FINDING Rangers to be bigger than they ever imagined is an age-old tale told by former foreign players, and American internationalist Claudio Reyna admits he is no different.
Capped an incredible 112 times by the US national side, the midfield maestro enjoyed an excellent two-and-a-half year spell at Ibrox, making 98 appearances and scoring 13 goals, while he also won the League Championship and the Scottish Cup in the 1999/00 season.
Signed from Wolfsburg towards the latter end of the 1998/99 campaign, one of his six matches he played before the end of that treble-winning year was the unforgettable 3-0 win over Celtic which saw the Light Blues clinch the top-flight title at Parkhead for the first time in their history.
It was an amazing time at Rangers with a plethora of incredible players plying their trade on the Southside of Glasgow, and Reyna reckons it was the perfect move for him at that stage in his career.
Speaking exclusively to Rangers.co.uk, he explained: “I quickly realised before I arrived that it was a big club, but then I flew into Glasgow and joined the club and realised that was an understatement and it was in fact a massive club. The support, Ibrox, my teammates and everything around the club was truly first-class. It was a very special place with great people, and of course, at the time we had a very strong team with fantastic players.
“It was firstly a big challenge for me to come from where I was at Wolfsburg in a great, tough Bundesliga to a club that was aspiring to be in the Champions League. More than anything, the feeling of the club is something I’ll never forget, with all the special people and the support from the fans was something that was just amazing to me, and it was a great time for myself and my family to be in Glasgow.
“It was exciting for me as it was the challenge I was looking for in my career. I believed in my own abilities to be able to play with the level of player Rangers had at that time. There was a lot of depth within the team, and with Dick Advocaat, there was a very well-known coach who had worked at the highest level.
“I was just really excited and looking forward to a new chapter in my career, and Rangers fulfilled everything I was looking for. The locker room was great, and we had a lot of internationals and foreign players that were there, so we built a really good togetherness. We were all in the same situation being foreigners and we had to rely on each other for support and spending free time with each other.
“It was a special group of players and the Scottish players were incredibly supportive and quick to make us understand how important it was to play at Rangers and their role was critical because as foreigners, you come to a league and you need to understand the Old Firm and what it means to Rangers supporters, and also the tradition of success that is there.
“We had a really good blend of the Scottish players who were Rangers through and through, and the internationals who came in and embraced that and played with everything. It was a committed locker room with players who knew what it meant to play for this great club.”
One of Reyna’s greatest memories, and indeed a memory that will be shared by every Rangers fan who was there on that night, is the 2-0 win over Parma in August 1999 where he notched the second goal.
The Italian outfit had knocked Advocaat’s side out en-route to UEFA Cup glory the previous season, and were easily one of the very best sides in Europe at the time. But, in front of arguably the best Ibrox atmosphere of recent times, Tony Vidmar and then Reyna put the heavy favourites to the sword to give them a cushion going into the second leg as they qualified for the Champions League group stage.
The American continued: “It was an incredible night. The noise level is something I will never forget – from the moment we came out for the warm-up to the end of the game.
“Being able to get a goal was important , but we still had a job to do back in Parma, but if you look back at that team, it was an incredible achievement.
“They had world-class players throughout their team, but it showed the level we had in our team that we were able to compete with them and qualify. The goal for me was special for the importance more than anything as it helped us get through into the Champions League. It was amazing, and like I said, more than anything I will remember the noise that night. Ibrox was absolutely amazing and I had never experienced anything like that night in my career in terms of the energy and the support.”