From liquidation and SIX players turning up to training in 2012… to a historic Europa League final run: Rangers are back in the big time after comeback win over Leipzig – while Old Firm rivals Celtic haven’t even reached a European quarter-final since!
- Rangers reached this season’s Europa League final with victory over RB Leipzig
- It it quite the reversal in the last decade, when Celtic were utterly dominant
- Rangers went out of business in 2012 and had to fight up through the divisions
- Meanwhile, Celtic dominated domestically but had embarrassments in Europe
- Sportsmail takes a look at Rangers’ 10-year journey after their latest conquest
The scenes at full-time at Ibrox on Thursday night told you all you needed to know about what reaching a European final means to Glasgow Rangers.
Unparalleled jubilation and ecstasy in the stands. Cameras zoomed into players more in a state of shock than delight. Manager Giovanni van Bronckhorst – a Champions League winner no less – was overcome with emotion.
After all, this was a side who was not meant to progress past the German might of Borussia Dortmund in the last-32, never mind Sparta Prague, Braga and RB Leipzig that followed.
It has been some journey to the Europa League final in 12 days time against Eintracht Frankfurt in Seville – and Sportsmail analyses some of the key moments in the past decade of Rangers‘ chaotic existence.
Rangers are in the Europa League final after another historic night, this time vs RB Leipzig
Gers fans were jubilant at Ibrox as they reached a European final 10 years after going bust
The lowest of low points.
After years of financial mismanagement and losses, Rangers entered administration in February 2012. They were docked 10 points, effectively ending their Scottish Premiership challenge, but that was the least of their worries.
Rangers started the 2012-13 season in the third division, the fourth-tier of Scottish football, with club icon Ally McCoist at the helm
Then, with liquidation an inevitability, they were thrown out of the Scottish top-flight and a new company was formed, trading as The Rangers Football Club plc.
Yet only six players turned up for day one of pre-season training, with players under no obligation to transfer their contracts to the new company led by Charles Green.
They started the 2012-13 season in the third division, the fourth-tier of Scottish football, with club icon Ally McCoist at the helm – and a 2-2 draw at Peterhead.
The Gers went on to win the season at a canter but, in the same period when the liquidation of the old company was confirmed on October 31, a week later Neil Lennon’s Celtic were beating the might of Lionel Messi and Barcelona on a historic night at Parkhead.
The contrast could not have been more stark.
The Gers had to start at the lowest stage of the Scottish professional football ladder
Meanwhile, Celtic were stunning Barcelona in the Champions League on a famous night
Phase two was complete as McCoist and his team won the newly-named Scottish League One, the third-tier, by amassing a mammoth 102 points and winning 33 of 36 matches.
There was controversy as midfielder Ian Black was suspended for 10 matches for gambling on football, including three bets against his own team – and they were yet to win a domestic trophy despite clearly being above their level.
But they finished 39 points above nearest challengers Dunfermline Athletic while earlier in December, Celtic finished bottom of their Champions League group having reached the round-of-16 a season earlier.
There was controversy in 2013-14 as midfielder Ian Black was suspended for 10 matches
A tumultuous year, on a journey where the progress had more-or-less been skyward.
Rangers were targeting promotion back to the promised land but their quest was made tougher by both Hearts and Hibernian being in the same division, in an unusually strong season in the second-tier.
Early defeats against both Edinburgh sides piled the pressure on McCoist, who just before the New Year tended his resignation and was placed on gardening leave.
A first Old Firm derby in three years in the semi-finals of the League Cup saw the Hoops triumph 2-0, while Celtic were knocked out of the round-of-32 stage of the Europa League by Inter Milan.
Ultimately, Rangers finished 24 points off the pace and with Stuart McCall in as interim boss, they lost 6-1 on aggregate to Motherwell in the Premiership play-off final.
A troubled season ended with Bilel Mohsni handed a seven-game ban for a violent altercation with Lee Erwin in angry scenes after the final whistle at Fir Park.
Stuart McCall was named as interim boss but couldn’t get the Gers promoted to the top-flight
Bilel Mohsni received a seven-match ban for his actions during the Championship play-off
Former Brentford boss Mark Warburton, assisted by ex Ibrox captain David Weir, was brought in to manage the club and Rangers took the Championship by storm with an attractive brand of attacking football.
After clinching the Championship, nine points ahead of Falkirk and Hibs, Rangers’ season ended on a low with a 3-2 Scottish Cup final loss to the Easter Road side.
There were ugly scenes at the final whistle as supporters invaded the pitch after Hibs won the competition for the first time since 1902.
But Rangers were at least finally back in the top flight and Warburton took his side to a pre-season training camp in South Carolina as he plotted how to bridge the gap with Celtic over a full season.
The Hoops, meanwhile, lost to Malmo in Champions League qualifying before finishing bottom of their Europa League group.
Mark Warburton was named manager as Rangers looked to seal promotion to the Premiership
Rangers took the Championship by storm with an attractive brand of attacking football in 15-16
Unfortunately for Rangers, their promotion to the Premiership coincided with Celtic appointing Brendan Rodgers, ushering in three years of total domestic dominance on the other side of Glasgow.
Warburton – alongside star signing Joey Barton – could not mount a genuine title challenge in 2016-17 and the appointment of Portuguese Pedro Caixinha that summer was disastrous.
Rangers suffered arguably the most embarrassing result in their history when they were knocked out of the Europa League by Progres Niederkorn; a team from Luxembourg who had never previously won a European match.
The appointment of Portuguese Pedro Caixinha in the summer of 2017 was disastrous
The Portuguese boss encapsulated the catastrophe of his reign by being photographed clashing with angry fans while standing in a bush outside the Stade Josy Barthel.
Caixinha was finally sacked after a 2-0 League Cup semi-final loss to Motherwell in October.
A 4-0 Old Firm Scottish Cup semi-final defeat in April and a 5-0 defeat at Parkhead rounded off another miserable season as Aberdeen again finished second.
A new era. A gamble. In comes Steven Gerrard.
The sense of excitement and aura around Ibrox was immediately felt, but the Liverpool legend’s appointment did not reap the rewards straight away.
Rodgers’ Celtic were still superior, completing the treble treble, and Gerrard got a fierce introduction to the job he inherited.
Yet now, the building blocks were there.
Steven Gerrard appointment did not reap the rewards straight away when he joined in 2018
Brendan Rodgers’ Celtic got the better of Gerrard’s Rangers in the ex-Liverpool’s star first year
The Ibrox side may have lost the 2019 League Cup final 1-0 to Celtic but they played their rivals off the park and the tide looked to be turning when Rangers won at Parkhead for the first time in nine years.
At that stage, Gerrard’s side were just two points behind with a game in hand. But another collapse after the winter break saw them 13 points off the pace when the league was called off early due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
In Europe, Rangers kept progressing, reaching the last 16 of the Europa League. But they followed impressive home-and-away wins over Braga by being knocked out of the Scottish Cup by soon-to-be-relegated Hearts.
But with time, Gerrard’s men closed the gap and capitalised in the 2020-21 campaign
It had been evident for some time that Rangers were gaining ground on their rivals and, as Gerrard’s team developed a ruthless and relentless streak, Celtic simply crumbled.
The Ibrox side’s only defeat to date this season — domestically or in Europe, where Rangers once again reached the last 16 of the Europa League — was a shock 3-2 exit to St Mirren in the Betfred Cup in December in Paisley.
In the 10 years since wrapping up the 2010-11 title at Rugby Park, Rangers have been to hell and back, via various Scottish football outposts.
But they were crowned Scottish champions by going a whole season unbeaten.
Gerrard celebrates leading Rangers to the Scottish Premiership with an unbeaten season
Many feared Gerrard’s departure in November may have brought about a plateauing in fortune.
And while the league looks destined to go Celtic’s way, that has been overshadowed by the most tremendous of European runs, with Ibrox well and truly a fortress.
All that now lies before European glory – and the place in next season’s Champions League that comes with it – is Eintracht Frankfurt in sunny Spain on May 18.