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AS a player, Steven Gerrard lived up to Gerard Houllier’s high expectations.
Now as a manager, he wants to make his mentor proud again.
The Rangers boss has missed his old Liverpool gaffer dearly since he sadly passed away last December.
Gerrard had the Frenchman to thank for getting his career started — lifting the UEFA Cup with him 20 years ago in 2001.
The former Anfield midfielder is on the verge of his 50th European tie in management, fittingly it’s against Lyon where Houllier once managed.
Gerrard just hopes tonight’s Europa League clash at Ibrox is one his old mentor would approve of.
He said: “I’m very much aware of Gerard’s career. He was a man I had a lot of admiration and respect for.
“He gave me my big opportunity at Liverpool to play for the first team.
“It was a really sad day for me from a personal point of view when he passed. I wish more than anything he was going to be at this game. He was someone who followed my career all the way through as a player and also as a manager.
“The amount of education and knowledge I had from that man is unbelievable. So I hope he’s looking down tomorrow, and is really proud of both teams.”
There’s no doubt Houllier would have been proud of his ex-skipper’s achievements so far as Gers boss.
Gerrard has a league title under his belt, and hits that special landmark in Europe tomorrow night.
He added: “I hope they get more special, but the only way to do that is to get results against these big teams.
“With a high-level team coming to Ibrox, or on our travels, we need to make sure we keep impressing ourselves, and doing as well as we can.
“I’ve really enjoyed the ride and journey from a personal point of view.
“In terms of rating myself, I don’t really do that. You can only give your best.
That’s for you guys to judge and have your opinion on it.
“But I’ve loved being involved in European football as a player, and I’ve really enjoyed the ride as a manager as well.”
Being successful domestically is priority No 1 for any Rangers manager. But Gerrard sees European football as an opportunity to gauge progress.
He said: “You can only learn in every game, especially when top managers and teams are coming in or you’re pitting yourself against them.
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“We’ve had some incredible games, we’ve made some mistakes along the way. That’s where the experience and growth comes.
“European football is a big selling point for Rangers, it’s how you try to attract the best players to come here and share the journey with you.
“The fans love it, we’ve had some fantastic experiences. Some of the big highlights of my tenure have come on the back of European fixtures.”
But Lyon are one of the best outfits in French football, and as Gerrard sees it, the best side Gers have faced in Europe in the time he’s been in the hotseat since 2018.
He added: “A full-strength Lyon are very much a Champions League team, with a lot of Champions League calibre players.
“They have a manager who got this job on the back of doing ever so well as Bayer Leverkusen coach.
“He’s been here before and knows what we are about, so this is a real big test, there is no doubt about it.
“We have to be at our best, and that goes for both sides of the game.
“We have to have a high level of focus and concentration, because if you don’t, you will get punished against these teams and punished very quickly.
“But we have also got to have our own confidence and our own belief that we can play at this level, that we can compete at the right times.
“We have to show bravery that we can go and hurt the opposition as well. So we are excited and looking forward to it.
“But we know the size of the challenge, and it’s arguably the biggest we’ve had as a group.”
Gerrard isn’t in the Europa League just to make up the numbers, though.
He said: “I think we’ve proved in the last three years we can compete at that level.
“We have got better and better, and in the last two years we’ve matched our best performance by getting to the last 16.
“The challenge and part of the remit at the start of the season was, ‘Can we keep improving ourselves and try to go further than that?’
“One thing for sure is that we won’t make it easy for anyone, whoever we play against.
“I think it’s about taking it in stages. So first and foremost, can we get out of this group? We are obviously in Pot Two, and we are all aware Lyon were in Pot One.
“Naturally people will make them the big favourites to win the group.
“But we have more than enough in our squad, if we stay healthy, to put up a right good fight and compete to get out of this group.
“That’s the first stage. After that you need a bit of luck in the draw as you go along. But what a fantastic challenge, and what a time to be part of this team.
“The likes of Lyon coming to town is what we all want to be part of.”
The fact the French side are without former Celtic striker Moussa Dembele is a big bonus for Rangers.
But Gerrard added: “I think this club and this team know more than most the abilities that Moussa Dembele possesses.
“He’s obviously started the season reasonably well.
“He has gone to Lyon and gone from Celtic to the next step of one of the top five leagues in the world and produced.
“So I have a lot of respect for the player in terms of his technical qualities and his ability.
“But I don’t really get involved in opinions on whether Lyon are going to be weaker or stronger.
“They have players capable of coming in and talent all over the pitch — especially in the front four positions
“So it would be very naïve of me to think Lyon are going to be any weaker just because one key player is missing.”
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