Steven Gerrard has warned that players could be deterred from moving to Scotland because of the resurgence of disorder which has included sectarian abuse along with the throwing of coins and bottles, the most recent being at Easter Road last Saturday, when one was hurled towards Scott Sinclair of Celtic, in the William Hill Scottish Cup quarter-final victory over Hibernian.
It is Rangers’ turn on Friday to meet Hibs away in the Scottish Premiership and Gerrard inevitably spent much of his pre-match briefing discussing the upsurge in menace. “It was disappointing to see what happened at Easter Road,” he said.
“We all have a responsibility – managers, staff, players, fans, media – to try and create a positive image of the game and I don’t just mean for everyone domestically. Clips of these instances from the fans, whether it be chants or bottles or coins thrown get shown all over the world.
“The most important thing is the safety of the player. I don’t want to be sitting talking about someone getting badly hurt or injured and, if it continues, that could be the case.
“Players want to come to Scotland to play in big games. The crowds in general here are superb. The Scottish fans are excellent in the main but, yes, that could be a factor in their decision-making.
“When I’m talking to players, one of the things I always say is that the games here are fantastic, the intensity, the tempo, the support. You talk about the Ibrox crowd and going away to places like Pittodrie, Celtic Park and Easter Road.
“There’s a load of positive things to say about the support in Scotland but if these incidents continue and increase you could have a problem attracting top players to come here. All the managers, the players and yourselves are banging the drum trying to improve it.”
One Rangers player who returned to Scotland happily was Steven Davis, but the former Ibrox midfield favourite has made only four starts since arriving from Southampton with the stated aim of accruing game time.
“We’ve had quite a few conversations since he arrived but I won’t be getting into the habit of pulling an individual player every two or three days because I think they get bored of your voice,” Gerrard said.
“I do make it clear to the players, as a group, that this is how it works and I pick the players who I think will get the job done, players in form, players who want to keep hold of the shirt and fight for the shirt and we go from there. Being out of the frame at Southampton would have affected his mental thinking and also his physical condition and I think, because of the name and because he had a fantastic career and we know the talent, everyone is expecting him to take to it like a duck to water because he’s been here and won before.
“I believe Steven will be here next season. That’s all I can say about it right now.”