'Stevie's learned the hard way in derbies' – Murphy on Gerrard's Old Firm debut


Stevie Gerrard has learned the hard way about derbies.

He was sent off in just his second Liverpool v Everton contest for a stoppage-time, thigh-high lunge on Kevin Campbell. I was at Liverpool at that time – 19 years ago – and it was the first red card of his Anfield career.

In the 31 Merseyside derbies he played subsequently – and likewise the numerous grudge matches with Manchester United – he learned how to control his emotions. How to channel them into affecting what happened on the pitch. Mostly, anyway.

So when he steps out of the tunnel at Celtic Park for his first Old Firm derby on Sunday, he’ll know exactly how he should behave.

He’ll also know the man just along the touchline – his former Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers.

And he’ll know how big a marker he can set down by leading Rangers to their first 90-minute win over Celtic in six years.

‘I hope it’s not like Lennon v McCoist’

It’s been nine matches since the Ibrox club have beaten Celtic in the league so, although he might not show it, Stevie will be desperate to win.

He’ll be very wary of conducting himself the right way amid the passion and madness that will be swirling around him.

When we played Everton or Manchester United under Gerard Houllier, he was obsessed with our temperament and discipline. Houllier used to say if we kept calm at Goodison, we’d win. And we always did.

Stevie will remember that; how important it was for us as young players to look over and see a manager who stayed calm in the middle of a game of that magnitude.

What he’ll want to avoid is what happened between Ally McCoist and Neil Lennon a few years back. They are both top blokes who care about their clubs but their passion spilled over the top. It was too showy and that is not how you should conduct yourself as a manager.

‘Stevie will want to get one over on Brendan’

There’s no chance of that kind of thing happening between Stevie and Brendan. Brendan is not the type to get carried away, either, and he is very aware of his role and the influence he has on his players.

Towards the end at Liverpool, there was a perception that they didn’t get on because Stevie didn’t play that much in his final season. But any animosity that might have been there is well in the past and I know they speak to each other now.

There will be a respect. After all, Brendan nearly made history at Liverpool by winning that league and was a game or two away from becoming a legend.

But there will also be a determination from Stevie to get one over him. Not because there is any niggle there, but because Stevie knows he is the underdog. Brendan is the more experienced guy and the one everyone expects to come out on top and that makes Stevie dangerous. It always has.

Watch: Best and worst Old Firm debuts

‘Stevie is empathetic. He cares about players’

Stevie is a leader, but he wasn’t that way when we were kids and room-mates at Liverpool. It was only when he became captain that it was kind of forced upon him.

The Rangers squad will automatically respect him because of what he’s done in the game, but they will have also seen that he has the ability to be empathetic and care about players. He won’t fly off the handle quickly, but he’s got a ruthless side and when he does lose it, they’ll know about it.

I remember giving the ball away in a game at Leeds once, and we ended up in a horrendous row – throwing all sorts of insults at each other – and it was only once I’d settled down that I realised he was right. That made me think “if he can do that to me, his friend, a guy who is a little older… wow, this guy is a winner”.

The best managers all have that balance of talking to you with respect, giving you encouragement, but putting you back behind the line if you ever cross it. And I think Stevie has that in his armoury and has the personality to learn as he goes on. I might be biased, but I think Sunday’s Old Firm game will tell us a lot.

Danny Murphy was speaking to BBC Sport’s Mike Henson.

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