Last Thursday Rangers qualified for the group stages of the UEFA Europa League competition for Rangers first true success under Steven Gerrard.
With a 1-1 tie (2-1 on aggregate) against Russian side FC Ufa, gutting it out with just 9 men, Steven Gerrard’s side has brought the historic club back to the group stages of European competition for the first time since 2011. There are several reasons why this is important for the club, the financial benefits, the fun of being in a big tournament against good competition, and many more. But for Gerrard, it marks an important first step of a real, tangible, success.
So far in the young season, many have expressed how much better Rangers have looked and it is largely well earned praise. The former Liverpool star has added several players who have already shown obvious quality like Connor Goldson, Allan McGregor, Borna Barisic, and others. The Glasgow side has been rock solid defensively and shown some attacking bite on the other end, most importantly they have shown their resolve on the field as have had to dig deep and gut out games while short-handed three times this year already.
The reality is that even had Rangers conceded twice in the final moments against FC Ufa, all of the above would still be true. Blowing a game and a birth in the group stage while down to just nine men would hardly be a shameful thing, even if hugely disappointing. But especially following a loss to Celtic, it stands as proof that Gerrard is righting the ship.
For all the talk of how much better Rangers have looked, and the platitudes about how hard they fight, after 4 league games in Scotland, Rangers have just 5 points and sit 7th in the table. Regardless of how you look, this is a result based business. There have been times over the past two years (admittedly they were generally far and few between) where Rangers started to look like they were really righting the ship, but each time they had a chance to do something tangible they failed.
The birth in the group stages of Europe shows something tangible for the club and its supporters to hold onto. Not just talk of how good they “look.” it may not have always been pretty, but they truly accomplished something worthwhile. If they can manage to advance to the knockout rounds it would be a wonderful accomplishment for the club considering where they were last season.
There is still considerable work to do in Scotland following a loss against Old Firm rivals Celtic, but the triumph in Europe shows that Gerrard’s Rangers are capable of going onto a big stage and not just looking good and taking moral victories, but winning actual, real victories. Even if they don’t always look great while doing so.