Sometimes you hear a rumour that sounds so outlandish it cannot possibly be true.
The Newcastle in for Gerrard story was one of them.
There was no way they were going to go for him when they could have almost anyone else. That they ended up with Howe is like a left-handed joke. He is not what the Geordie fans expected. But Gerrard would have been worse.
Aston Villa seems like a much better bet, a good fit with a manager who wouldn’t be expected to win any glory, merely to give a good account of himself and make them a tougher team to beat.
Villa are a club which long since settled into a comfort zone.
Gerrard will not reach Anfield from Villa. He won’t reach Anfield from anywhere he’s likely to be appointed. He certainly will not reach that lofty perch from Ibrox, not with the walls closing in on him and the world starting to unravel, as he must sense it is.
If he goes now, to that club, he leaves with part of his reputation intact. He can blame outside forces; the club’s lack of spending power, the restrictions imposed by the Scottish game, the gulf between our teams and sides in Europe.
He has a title, although he’ll never be able to explain how it was won without risking everything he’s worked to build.
Gerrard won that title due to a confluence of circumstances that will never be repeated again in his career. That and the spending of massive amounts of money that his club did not earn. For that outlay he got one trophy out of nine.
If he goes now that record is as bad as it gets.
If he stays it’ll be one from ten, then eleven and then twelve if he lasts that long.
One of the feathers in his cap is Europe
Right now he’s risking even that.
How does out of the Champions League at the first hurdle and bottom of an easy Europa League Group sound?
Because that’s possible from where they are right now, with two wins in Europe in eight games. If he goes out of the Europa League – or Europe altogether – that’s another part of his reputation which will be shredded and left in the dust.
Few managers get to pick the manner of their exit. He does. He can leave Ibrox now something of a hero, something of a cult figure, and many of the questions which would otherwise be asked about his record will be parked and probably for good.
But if he stays then his single achievement will be dismantled, and in a brutal fashion which will see those hard questions come and more. Ange Postecoglou is building one of the most exciting Celtic teams we’ve seen in many years. Once it gets up to high speed it will be leave nothing but a trail of destruction in its wake, and Gerrard must sense it.
January will see Celtic grow stronger and the possibility of his team being weakened. Bad enough that he should have to fight with the tools he has to hand, as this team of ours takes another step towards completion. But if he has to make cuts he’s really done for.
These are the calculations he has to make, and there are others of course like his family still being in England as they want no part of the “unique” atmosphere around the Ibrox club. Between that and knowing that he’s on the deck of a sinking ship, if Villa come calling of course he’ll be willing to talk to them.
If they make him an offer he would be mad not to go.
For me, I don’t want him to go. His record this season is almost identical to that which it was in his first two campaigns, and with things going as they are at Celtic I think we’ll clean his clock and send him to England with nothing left of his name.
He’s a typical chequebook manager and they are ten a penny in the game, and nothing special at all.
A genuine coach, someone who could make players better, would be something to worry about at Ibrox even if they had to make cuts to the playing squad, and Gerrard shows no signs of knowing how. He can have that job as long as he likes.
Celtic is what he fears most, a comeback from a club that his directors must have told him was facing a year of turmoil and chaos and therefore couldn’t pose a threat. He knows now that it was nonsense and that all his hopes were in vain, because we are back and we look more threatening than ever.
To stay is to gamble big time. To walk is a no-lose proposition.
What would you do in his shoes?