Rangers’ journey to the Champions League – from Annan defeat to boss in a bush

Giovanni van Bronkhorst was mobbed by his staff and players after Rangers confirmed their place in the Champions League.

Barely five years previously, Pedro Caixinha was mobbed by angry Rangers supporters while he was marooned in a bush. While Van Bronckhorst overcame his former side PSV Eindhoven to book the Scottish giant’s place at the top table of European football, Caixinha was humiliated by a team made up of part-timers.

Rangers fans will never take their now lofty position for granted, particularly after that humiliation at the hands of Luxembourg minnows Progres Niederkorn. Daily Star Sport considers that, and many other, dark and humiliating Rangers' moments from the last decade.

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Van Bronckhorst had an extremely tough act to follow. Steven Gerrard departed Ibrox Park with three major titles. The Scottish Premier League, the Scottish Cup, and, perhaps most importantly for all, the gratitude of being the manager who prevented Celtic from winning ten in a row.

Many Rangers fans may still be bitter at the manner of Gerrard’s departure to Aston Villa, but any mere mention of the former Liverpool captain’s name will no doubt be drowned out when the Champions League anthem is heard at Ibrox for the first time in 11 years.

Their 60,000 seater capacity stadium and imperious history means it would be tricky to label Rangers’ return as a rags to riches story. However, shivers will still trickle down Rangers’ spines when they reflect on their position one decade ago.

Their 10 point deduction for entering administration in February 2012 would normally be enough to ruin a campaign. Yet, a ruined title challenge became a complete ousting from the top division all together.

Liquidation sent the Blues crashing into the fourth tier of Scottish football. A new slate and a new company name, The Rangers Football Club plc, later, the recovery could now begin.

Unfortunately, the big recovery began with only six players turning up for pre-season. Even Sunday League managers would be hit for six by such a perilous turnout.

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Fortunately, reinforcements did arrive and Rangers strolled out of the fourth tier, but not after losing 2-1 Annan Athletic at Ibrox. The Blues may have exited the Third Division at a canter, but the defeat to the minnows stung like an open wound for a long time. And while Rangers fans had to tolerate the odd embarrassment to the likes of Annan, fierce rivals Celtic were cruising to the title and even beating Barcelona 2-1 in the Champions League. Night and day does not come close to describing the contrast.

However, Rangers path to recovery would continue, but not without more embarrassing scandals away from the pitch. Experienced midfielder Ian Black was handed a 10 match ban for gambling on football. This situation was particularly embarrassing as he also bet against his own side on three occasions.

Nevertheless, McCoist guided them out of the newly named Scottish League One and set their sights on getting back into the Premiership. Unfortunately, an unusually strong Championship featuring Hearts and Hibernian proved to be too much of an obstacle. Rangers finished 24 points behind the automatic promotion and were handed a 6-1 thumping by Motherwell in the Premiership play-off final.

Enter stage right Mark Warburton and former captain David Weir. Not only did they easily gain promotion into the Premiership, they also did so with an enjoyable brand of football. They even reached the Scottish Cup Final, only to lose 3-2 to Hibernian in a match remembered by an ugly pitch invasion from HIbernian fans.

Three promotions in four seasons may have been achieved, yet these appeared to be the easier hurdles. A painstaking five years of trial and error would begin. Joey Barton’s arrival appeared to signify their ambition, but Warburton could not inspire a genuine title challenge. He would soon exit Ibrox in place of Caixinha who is best remembered for pleading with Rangers fans from within a bush.

The Portuguese boss did eventually leave the shrubbery of shame. Barely four months later, Caixinha was shown the door after a painful 2-0 League Cup semi-final loss to Motherwell. More pain was around the corner. Celtic beat Rangers 4-0 in the Scottish Cup Final and even recorded a 5-0 victory over the Gers in the Old Firm derby at Parkhead. Rangers finished in third position, behind Aberdeen.

Gerrard placed the building blocks in his first 18 months and then used them to march to a first Scottish League title since 2011. Their journey into the Europa League Round of 16 suggested more was to come under the former England captain.

However, the allure of managing in the Premier League was too much for Gerrard. The Rangers job looked to be a poisoned chalice after Gerrard left. However, Van Bronckhorst has driven this historic team to its first European final since 2008, beating Borussia Dortmund and many others along the way.

Rangers could face the Bundesliga giants once more, except this time they will be a Champions League team. Just like the whole of Scotland, But just like the whole of Scotland, Van Bronckhorst will eagerly watch the draw to see who he will welcome at Ibrox.

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