Knox backing Gerrard to prolong Europa adventure

Archie Knox, who was inducted into the Scottish Football Hall of Fame at Hampden on Sunday evening, was the assistant to Walter Smith when Rangers set a club record of ten consecutive European ties without defeat in 1992/93.

Archie Knox, who was inducted to the Scottish Football Hall of Fame on Sunday, believes Steven Gerrard can take Rangers far in Europe. Pic: Alan Harvey/SNS

Steven Gerrard’s team have matched that record with their progress to the group stage of the Europa League and they could surpass the achievement of their predecessors from quarter of a century ago by winning against – or drawing with – Spartak Moscow at Ibrox on Thursday evening.

Of course, the run put together in 1992/93 carried rather more significance, given that it took place in the inaugural Champions League campaign.

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Whereas Gerrard’s players have thus far faced FK Shkupi, Osijek, NK Maribor, FC Ufa, Villarreal and Rapid Vienna, back then it was Lyngby Boldklub, Leeds United, Marseille, Club Brugge and CSKA Moscow.

That nine-in-a-row team drew twice against the French champions when, under the set-up of the time, one successful outcome against them would have taken them into the final against AC Milan. As it was, Marseille progressed and won the trophy courtesy of a goal from future Rangers player Basile Boli.

Taking all three points this week would go a long way to securing European football after Christmas at Ibrox and Knox believes that can be done. “Gerrard will use his own European experience in these games,” he said. “He’s not scared to make changes to get results so his players have all been bang at it.

“That will keep going for now. A difficult time will come when the loan players have to go back or if he tries to recruit them on a full-time basis. So far, I don’t think he’s brought in anyone who hasn’t really looked the part.

“They still have some massive games coming up – including the Betfred Cup semi-final against Aberdeen this weekend – but if they win on Thursday then Rangers will have a great chance of getting through their group.”

Knox has admired from a distance the manner in which Gerrard has approached his first managerial appointment.

“I know he doesn’t have managerial experience but he has so much football experience,” he said. “He captained Liverpool, won over 100 caps for England and captained them as well so everyone will have been in awe of him.

“His approach to management will be the same as it was to playing. He’ll do it the same way. There will be sports science and all that stuff but, with him, I think it’s the old brigade kicking in at Rangers.

“You go to training, you get on with it and, if you don’t work at the level which is needed, then you won’t get a game. I’ve seen that within Gerrard so far. It comes through loud and clear that he’s that way inclined.

“Plus, the fact if you don’t perform – and Nikola Katic didn’t have his best game at Hamilton – then he found that you’ll be taken off. He knows how to deal with players and, while he gives off a calmness, when the goals are scored he’s really up for it; he has that passion.”

Knox’s career could have 
taken a very different turn if he had remained at Old Trafford instead of relocating to Ibrox in April 1991. He tendered his resignation to Alex Ferguson the morning after they had qualified to meet Barcelona in the final of the European Cup-Winners’ Cup.

They would go on to win the trophy and dominate at home and abroad for the next 22 years but Knox insists he has no regrets.

“No; you make decisions and stick with them,” he said. “When you have a wife, two kids and a mortgage then you do what’s best for your family and that was the only reason for me quitting.

“Nobody in their right mind would leave Manchester United, although we had a tough time of it when we first went there. Alex wasn’t best pleased when I told him but if 
somebody’s paying you more money… talk about changed days. Then again, some players are now getting ten times what I earned in a year as their weekly wage.

“When Alex got his OBE, I asked him if he knew what it stood for. He said: “Aye, it’s the Order of the British Empire.’ I told him: ‘Naw, it’s for Other Buggers’ Efforts!”