Steven Gerrard says he fully understands the excitement levels which drove Rangers fans to break lockdown rules and launch an pre-emptive title party on Ibrox’s doorstep.
Thousands of supporters carrying flags and smoke bombs breached the Scottish Government’s stay-at-home rules to welcome Gerrard and his team into the stadium ahead of their clash with St Mirren.
A 3-0 win over the Buddies leaves Gers on the verge of being crowned champions for the first time in a decade.
But the scenes before kick-off drew swift condemnation from Holyrood, with a spokesperson saying the government was “extremely disappointed” with the actions of the Light Blues faithful at a time when the nation is still battling to get the Covid-19 pandemic under control.
Gerrard, though, had sympathy for the outpouring of emotion from a support that have stood by their team while it mounted a long recovery from the club’s 2012 financial collapse.
He said: “I’ve got to get my words right here – we are still experiencing and are involved in a pandemic. It’s important fans try to stay humble and safe.
“That’s the priority – people’s safety. I totally understand that.
“But at the same time, if you’ve got anything inside you or any part of your heart can understand what the fans have been through, you can totally understand what’s gone on outside this stadium.
“It’s my job to try and control that. Safety is paramount at the moment but it’s tough because it has been an emotional three years for me. The fans have been here for much longer than that and have been through a lot in 10 years. So you can certainly understand it.”
Gerrard’s squad could get their hands on the trophy as early as Sunday if Celtic slip up at Tannadice.
If not, the Ibrox support can still look forward to the dream scenario of finally putting an end to their bitter rival’s reign of dominance at Parkhead when they head to the Hoops’ home patch on March 21.
The jubilant scenes before the game were matched at full-time as the Rangers players raced to the corner of the ground at the Copland Road end where a small group of fans had stayed on to cheer them through the match.
And Gerrard hailed his players for keeping calm while those around the ground were in party mode, with goals from Ryan Kent, Alfredo Morelos and Ianis Hagi sealing the win.
The Rangers boss – who plans to watch Celtic’s game with his players at the training ground – said: “We heard the rumours about how it could be when we turned up at the stadium today. That can take you to an emotional place, a real high.
“Some of my new players haven’t seen the supporters yet, so it was a big eye-opener for them.
“On a really big, monumental day for the club this is probably the most important three points we have delivered.
“It puts us millimetres away from being champions. We will try and stay humble. It’s tough, because we are so close.
“It’s been a long journey over the three years. There have been some lows in there. But I just walked into a really happy dressing room, as you can imagine, because we are so close now.”
Jim Goodwin’s Saints were also made to battle their way through the crowds to get into Ibrox.
But the Irishman – whose team now need to beat Hamilton in a fortnight to seal their top-six place – said: “It didn’t have any impact. We walked through them and they shouldn’t be there but can you blame them?
“It was good humour, no malice. I walked through 100 of them and it was all good humour. They generated a good atmosphere and the Rangers players didn’t let them down today.
“We’re not going to beat ourselves up about today’s game, if you’d offered me one game to go pre-split to get into the top six with all we’ve had to deal with Covid, we’d have bitten your hand off.
“We have one massive game to come in a couple of weeks. The players are really excited and we’ll be raring to go.”