We remember the “Nightmare of Niederkorn.” Those infamous two legs which are rightly ranked as Rangers’ worst European results in our history. They beat the Athens, Gothenburg, Graz disasters by a country mile and stand alone in ignominy.
A year later, Steven Gerrard’s Rangers not only exorcised that ghost by getting past the first round in the form of a similarly weak team called FC Shkupi, but well and truly crushed the demon and then some by negotiating a further three torrid rounds of European qualifying football with a squad he’d only just assembled, and as, himself, a brand-new manager, a rookie on the job.
To add more staggering stats to this, the form has continued in the group stage of the competition, with a stunning draw in Spain then an even more bewildering win against Rapid.
Rangers’ all-time record in Europe is 12 games unbeaten (sorry about the slight miscalculation earlier) and Steven Gerrard’s side is already at 10.
So, we have to ask – just why is so little being made of this truly impalpable achievement?
It is our genuine conviction, that if we take context, squad quality, manager situation, budget, and every other factor into account Steven Gerrard and his men’s achievement ranks up there with 9IAR, 1972, 1993, 2006 and 2008.
All these other five amazing squads and managers of the past achieved their stunning records with a stronger backbone; either a great manager, a great squad, a dominant team, a much higher budget etc.
In short, all those other achievements were a different era where Rangers were either the best or close to the best.
In this case today, Steven Gerrard, a brand-new manager on the job, and an outsider, has rebuilt a squad with a modest budget – yes, he has spent some cash, with Connor Goldson still the big summer spend at £3M. But compare that to the yesteryear spending of a clutch of players who would cost £5M each and it’s just a different world.
And now put into context where he’s taken a ragamuffin group of sub-par players who couldn’t even beat a mid-table Luxembourg side to.
We are now 10 games unbeaten in Europe, with a bunch of wins – and yet, it really lacks a lot of praise.
We have gone into the group stage the hardest way possible. We won four qualification rounds in a row, and have continued in the group stage.
And yet a real lack of credit appears to have gone to the manager or the players for this.
Few headlines talking about the sheer gravity of our history makers, who went from zeros to heroes over the course of a year.
Is this the Scottish press at their tricks again, not interested in giving Rangers our due? Have we overhyped the achievement ourselves and it’s not really all that after all?
Or, is it truly an astonishing and historical achievement which doesn’t suit the agenda in this country to praise, so it gets very little mention?
Perhaps it doesn’t matter. We know how big a deal it was.