Steven Gerrard sends message to Rangers board over Glen Kamara contract and declares 'best I've felt about squad'
Steven Gerrard has never felt so good about the squad he has built at Ibrox after Rangers secured top place in their group and ensured they are seeded in Monday’s last 32 Europa League draw.
Rangers did what did they had to do and more with last night’s 2-0 win v Lech Poznan. Benfica, whose result they had to at least match, drew 2-2 against Standard Liege to finish second, two points behind the Ibrox side.
Gerrard made seven changes to the team that beat Ross County 4-0 on Sunday and watched stand-ins such as 19-year-old right back Nathan Patterson – who replaced skipper James Tavernier – contribute to a controlled performance in Poland.
Striker Cedric Itten made his full European debut and scored a stunning opening goal from an angle high into the top corner of the net after 31 minutes. Ianis Hagi later headed in while on the goal-line after Connor Goldson’s header had come down off the bar.
“I had trust and confidence making the seven changes before the game,” said Gerrard. “The players have got to go out and prove me right by those decisions but this is the best I have felt in terms of our squad strength and I do have confidence in the 24, 25 players that we have got.”
The improvement in Rangers’ European fortunes have been remarkable under Gerrard, something he noted with mention of the shock defeat to Luxembourg side Progres Niederkorn under Pedro Caixinha in 2017. Rangers have since qualified for the group stage of the Europa League in three successive seasons, progressing to the knock-out stage twice, most recently as group winners.
“There were a lot of changes that needed made when we came in because of what had gone on in Europe in terms of not qualifying against part-timers in the first round,” he said.
“So to be at this level now and competing and beating teams at this level shows the big steps that we have taken as a group. The challenge now is can we keep building on it? We are looking forward to the draw on Monday. We will need a bit of luck, of course we will. But when Europe comes around again in February time we will hopefully have a fit squad and if we do we will be a challenge for whoever we face.”
Gerrard praised Itten, whose performance underlined the striking options at the club. Arguably the fourth-choice striker, he produced a hard-working working performance that was crowned by a scintillating goal after picking up a loose pass in midfield.
“The amount of regains and running he done for the team I thought was fantastic and I thought he deserved his goal,” said Gerrard. “I haven’t seen a lack of confidence or any frustration from the kid, I have only seen positivity and a kid who wants to play more.”
Gerrard also praised one of his mainstays in the team after Glen Kamara gave another typically immaculate European performance. He again urged the Rangers board to secure the player on a longer deal - his current contract runs to 2023.
“I thought he was outstanding from start to finish,” he said. “My advice to the club is to move that situation along as quickly as they can.”
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