Steven Gerrard learns brutal Saudi reality as Rangers hero swaps legions for a crowd of just 976 at 'eerie' Al-Ettifaq
Fortunes can change very quickly in football. Just over two years ago, 926 days to be exact, Steven Gerrard was being feted by tens of thousands of fans after leading Rangers to their first Scottish Premiership trophy for more than a decade.
Now, manager of Saudi Arabian side, Al-Ettifaq, life looks very different for the former Liverpool and England midfielder. High profile former SPFL stars such as Moussa Dembele and Jack Hendry have also joined Gerrard in the Middle-East. And regardless of the reasonings behind making the switch to Al-Ettifaq, a brutal reality has set in.
Gerrard, who spent 11 months in the Aston Villa hotseat following his Ibrox exit in November 2021, is now coaching in front of crowds less than those seen the lower tiers of the Scottish pyramid. Their latest outing came on Saturday as Al Ettifaq defeated Abha Club on Saturday, a result that keeps Gerrard’s side fifth in the Saudi Pro League, three-points adrift of leaders Al Hilal.
Despite their victory, the clash with Abha was played in very eerie circumstances as it registered an official attendance of just 976 spectators. That is a far cry from what Gerrard come to expect during his time at Anfield or Ibrox – with 50,000-plus sell-outs a regular occurrence.
Ultimately, in his first six games in charge of Al Ettifaq, Gerrard's men have failed to play in an attendance of more than 14,000 people. The highest crowd that they have featured in front of was when Cristiano Ronaldo’s Al Nassr came to Dammam for the opening match of the season, which attracted 13,930 punters. Saudi Arabia may have attracted the Hollywood-style names but they have yet to build up a following to match.