Giovanni van Bronckhorst emphasized the importance of Champions League football for himself and Rangers as he prepared for the first leg of the play-off against PSV Eindhoven on Tuesday evening in Ibrox.
Rangers last played in elite European club competition in 2010/11 before financial difficulties re-emerged in the lower echelons of Scottish football, eventually returning to the top tier.
They were knocked out of Champions League qualifiers by Malmö last season, but Gers’ players and fans then enjoyed a memorable run to the Europa League final, but lost on penalties to Eintracht Frankfurt in Seville.
However, it is the top tournament that the Rangers manager, who took over last November, has focused on.
“It’s my hope and our hope,” said the former Feyenoord boss, who confirmed Ryan Kent and James Sands are available after missing out on Saturday’s 4-0 Premiership win over St Johnstone over Ibrox.
“We play European football every season. Last season was the Europa League.
“Of course the disappointment of not going through to the group stage” [of the Champions League] against Malmö, we turned that into a very positive year in Europe.
“But I have no doubt that every year we are involved in European football, we want to be part of the Champions League.
“That should be our goal and that’s why we work hard.
“It does not mean that we will play in the Champions League every year, but the desire” [is to do that] and we want to show everyone that we want to be in that tournament.
“Of course I have coached in the Champions League before, it is a tournament where you want to be involved as a player, as a club, as a coach.
“I came here and I wanted to win trophies for this club and I wanted to play at the highest level and that’s Champions League.
“The most important thing for me is to qualify and bring the club back to the biggest podium in European football.”
Van Bronckhorst is a former Dutch teammate of PSV manager Ruud van Nistelrooy and also worked under his assistant, Fred Rutten, at Feyenoord.
The Gers boss said: “I haven’t had any contact with him lately.
“I never thought he would become a coach, I never thought of becoming a coach when I played.
“He took his badges for a few years and made the decision to get his experience in the PSV academy and he did well in the U19 and last season with the PSV second team.
“He’s had the opportunity to coach the first team and PSV is a place he knows and the back-up and support he gets from the club is similar to what I got at Feyenoord, so I’m looking forward to seeing him.” Meet.” again, to see a player I played with also make his strides in management”
Van Nistelrooy: It’s a special fanbase at Ibrox
After arriving in Glasgow, Van Nistelrooy said the friendship would be set aside at Ibrox: “We can meet at other times for dinner and hang out.
“Tomorrow we’ll both defend our own badges and that’s the way it is.
“When you face a friend as a team, as a player, you only want one thing, for your team to win and that will be the case tomorrow.”
Van Nistelrooy played at Ibrox for both Manchester United and PSV Eindhoven and hopes his experiences will help his players reach the group stage of the Champions League.
“Of course I will share my experiences about what the atmosphere will be like,” said the former striker.
“I’ve said before that it’s a special fan base. They support their team in an incredible way, just like our own fans.”
“That’s why we can relate to the support here and what it does to a team and in that sense we are prepared.
“But above all I see a team of fantastic players. I see young boys and experienced players playing very well together in a very recognizable style under Gio.
“We are fully aware of the quality of the players we face and we need to be 100 percent prepared in every aspect of the game to do well here.”
‘It is a big challenge for us’
Van Bronckhorst believes that the players should let go of any pressure to enter the Champions League in the dressing room.
He said: “The rewards you get are bigger and that’s the pressure, but you don’t have to take it into the game.
“You just focus on your strengths and your ability to play well and beat PSV in two games.
“It’s a big game, but you want to play big games in your career, you like big challenges and it’s a big challenge for us.”
Kent had a rest before the win at St Johnstone, while Sands missed due to illness.
Van Bronckhorst said: “James Sands and Ryan Kent are back in the squad, so we are looking forward to the challenge we face tomorrow.”