Reaching our seeded level.
By Northampton Loyalist
Updated Monday, 10th August 2009
What we should expect from our next European campaign.This summer has so far seen Rangers left open to easy accusations of resting on laurels, of showing a lack of ambition, and of failing to capitalize on the back of a title winning campaign. A simple way to begin silencing those criticisms will be handed to the club after the final qualifying stage of the Champions League.
In the 2007-2008 season the club reached the final of the then UEFA cup. The road to the Manchester showpiece began with a treacherous Champions League group that included Barcelona, Lyon and Stuttgart, all teams that would have looked upon an under-achieving Rangers as a side easily beaten. The relatively new squad that Walter Smith had assembled managed to take points from each team in that 'group of death' and recorded a very creditable third place finish to extend the run of European nights beyond Christmas. What happened next is something that no Rangers fan will ever forget.
The disastrous result against FC Kaunas the following season removed any chance to build European momentum and next season Rangers must take full advantage of the benefits that accompany automatic qualification. A worst case scenario will see Rangers seeded third in the group stage draw, and while, to use a time worn cliché, there are no easy games at this level, we can expect to be grouped with at least one team that we are capable of taking four points from. This gives us a very good chance of equaling the achievements of 2007, and possibly exceeding them.
In the 2008-2009 season Girondins de Bordeaux, Werder Bremen, Shakhtar Donetsk, Olympique Marseille, AaB (Aalborg), Fiorentina, Dynamo Kyiv and Zenit St-Peterburg all qualified for the Europa league knockout stage by way of a third place finish in their champions league groups. Some of the names on that list are very familiar to Rangers supporters: the previous season we saw the club despatch two from the UEFA cup and lost in the final to another. Rangers today can compete comfortably with those named clubs and there is no reason to believe that a third place finish is beyond the current squad.
Long gone are the days when Rangers could look at any group and contemplate topping it, for the time being fans need to be content with a very real prospect of seeing out the year whilst still being involved with the 'big boys'. While that in itself is cause for concern there are positives to be taken. The accusations of a lack of ambition are stemming from the lack of activity in the transfer market but while it is true we have spent nothing so far and shed several squad members the fact we still have a side that can at the very least instil some optimism for the coming campaigns is a sign that some of the criticism is unfounded.
The champions league is a vital source of income for Rangers now and that financial imperative is the single biggest factor to be considered when looking at our inclusion in the premier competitions. We should not ignore, however, the fact that with some determination and a little luck, ambition and optimism are not necessarily misguided. The standard needed to progress either to the last 16 of the main event or to drop into the Europa league is not so far from our grasp. I am sure that Walter Smith and his back-room staff will be harbouring a desire to emulate their previous successes and to do that Rangers must be aiming to at the very least justify the third seed rating that we have earned through previous campaigns.
Heres to another run in Europe to leave our enemies jealous, our detractors sick and most importantly, our support ecstatic.
|09 Aug 2009|
|South coast blues for Rangers|
|08 Aug 2009|
|A Landmark Moment in the Journey of a Lifetime.|
|When the punishment doesn't fit the crime.|
|06 Aug 2009|
|My Euro Dream: That first trip.|
|04 Aug 2009|
|Rangers vs. Manchester City - A brief history|
|02 Aug 2009|
|A class apart|
|01 Aug 2009|
|Rangers open Emirates Cup with win|