THERE is little doubt that season 2007/08 will go down as one of the most eventful in Rangers’ history but for many fans it still holds a bitter-sweet taste.
It was a fantastic achievement for Rangers to reach their fourth European final. They played 18 matches in Europe which led them to the City of Manchester Stadium and the UEFA Cup Final on May 14.
Sadly they lost 2-0 to Zenit St Petersburg who, ironically, were coached by former Rangers manager Dick Advocaat.
Rangers won both domestic cup competitions that season but they missed out on the League title on the final day when the sheer volume of matches caught up with them.
Overall it was incredible that a club in some disarray only 18 months earlier could recover in such a fashion.
On March 11, 2006 it was announed that Paul Le Guen, who had been highly successful as Lyon manager in France, was to take over from Alex McLeish at the end of the season.
Everyone was excited at the appointment given that Le Guen had delivered three consecutive titles at the Stade Gerland and achieved some excellent results in the Champions League.
However, it was a move that did not work for whatever reason. Domestically, Rangers trailed Celtic and suffered the ignominy of losing at home to St Johnstone in the League Cup.
Le Guen led Rangers into post-European football from the UEFA Cup group phase,
but there was internal wranglking and a very public falling out with captain Barry Ferguson. It all ended in January 07.
Sir David Murray knew there was only one man for the job of resurrecting Rangers’ fortunes and it was Walter Smith who came back as manager, bringing Ibrox leged Ally McCoist and Kenny McDowall with him.
He immediately stabilised the situation, signing experienced defenders Davie Weir and Ugo Ehiogu and Hibs midfielder Kevin Thomson. Rangers won 11 of their next 13 matches, drawing the other two, and secured consecutive league wins over Celtic.
That summer Smith began to build his team. He signed Jean-Claude Darcheville, Daniel Cousin, DaMarcus Beasley, Lee McCulloch, Steven Whittaker, Steven Naismith and Carlos Cuellar having already secured Kirk Broadfoot.
Rangers qualified for the Champions League, seeing off FK Zeta and then Red Star Belgrade, and in the league they showed they were a match for Celtic.
In the group phase they got off to a flyer, beating Stuttgart at home thumping Lyon 3-0 in their own back yard and then securing a creditable draw at home with Barcelona.
They parachuted into the UEFA Cup and this where the story really warms up.
In an incredible run, Rangers defeated Panathinaikos, Werder Bremen, Sporting Lisbon and then won a place in the final after an electrifying penalty shoot-out win over Fiorentina in Florence with Nacho Novo scoring the clinching kick.
By this time Steve Davis was on board and the delirious Ibrox fans were dreaming of a Quadruple.
The League Cup had been won in March in dramatic fasion when two Kris Boyd goals gave Rangers a 2-2 draw with Dundee United, who were beaten on penalties with Boyd scoring the one that mattered.
However, fixture congestion and an unwilligness of the football authrorities to help ease the situation took its toll in an agonising way.
Incredibly, Rangers played 38 matches – an entire SPL season – from January 5 to May 24 and they just could not fall over the finish line in the SPL.
They actually played Celtic in the league three times in four matches, beating them at Ibrox but losing both Parkhead matches. In the final six SPL matches they only won three and Celtic took the title in the final day.
They were forced to play nine matches of huge intensity in 25 days at the end of the season including the UEFA Cup Final, all of the post-split fixtures and the Scottish Cup Final.
Remarkably, having lost out on the title at Pittodrie on Thursday May 22 they returned to Glasgow, prepared on the Friday and managed to beat Queen of the South 3-2 the next day to win the Cup.
It was an unprecedented run of matches and there is no doubt that everyone involved will look back with some anger and resentment at the way the club was treated during this period.
Rangers had to regroup but they suffered the
trauma of going out of Europe at the first hurdle in 2008/09 when they were eliminated completely by Lithuanian side FBK Kaunas.
Carlos Cuellar also invoked a clause in his contract and was sold to Aston Villa for 10 millione Euros and the fans were restless.
Madjid Bougherra came in, Pedro Mendes was signed from Portsmouth and a permanent deal was done with Steve Davis but it took Rangers a bit of time to get going.
A stunning 4-2 win at Parkhead – with Kenny Miller scoring twice – was just the tonic but Rangers were inconsistent until the turn of the year when they really kicked on.
They did lose the Co-operative Insurance Cup Final to Celtic in extra time, but they were excellent in the Championship and the race went down to the final day.
Rangers needed a win at Tannadice to secure their first title since 2005 and they did so in style with a fantastic 3-0 victory. They followed that up a week later by clinching the Double when Nacho Novo’s wonder goal beat Falkirk 1-0.
It was a triumph for Smith and his players who had finally come through when it mattered.
Remarkably, despite being unable to bring in any players from January 2009 until the summer of 2010 Rangers won the 2009/10 championship with some ease – Mo Edu’s last-gasp winner in the February 28 Old Firm game effectively ending Celtic’s challenge.
They had been consistent for most of the campaign whereas Celtic under Tony Mowbray were sporadic and he paid for that with his job before the season was over.
Rangers clinched the crown at Easter Road on April 25 when Lafferty scored the only goal to spark fantastic celebrations both in Edinburgh and again back at Ibrox.
The European campaign was a poor one with only two draws from the six Champions League group games and that hurt Smith and his players. There was also carelessness in the Scottish Cup when Rangers frittered away a 3-1 lead over Dundee United in the quarter-final and then lost the replay at Tannadice.
However, the League Cup was something quite extraordinary when Rangers had both Kevin Thomson and Danny Wilson sent off and yet prevailed against St Mirren in the March 21 final thanks to Kenny Miller’s winning goal.
Smith was planning on leaving in the summer of 2010 but was convinced to remain and the 2010/11 season was a joy to behold with Rangers clinching the title on the final day and defeating their great rivals in the League Cup final.
There were big changes in the summer of 2010 with Kris Boyd and Kevin Thomson off to Middlesbrough, Danny Wilson went to Liverpool while Stevie Smith and DaMarcus Beasleu cut their ties.
The big signing was Nikica Jelavic who arrived from Rapid Vienna for £4million while James Beattie came in from Stoke City and Vladimir Weiss joined on loan from Manchester City while Richard Foster had a similar arrangement from Aberdeen.
It was a remarkable campain as Rangers clinched the League Cup again with a 2-1 extra time win over Celtic and then won three in a row on the final day of the season.
They hammererd Kilmarnock 5-1 to pip Celtic by a point and Smith left in the perfect way to hand over the reins to Ally McCoist.