AT today’s UEFA Europa League press conference Steven Gerrard spoke from the heart about Fernando Ricksen after the former Light Blues defender sadly passed away this morning following his battle with motor neurone disease.
Ricksen, of course, enjoyed six trophy-laden season at Ibrox from 2000 to 2006, making 254 competitive appearances and scoring 20 goals.
Signed from Dutch side AZ Alkmaar in his homeland, Fernando went on to captain the Gers and was inducted into the club’s Hall of Fame in 2014. He also earned 12 caps at international level.
Ahead of tomorrow night’s Group G match against Eredivisie side Feyenoord, Gerrard said: “It’s very sad news for everyone connected with Rangers and, more importantly, his young family.
“So on behalf of the club I would like to pay tribute. He was fantastic player and he had a decorated career.
He played with his heart on his sleeve, he was that type, and that was epitomised when he was taken ill in 2013. I think he was given 18 months to live at the time and he has fought ever so hard up to this point.
“That sums up the character, the warrior type on the pitch and off the pitch. But we certainly send our condolences to his young family.”
The manager continued: “I think he was a fantastic ambassador and role model for the club with the way he played but also the way he handled himself off the pitch.
“I was lucky enough to meet him a couple of times, recently as well when you could see that he was in pain and suffering. You could see the fight he was still putting up with.
“So it is very sad news but he certainly deserves all the accolades that are going to come his way because I think he handled himself so well, not just as a footballer but as a human being more importantly.”
When asked if it is fitting that, following Ricksen’s passing, Rangers are facing a Dutch side tomorrow, Gerrard replied: “Maybe. For me he is a Rangers man. I think him staying in this country after his career had finished shows his connection with the supporters and the people of Glasgow.
It’s still very raw. We only found out the news a couple of hours ago when we came off the training pitch, so yeah it’s very sad and I’m sure the supporters are very sad at this time.
“We, as responsible for tomorrow night’s performance, want to do everything we can to try and get a win and dedicate it to him.
“These are the nights that the supporters wanted and always want here, and being part of a big club you’ve always got to try and get European football.
“I know the players are excited and ready, and I’m certainly looking forward to the game. I’m sure there will be a lot of emotions in the stadium tomorrow and I think Fernando deserves that.
“Both sets of supporters will pay their respects and we ask our supporters to get right behind the team because I think it will be a nice tribute to him if we can put in a good performance and try and get maximum points.
“I think everyone knows before a ball is kicked if that was the case we would certainly dedicate it to him and his family.”