Rangers have a Europa League glass ceiling to smash and Red Star Belgrade fear factor is overblown – Barry Ferguson – Barry Ferguson

So a clash against Red Star Belgrade is the reward for a red-hot win over Dortmund.

I was hoping for a battle of Britain with West Ham but this isn’t a bad alternative.

On paper, it looks about just as good a last 16 draw as Rangers could have hoped for. It’s definitely winnable.

They’re not at Leverkusen or Lyon’s level and Giovanni van Bronckhorst’s boys really should be backing themselves to break through the glass ceiling they’ve faced over the last couple of years and smash their way to the quarter-finals.

Red Star are a big name in European football but I’ll be honest, there’s not many of their current squad I could pick out of a line-up.

But I’d hazard a guess they’ll be good technically.

And the atmosphere will be spicy for sure, as I experienced back in 2007 when we edged them out to qualify for the Champions League the year we went to Manchester.

We’d beaten them 1-0 at Ibrox with a penalty from wee Nacho Novo before heading over to Belgrade for the return.

Allan McGregor pulled off his usual couple of saves to keep us in the tie but what I remember about after the match was that all anyone wanted to talk about was how mental the fans were.

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There was also this big long tunnel which took you from the dressing rooms out to the pitch.

As you walked out, there were two lines of robocop riot police either side of you, eyeballing you the whole way.

It was clearly an attempt to put the scarers on us but you know what? It didn’t bother me at all. I just thought the whole thing was a bit over the top!

I’ve experienced loads of these places, be it Galatasaray or PAOK Salonika, who had another infamously inhospitable ground in Greece.

But I always felt these serious warnings about the reception we were in for were overblown.

Scary? no chance!

I actually loved going to these hostile environments. It was no shock, we knew what the Serbians would be like. They would be noisy, there would be flares and bangers going off.

But that just got my blood pumping all the more.

I was certainly up and jumping about at full-time on Thursday night. What a win! What a team!

As the final whistle blew, the camera panned to Gonnor Goldson standing in the middle of that pitch, taking in the scene of absolute joy all around him.

You could see on his face he was just thinking, ‘Wow!’

It’s night like that which make you realize just how special a place Ibrox is.

Rangers recorded a famous win to put them in the Europa League last 16
Rangers recorded a famous win to put them in the Europa League last 16

Connor has got a major decision to make in the next couple of months with his contract almost up.

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Does he stay for more of this or return back down south, perhaps for another crack at the Premier League.

But he needs to consider what he’s giving up.

Don’t get me wrong, I’ve played in England at all the big grounds and there’s some brilliant atmospheres about.

But nothing comes close to the noise, the crackle, the buzz you feel playing in an Old Firm game or a big European night under the lights at Ibrox. It’s the best in the world.

Last night as the celebrations kicked off it was hard to focus on what was happening on the TV because the vibrations from the stands were shaking the camera about so much.

I’ll be honest with you, it wasn’t an easy watch. It was such a tense game, especially the first half when Dortmund snuck in front and we had to rely on Greegsy to bail us out with a couple of big saves.

At half-time, the butterflies in my stomach were flapping about like a loose hose. I was pacing up and down the living room because they were a top team.

Even after we’d got the first goal, the game was still far too open for my liking and they were looking dangerous with their impressive one-touch play.

But I have to give so much credit to Gio for the way he tinkered with things at the interval.

He clearly thought the team were too open and he had to find a way to make them more compact. What he came up with was a masterstroke.

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Switching to a back three instantly shut off all the spaces Dortmund were squeezing into before the break and they barely threatened in the second half.

And I’ve got to praise James Tavernier too.

He’s taken a lot of stick down the years as skipper. It’s not easy to shoulder the weight that comes with that armband.

There were times when people questioned whether he was captain material, like the episode with his infamous program notes.

Well he put on a display of true leadership the other night.

There was so much pressure riding on that early penalty but you wouldn’t have known it the way he fired home so coolly.

But the way he finished off the equalizer was even more impressive. That’s a chance you could easily have sent soaring into the Copland Rear but Tav produced a striker’s finish to seal a famous result.

I was buzzing with the performance.

The only disappointment was that I couldn’t give it the proper toasting it deserved. I’m on a health kick at the moment while I try to get myself in decent shape for this Rangers legends game coming up in a few weeks.

There’s some proper players I’ll be going up against like Roberto Carlos and Robert Pires so I need to be on it – and that means no midweek bevvies!

I’ve decided to stay off the wine until the weekends – but you can bet I’ll be cracking open a bottle of red tonight to celebrate!


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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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