CHRIS SUTTON insists the easy ride for Steven Gerrard at Ibrox has come to an end.
The Liverpool legend, in charge of the Govan outfit for almost two seasons, is now in direct line of criticism from raging fans after a sensational slump in the second half of the season.
Celtic are zeroing in on a history-equalling ninth successive title and are on the brink of a phenomenal quadruple treble with a Scottish Cup semi-final due against Aberdeen at Hampden on Easter Sunday.
And Neil Lennon’s men can open up a remarkable SIXTEEN-POINT lead at the top of the Premiership if they beat St Mirren at Parkhead this afternoon – a day before Gerrard takes his stricken side to Dingwall to face Ross County.
Former Hoops goal hero Sutton, writing in his Daily Record column, reckons the former England international star has now got lost in a maze of mistakes – and the end of his tenure in Glasgow is at an end.
He said: “Steven Gerrard had been given way too easy a ride as Rangers manager.
“This week it has finally come to a stop and he’s getting thrown under the bus.
“Supporters who were lobbing themselves on to the ground at his feet are now howling their disapproval and asking serious questions. You have to say it’s not before time.
“For me, it’s gone. It was gone the moment he got off the chair of the press room at Tynecastle a week ago after admitting to needing thinking time and being unsure about where he was taking the team. That’s the end.
“The subsequent speech pre-Hamilton was too late. You can’t recover from those type of Tynecastle concessions as an Old Firm manager.
“Paul Le Guen was the last one to admit he didn’t know what to do and he was out of the job soon afterwards.
“To be honest, the two contradictory speeches within three days at the start of this week are symptomatic of Gerrard over the past few months. He said after the February defeat at Kilmarnock when the wheels started coming off the title challenge he felt his squad had enough in terms of quality and character.
“This week he was saying he knew back then he needed to add to his group during the winter break. And in between those statements he added Florian Kamberi and Ianis Hagi.
“On one hand, he says Alfredo Morelos is a great kid and he’s welcoming him back into the fold with open arms because he has made his apologies. The next thing he is talking about Rangers not being Morelos FC.
“He starts him against Hamilton yet doesn’t even put him on the bench for Hearts in a game his team had to win. It’s back and forward. It’s riddles. It’s changing the record at various stages.”
Concentrating on the Ibrox club’s domestic performances, Sutton continued: “The club have hardly have gotten any worse. Just before Gerrard took over, Rangers were destroyed 4-0 and 5-0 by Celtic in the space of a fortnight.
“It stands to reason that most managers would have been able to improve on that, but they are still a long way off – probably 16 points by close of business tonight.
“The argument about competing with Celtic and not having their finances only washes to a certain degree.
“Yes, it’s tough over a 38-game campaign to bridge the gap and, yes, it’s tough to beat them in a one-off knockout game.
“Rangers came closer than anyone in the past 34 attempts to doing it in the Betfred Cup Final before losing it.
“But here’s the fact of the matter. It wasn’t Celtic who bumped Gerrard out of three other knock-out competitions in his tenure. Aberdeen have done it twice and Hearts have done it. That’s got nothing to do with resources or Celtic’s financial muscle.
“Rangers went out of those three competitions without even seeing Celtic. That’s not good enough given the resources which have been placed at his disposal.”
Sutton added: “Let’s be clear. The board have backed him. They’ve shelled out for signings. They handed out the £7million for Ryan Kent and stood firm against interest in Morelos and Borna Barisic.
“Gerrard’s record over two seasons is no better than any of the other Rangers managers recently who have failed to get to start a third one and finance is needed to rebuild the team again.
“He can’t go with this squad. They have already admitted themselves they’re not up to it. Which brings me to another point. Gerrard has to be in control. He has to get a grip of some of those around him.
“He’s got his captain James Tavernier and his big-money signing Kent saying they don’t like opponents getting stuck into them and he’s got a coach in Michael Beale telling the world Rangers are too good for Scottish football.
“Beale’s claims about being better suited to Europe would have been laughable if they weren’t so serious for his gaffer.
“Coaches coming out and making silly statements is something the manager has to get a grip on.
“He’s supposed to be in charge. Just as he is supposed to be in charge of Morelos. It’s an absolute circus and as the ringmaster he’s responsible for the contributions of his acts.”
* DON’T miss the unbeatable match report from Celtic v St Mirren this afternoon – only in your champion CQN.