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Europa League final: The fall and rise of Rangers

Sky News
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Any club that survives for 150 years knows the highs and the lows. At Ibrox, the highs have seen dizzying spells of domination, the lows have been as bleak as they get.

It is though the last decade in which Rangers have added a chapter that might be called “the fall and rise” but that would not quite capture the magnitude of the turmoil Rangers found themselves in back in 2012.

The hordes of buoyant Rangers fans landing in Seville ahead of the Europa League final were in a very different place 10 years ago – there were tears outside the gates of Ibrox as the news was confirmed that this famous old club was to be liquidated.

The finances were a mess – creative accounting built on quicksand had seen the club borrow more than it could afford. For the fans, the slow car crash that played out at Ibrox was painful to watch.

As you might expect, their rivals delighted in the club’s spectacular collapse.

Administration led to liquidation. The shock of being told they would have to start again in the fourth flight of Scottish football was a seismic moment not just for Rangers but for the whole of the game in Scotland.

By the time Rangers lined up to face Peterhead away in their first league match of the Third Division the following August the team looked very different. Club legend Ally McCoist had stuck with them as manager and was in no doubt about the size of the challenge that lay ahead.

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The next match against East Stirling at home ended with a win – remarkably 49,118 fans turned up at Ibrox. An attendance that set a world record for a fourth-tier league game.

The away trips that followed to humble stadiums in the far-flung corners of Scotland will never be forgotten by those who travelled. There was never much doubt that the Rangers revival would happen – they were simply too big to get stuck in the lower leagues – but they still had to make it happen.

Rangers fans arrive in Seville ahead of Wednesday’s UEFA Europa League Final between Eintracht Frankfurt and Rangers at the Estadio Ramon Sanchez-Pizjuan. Pic: PA
Image:
Rangers fans arrive in Seville ahead of Wednesday’s UEFA Europa League Final between Eintracht Frankfurt and Rangers at the Estadio Ramon Sanchez-Pizjuan. Pic: PA

The company that owned the club changed but they were still Rangers, still playing at Ibrox. They were still the institution that is built into the fabric of the west side of Glasgow – the institution that still enjoys support from all corners of the world.

Promotions followed and the lure of a resurgent Rangers meant bigger and better names joined the project.

Everyone knew they just needed to be back challenging their great rivals Celtic who had almost been given a clear run while Rangers were absent from the top-flight.

The final promotion came in 2016 after four seasons in the lower leagues.

It was Steven Gerrard’s arrival in 2019, making his managerial debut at Ibrox, that fired up the imaginations and had them dreaming of emulating past successes.

The Scottish side have already beaten two German oppositions on the way to the Seville final. Pic:PA
Image:
The Scottish side have already beaten two German oppositions on the way to the Seville final. Pic:PA

Last year Gerrard led them to the Scottish league title – the competition they had become so used to winning over the decades.

It was their 55th league title, keeping them still just ahead of Celtic who have snatched it back this season.

The standards and the staff that Gerrard introduced have laid the foundations for this season’s glorious run in the Europa League but he has said that his successor, Giovanni van Bronckhorst, deserves “all the praise and the credit.”

Now under the astute Dutchman they stand on the brink of European glory.

The journey from Peterhead to Seville has been quite a ride.

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