers such as Toxteth-born Curtis Jones and Rafael Camacho, whose progress was such they were soon elevated to the under-23s side and last month were on the bench for the seniors on the Merseyside derby at Goodison Park.
It was a double-edged sword as he lost his best players and had to partially rebuild his team mid-season to integrate new players, but still managed to finish a creditable third in the league behind both Manchester clubs.
Gerrard also managed an under-19 side to the quarter-finals of the UEFA Youth League, handling well a difficult situation when Rhian Brewster made allegations of racist abuse, ultimately not proven, during a game against Spartak Moscow.
Liverpool’s under-23 coach Neil Critchley, who assisted Gerrard in those European games, has backed the former Reds captain to be a success in Scotland.
“I’ve got no doubt that he’s ready for it. Managing at that level is about dealing with players and that is one of Steven’s biggest qualities,” he said.
“I’ve seen it, I’ve been in and around it. If he takes those qualities into management then he will certainly have a big impact on the players at Rangers.”