Midway through the 2011-2012 season of the Scottish Premiership, Rangers were hunting down Celtic having put together three runs on the bounce. It was set to be an exciting campaign that could well have gone straight down to the wire.
However, those dreams came to a halt on February 14th, 2012. A day that we’re sure no Rangers fan will ever forget as the historic Scottish club was forced to enter administration. What caused more of a shock though was it had been just a year earlier that Craig Whyte had bought a majority share of the club from Sir David Murray for just £1.
But there was a reason that Whyte got the club for such a steal, because it was in £100m worth of debt, and the club owed HMRC £9m for an unpaid tax bill. With Whyte unable to pay the fines, the club were in financial ruin, and soon entered liquidation with Rangers being stripped down to its bare bones.
In the darkest of times for this once footballing giant that conquered Europe, a flickering glimmer of hope remained though.
A fresh start
Following the collapse of Rangers, Charles Green decided to set up a new company to take over the assets of Rangers FC. However, it wasn’t a simple straight forward process, with many players refusing to transfer to the new company.
The Scottish Premier League (SPL) also wouldn’t allow Rangers to carry on their current campaign and challenge for the title, however the Scottish Football League (SFL) were willing to accept Rangers’ membership. But they would have to start from the lowest tier in the Scottish football pyramid, the Third division.
A few players stayed but the majority left, knowing they would have to take a pay cut if they wanted to remain faithful to Rangers, and wanting to challenge for silverware at a higher level. This combined with the fact that Rangers were placed under a transfer ban for the 2012-2013 season meant they had to rely on the players who stayed plus players who were part of the Rangers youth ranks.
Fortunately, the squad they could muster together did the job in that first season, where the former Scottish giants would set a world record for the largest attendance in the fourth tier of Scottish football with 49,118 attending for its opening game against East Stirlingshire. They would go on to record several more record-breaking attendances before clinching the Third Division title on 30th March 2013 following a goalless draw away at Montrose.
Rangers would then go on to record back-to-back promotions by earning promotion from League One following a rebranding of the SFL. The 2013-2014 season would see them go the entire league season without recording a loss, securing the title as early as the 12th of March 2014.
A bump in the road before returning to the SPL
The 2014-15 season saw the Gers first opportunity to get back into the SPL, a league that they had been dispelled from following the financial troubles they had found themselves in. The end goal being to dethrone Celtic of their long uninterrupted run of winning title after title at the top of Scottish football. However, it wouldn’t be back-to-back-to-back promotions for the light blues.
The step up to the Championship saw a gulf in class from the previous two seasons and proved to be a tougher task for Rangers. But it is one they relished and tried their best to compete in. However, the season didn’t go as planned which led to Ally McCoist handing in his notice of resignation, but the owners gave him gardening leave to allow Kenny McDowall to takeover instead of seeing his notice out.
Results didn’t improve though and so three months later, McDowall resigned to leave former player Stuart McCall as the third manager in charge that season.
McCall managed to steer Rangers to a third-place finish in the Championship, reaching the play-off final for a return to the SPL. However, they lost heavily in a 6-1 defeat to Motherwell, destined to spend another year in the second tier of the Scottish football pyramid.
The following season, with Mark Warburton and David Weir now in charge, Rangers went on to earn automatic promotion back to the SPL. During the season that saw them return to the topflight for the first time in four years, they also made the 2016 Scottish Cup final beating its Old Firm rivals Celtic in the semi-finals, but sadly despite that momentous victory, they could overcome the challenge of Hibernian in the final.
Back at the top of the division
Once they were promoted there was only one thing on every Rangers’ fans mind. Beating Celtic to the SPL title!
However their initial season where they returned to the top flight didn’t start well and halfway through Mark Warburton and David Weir left by mutual consent before Graeme Murty took over the role temporarily. At the end of the season Pedro Caixinha then took over with the look to be the next manager to take the Gers back to the top. But that didn’t go to plan either, with Caixinha recording some of the most embarrassing results in the history of the club and his time in charge being described as “a desperate mess from start to finish“.
Following his sacking Murty took charge once again to try and steady the ship whilst a new manager was found, but sadly, none of the targets they wanted were willing to head to Ibrox. Murty was eventually rewarded with a permanent contract until the end of the season after a run of better results, but ultimately his tenure would end when they were heavily beaten by rivals Celtic 5-0 in a season where they would claim their 7th league title in a row.
But things were about to get better. Liverpool legend Steven Gerrard was appointed as the new manager of Rangers football club, a big move in his management career having only coached the youth setups at Anfield. But, following interviews with a number of candidates, they were impressed by his vision for the club and backed him well in the transfer market as he looked to create a team that could compete once again for major honours.
It would take three seasons, in a year where Celtic were chasing a tenth straight league title for Rangers to finally win the league, doing so in the most impressive form. 102 points, a club record, and an entire league campaign without recording a loss. Gerrard had delivered on what he had promised the Rangers’ board. A return to the pinnacle of Scottish football. However, midway through the following season, Aston Villa came calling and soon Gerrard left Scotland for a new challenge that was closer to home and family. But he did so having brought pride back to Ibrox.
One last step to go
Following his move away, Rangers had to look for another manager who could help them with the final step of their recovery. A return to the ultimate competition in club football, the UEFA Champions League. The man deemed fit for the job? Giovanni van Bronckhorst.
The club failed in recent years, and constantly ended up in the Europa League, where Gerrard took them on several decent runs. But it would be his successor who came closest to any European silverware, having taken them to the Europa League final in 2022, recording impressive wins over Borussia Dortmund, Red Star Belgrade, Braga and RB Leipzig, before losing out to a costly mistake against Eintracht Frankfurt. They also failed to defend their league title with Celtic claiming the crown once more, although a first Scottish Cup in six years did soften the blow.
With a full preseason to look forward to with his first full campaign ahead, van Bronckhorst made some changes to the squad, being forced to sell some key players from over the past few years, but also bringing in new faces as well, whilst keeping the core backbone of the team. The season hasn’t gone the way Rangers will have wanted for the most part, recording some poor results including a heavy loss to title rivals Celtic and a 2-2 draw where they were in the lead before going down to nine men. But, van Bronckhorst definitely achieved one of the goals he was set and the last step in their return to glory. A return to the Champions League.
A two legged tie to qualify for the Champions League was scheduled and they were to take on PSV Eindhoven. The first leg took place at Ibrox, and on 37 minutes Rangers went 0-1 down, before Colak responded 3 minutes later to draw level just before half time. Lawrence then gave Rangers the lead they had been looking for in the 70th minute, but their defence couldn’t hold out as Obispo managed to equalise for PSV allowing them to take a draw back to the Philips Stadion.
But, whilst PSV may have had the home advantage in the second leg, they didn’t have the ability to take control of the tie. In fact it was Rangers’ Colak, a man who had knocked his current team out at this stage a season prior before joining in the summer, who netted for Rangers to win the game 1-0 giving them a 3-2 aggregate win taking them back to the Champions League.
Then it was just a case of waiting for the draw, and it was one that no matter who they got, Rangers would relish any challenges as they were just happy to have returned to join Europe’s elite. It was also the first time for over a decade that both Scottish clubs appeared in the competition at the same time.
They would go on to be drawn in a tough group alongside Ajax, Napoli and the home of their former manager, Liverpool. Only time will tell how they progress from the group stage if they progress at all, but it has been the final thing that Gers fans have been wanting to complete the long awaited rise back to the top like a phoenix from the ashes.
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