Gio van Bronckhorst sent Rangers redemption mission for Champions League heartbreak


Word of Rangers’ adventures in Europe has traveled far.

Because it’s after midnight in UZBEKISTAN and Pieter Huistra is still up, assessing the challenge facing Gio van Bronckhorst’s team this week.

His fellow Dutchman is just 90 minutes away from creating history by taking the Ibrox club to another European final.

They’ll need to beat German outfit RB Leipzig at Ibrox on Thursday night and Huistra wants van Bronckhorst’s team to grasp the chance.

It takes him back to 1993 and one of Rangers’ best ever campaigns.

Not only did they win a domestic Treble but they also came within a whisker of reaching the Champions League Final.

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A win over Marseille in France could have got them there but, after a 1-1 draw, it came down to a clash with CSKA Moscow at Ibrox. Walter Smith’s men had to see off the Russians to give them a chance of topping the group and advancing to the final.

But on one of the most agonizing Euro nights for Gers fans, a series of opportunities were missed – and they were out, finishing just a point behind the French cracks.

Marseille went on to win the competition before later becoming embroiled in match-fixing allegations.

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That still hurts Huistra to this day. It was the only black mark on the best season of his career.

And that’s why the former Dutch winger, now working as a coach and technical director in Uzbekistan, hopes the current crop of Rangers players make it to Seville.

I have told MailSport : “That 92/93 season was the best ever for me. The consistency, the chemistry and the balance of our squad were incredible. Sometimes games were smooth for us but in others we had to fight.

“When that was necessary, we had a group who had gelled together and were ready to do it.

“In many of the games that year we went behind but then looked at each other and went up a few gears.

“If we were 1-0 down, we didn’t stop until it was 2-1 or 3-1. Then we looked at the next game coming up to save a bit for that.

“It was an unbelievable campaign. We won three trophies, went 44 games unbeaten. It was special.

“But if I could go back and change one thing it would be to reach that European final.

“Especially when you hear the stories afterwards about Marseille who were stripped of their French title.

“There was also controversy surrounding the Champions League Final with AC Milan.

“That could have been us who were there. But I prefer to look at the good things. We won three trophies and got very close to a European final.

“For Scottish teams, I’m not sure that will ever happen again.

“I hope Giovanni’s players grab this chance. When you’re so close, you have to push it all into one game.

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“With the Ibrox fans behind them, they’ll have an extra boost.

“It will feel like 12 v 11 so it’s certainly possible for Rangers. The crowd will be a big factor.”

Rangers are dreaming of glory

Huistra is full of admiration for the job van Bronckhorst has done at Rangers since replacing Steven Gerrard in November.

Despite falling behind Celtic in the Premiership title race, they’ve excelled in the Europa League – seeing off the likes of Borussia Dortmund and Braga – to reach the last four.

The former Dutch international, who spent five years at Ibrox between 1990 and 1995, says it’s almost impossible for a Scottish club to compete on both fronts. He might be 4000 miles away in Uzbekistan but he watched the first leg against Leipzig in midweek on TV.

And despite facing an uphill task to overturn a 1-0 defeat, he knows they’ve still got a chance to reach the final against either West Ham or Eintracht Frankfurt.

Huistra said: “In Uzbekistan we get all the football from across the world on TV so we know about what Rangers have done in Europe.

“Giovanni stepped in and, especially on the European stage, has done very well. Of course, if you get to a semi-final you’ve done a good job.

“I know they’ve fallen a bit behind in the league but let’s see how that turns out.

“Certainly, in the Europa League he has done really well. And that’s always special for any Scottish club, if you get that far.

“It’s almost impossible to reach a European final AND win the domestic league. Because to get that far in Europe you have to point your energy in a certain direction.

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“You see it everywhere, even at the real top clubs – they always have difficult games after a European night.

“That’s part of being a top club, having to find that consistency in the league as well.

“I don’t know exactly what type of budget Rangers have at this moment.

“But I’d expect that Leipzig will have a much bigger one.

“It has been great for Rangers to go this far. But the 1-0 defeat in Germany last week means it won’t be an easy task to make it up.

“It’s a tricky second leg but Rangers have a chance. They’re still in it.”

And if they do get past the Germans to set up a showdown in Seville on May 18, Huistra believes it will be a special achievement for van Bronckhorst. If Gers lose today’s Old Firm derby at Parkhead, Celtic will be champions.

But he says a European final spot would be valuable compensation for their slip-ups in the Premiership title race.

And if Rangers get to the end, with all eyes on them from across the world, he insists they have to lift the trophy – because the runners-up are never remembered.

Huistra said: “If Gio can get to a European final it would certainly make up for coming up short in the league.

“It’s rare for any coach or players to achieve that.

“But getting to the end isn’t enough. You have to win it to make it really special. You have to get there first so hopefully Gio and Rangers take that step on Thursday.”


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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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