SITTING in the Ibrox press room having effectively witnessed the end of Rangers’ title hopes in early April, Giovanni van Bronckhorst remained buoyant when looking ahead to the campaign’s remaining weeks.

Fresh from that day’s 2-1 Old Firm defeat, which concluded a 12-point swing at the top of the Scottish Premiership, such optimism was understandably far less palpable amongst supporters.

At that point, a European final felt unrealistic while the upcoming Scottish Cup semi-final was previewed with apprehension given previous Hampden shortcomings.

Six weeks later, van Bronckhorst's side were penalty kicks away from European immortality and the Dutchman achieved what Steven Gerrard could not by ending a 13-year wait for Scottish Cup success. The team managed to evolve and recover from setbacks in-game, perhaps aided by a fresh approach.

“Steven was a bit more emotional. Gio is more introspective. He gives us confidence in a different way,” Leon Balogun told German publication Bild prior to the Europa League Final.

Van Bronckhorst learned from Old Firm defeats and developed a template in the extra-time win at Hampden that stifled Ange Postecoglou’s Celtic. While his domestic football was arguably too direct at times, he moved away from the initially favoured 4-3-3, demonstrating a willingness to stray from his ideals. The tactical knowledge displayed was the cornerstone of wins in every Europa League round and although disappointing domestic results played out in early 2022, there were clear signs of development come May.


All of which begs the question, is this side capable of undergoing another cycle with fresh leadership and a new tactical template? Have they earned back the trust that was gradually eroded away during draws with Ross County, Motherwell, Aberdeen and Dundee United? After all, this is a team that have just reached the Europa League final.

There is plenty of evidence to suggest that come the end of last season, van Bronckhorst was comfortable with his squad. Just look at the decision to extend the contracts of Steven Davis, Allan McGregor and Scott Arfield.

Sources have told the Rangers Review that the manager was a key influence in all three staying at the club, given his desire to retain their experience and strike a balance in the squad between youth and senior players.

Fresh faces have arrived from the academy in Alex Lowry, Charlie McCann and Leon King, while van Bronckhorst will undoubtedly be banking on some revitalisation from the market.

Of course, much depends on outgoings. If Ryan Kent, Alfredo Morelos and Joe Aribo don’t agree fresh terms this summer they’ll surely be sold, given they could walk away for free next summer. The departure of one of the club’s valuable assets would be in keeping with their much-discussed player-trading model and should not be discounted.

In contrast, some may argue that the point swing at Christmas and signs of regression prior to Steven Gerrard’s departure is enough proof that the wheel must be spun more rigorously this summer to ensure success next May. McGregor’s statistical drop-off last season is certainly strong validation for that stance. 

However, van Bronckhorst merits the trust of supporters given his time in charge to date. At Feyenoord, the Dutchman enjoyed a hugely successful second season with a squad that boasted both youth and experience, spearheaded by 36-year-old forward Dirk Kuyt.

Additions are required and the landscape could change very quickly. But at present, it appears the refresh over rebuild may well be to the liking of the manager.

This piece is an extract from today’s Rangers Insider newsletter, which is emailed out at 5pm every weekday with a round-up of the day's top stories and exclusive analysis from the Rangers Review team.

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