17th of March 2011 might not seem like a remarkable date to most of you, but in fact it has colossal significance in light of this evening’s hosting of Portuguese giants Sporting Braga.
That evening, almost 9 years ago, was the last time Rangers hosted European football after Christmas.
That season had seen a decent campaign in the Champions League followed by the parachute down to the Europa League, where after dispatching perennial victims Sporting (of Lisbon), Rangers came undone at the last 16 in the UEL to Dutch giants PSV.
But the home leg, the second of the two, was the last time Rangers competed in post-Christmas football.
There is no overstating the significance of tonight’s match – it’s not just about Rangers’ form, or Braga’s, or who is missing for the home side:
It’s the fact we’re here again.
We’re here in the KO stage of European competition for the first time in an effective decade and it’s massive.
With a sellout home crowd set to bring in £2,000,000 tonight, Rangers are where they should be.
We couldn’t begin to guess the outcome – we know Braga are deeply in form and a tough opponent, but Rangers have shown against extremely strong sides an ability to dig deep and punch above their weight.
And to be doing that going into February is simply wonderful.