Followers of Glasgow Rangers were shocked and hurt at the sudden departure of former manager Steven Gerrard who swapped Govan for Aston Villa and the riches of the English Premier League. The former Liverpool and England captain had led the Gers to their 55th Scottish championship and first in a decade, before packing up and moving south. Supporters prayed to the footballing gods for a saviour and their prayers were answered in the form of Dutchman Giovanni van Bronckhorst.
Gio is a former fan favourite from his playing days, signed by countryman Dick Advocaat and enjoying a successful spell at Ibrox, helping the team win the Premier League, Scottish Cup and League Cup. He then moved to enjoy success at Arsenal and Barcelona before trying his hand at management. Experience of operating at the highest level as a player – the English Premier League and Champions League amongst his achievements – and the knowledge of Glasgow made him a perfect fit to succeed Gerrard.
Not only has GvB taken over from Stevie G, he has taken the team forward in a short space of time. Traders at the best betting sites have been so impressed by the Dutchmanâ€™s start to life as Rangers head coach they have the Gers as hot favourites to win the Scottish Premiership, securing two in a row. Many also support Rangers to make a long awaited return to winners of the Scottish Cup, something Gerrard was unable to do.
In at the deep end
Former World Cup runner-up van Bronckhorst inherited a Rangers side that had just been knocked out of the League Cup by Hibs in the semi-finals. It was a match the Gers were expected to win but, without a manager as Gerrard was already at Villa Park, the team were battered from pillar to post. Hibs hammered Rangers at the national stadium that day, racing into a 3-0 lead before the Glasgow side finally hit back to make it 3-1. That was the score at half time and a weak second 45 meant that was also the score at full-time.
GvB watched on from the stands and must have feared the worst, wondering what exactly had he signed up for. How was he going to improve this side of underachievers, a squad that lacked character under pressure? The Rangers team that day was miles away from the one he left behind during his playing days. Everyone knew van Bronckhorst had a huge task on his hands but the little Dutchman cut the figure of a man who was quietly confident. A man who has complete faith and belief in his own skills as a manager.
He needed to get the team winning again and Gio wasted no time making that happen. His first job in the dugout was against Sparta Prague at home in the UEFA Europa League. Rangers needed a win to secure their passage to the next round and they needed it by two or more goals. Gioâ€™s side blasted their way to an emphatic 2-0 victory. The players may have been the same but the tactics were very different and Rangers immediately looked like a team reborn, one eager to play football, to score goals, entertain and, for the first time in longer than most fans cared to remember, to defend.
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Let the good times roll
Fans were blown away by that stunning introduction to life under van Bronckhorst but there was plenty more to come. The good times were about to roll again for supporters of the Scottish champions. Rangers followed that Europa League win over Prague with a 3-1 win away to Livingston in the Premiership to cap November on a high. Moving to December and Rangers brushed past Hibs at Easter Road in a revenge mission, Dundee at Ibrox, Hearts, St Johnstone, Dundee Utd and St Mirren. In his first seven league games, Gioâ€™s team racked up an incredible aggregate score of 14-1, taking maximum points from each game.
They also went to France and held runaway Europa League group winners Lille to a 1-1 draw in front of their fans. Rangers took the lead in that game before being pegged back in what was another major conference booster. Fans now look ahead with excitement.