RANGERS are through to post-Christmas European football for the first time in nine years – and Steven Gerrard is thrilled with his side’s achievement.
The manager conceded he wasn’t entirely satisfied with tonight’s overall performance as his side drew 1-1 with BSC Young Boys here at Ibrox – but the prize of qualification from a ‘Champions League-level’ group was at the forefront of his mind.
Speaking to Rangers Media after the game, Gerrard explained: “I’m so, so proud. I think on the back of the weekend, having to pick themselves up, the character, grit and desire to get over the line and get into the next stage.
“To bring knockout football back here for the first time since 2011, the boys deserve all the credit and I am so, so proud of them.
“I thought we were really good first half – I thought we were front-foot, aggressive and creating chances and maybe could have went in further in front if people had a bit more hunger to be in the right place at the right time.
“At 1-0, we always knew Young Boys were never going to go away and put us under pressure, and they did, but we dug in and did everything we could to try and win the game, but unfortunately they got an equaliser which we will pick the bones out of at the right time.
“And, we had another chance to go and win it. If Tav picks the right pass, maybe we could have won it.
“But look, I don’t think the performance was fantastic over the 90 minutes – it was good first-half and we had to hang on at times in the second half, but when the dust settles, at the end of the day, we are in the next round and we have come out of a Champions’ League-level group, so the players deserve credit rather than criticism.”
The players had to pick themselves up after the heartache of Sunday’s League Cup Final defeat – with Gerrard delighted with how both they and the club’s supporters responded.
He continued: “Listen, it’s tough after a final when it doesn’t go your way – I’ve had experience of that myself. I said I’ll stay with these players as I believe they are a humble group, and they are a group that want to achieve something for these fans.
“The fans have to remember this is a group who are desperate to make them happy. Hopefully, the majority have gone away tonight with smiles on their faces after a tough week.
“Have you ever been at Ibrox on a European night when they haven’t [got behind us]? It’s standard now that they are with us and behind us and they are so, so helpful when they get with us.
“Of course, there are going to be nerves at the end, and moans and groans – that’s natural. This club has suffered a lot and the fans have been through a lot so they are hungry for success.
“They want good nights and big European nights, and what I can assure them is me and my staff and this dressing room want to keep pushing for them to have more good times.”
And, looking ahead to Monday’s Last 32 draw, the manager added: “I think at this level of the competition now, any one of our teams could have went through and it would have been two tough games, and I am sure that is the same across the board.
“We will see what it brings. It is going to be exciting and it is going to be interesting. One thing is for sure, we are going to give it our best shot to go and do it again.
“We always try to be confident and we always try to believe in ourselves, but let’s see what the draw brings.
“One thing is for sure, we will give it our best shot and we will be a challenge for anyone.”