The view may not be shared by the Ibrox legions. But as their team have stumbled in feckless fashion – the 2-1 loss away to St Johnstone on Sunday truly excruciating – it is impossible not to be full of admiration for how van Bronckhorst has conducted himself as he has been placed on doom watch. Left in a predicament where any slip is being presented as potentially fatal to a Rangers tenure that will reach the year mark a week on Friday. An anniversary few of his club’s followers want him to pass – and will be reaching for pitchforks to demand is not passed should his side fail to beat Hearts at home on Wednesday then St Mirren away at the weekend. Two wins ahead of the five-week World Cup shutdown entirely non-negotiable courtesy of Celtic holding a seven-point gap over their bitter rivals in the cinch Premiership.
In the febrile world of football Glasgow-style, managers as assailed and, yes, disrespected as van Bronckhorst has found himself, are rarely able to retain their nobility, their equilibrium. Instead, the playbook is lashing out under unforgiving media questioning and looking to apportion blame in all directions for their players under-performing. Not for van Bronckhorst, whose grace under intolerable pressure is proving exemplary. We have witnessed many a good man go radge in his situation. In contrast, he continues to be an unfailingly class act. For reasons that are a real mark of a fine man.
“Read the papers. Read the papers and see what is happening in the world,” he said when asked how he retains his perspective. “For me, that has always been the case. I love my job and love being a coach. I love being here at the club. It’s not tough for me - it is not at all tough. Yes, it is difficult, but it’s not tough. Other people around the world have it tougher than me right now. So I always put things into perspective when I look at my family. Some people have very tough moments in the world with the cost of living and everything else. It doesn’t mean I won’t give 100 percent for the job, because I know it’s a difficult moment for all of us. We have to keep going, and like any other manager in the world, if you don’t win games then it’s difficult. Look around, how many are without a job this season alone? I just keep going and try to work hard to reverse things.”
The ability of van Bronckhorst to remain on an even keel has been deployed as a stick with which to beat him. It has been claimed he is “too nice” to prosper in a reason-eschewing environment; that he lacks the required “edge”. The ignorance in such assertions is breathtaking, nay downright offensive. No individual who prospered with Barcelona, Arsenal and Rangers in a playing career during which he captained his country in a World Cup final, won the Champions League, and secured titles in three countries before claiming a championship as Feyenoord manager does not possess inexhaustible supplies of mental fortitude. In his pre-match for the visit of the Tynecastle side, there was only one moment van Bronckhorst threatened to deliver a scintilla of snash. It came when informed Rangers icon Brian Laudrup had claimed in a newspaper column that, with the Dutchman’s body language in Perth at the weekend, “it looks almost like he has given up a bit”.
“I have given up?” the Rangers manager said, eyes widening. “I think that’s a very easy and stupid thing to say from Brian. He knows the pressure. I know I get a lot of questions about my body language but I don’t think it’s anything about body language. It’s about what you bring to the players inside. I get many questions about how I should be different on the sidelines but I am me, I am me. I am not anyone else and the last thing we all need is people putting the pressure even higher by suggesting things which aren’t true. So I totally disagree with him.”
And van Bronckhorst gives short shrift to the host of former players who have been queuing up to give similar damning assessments. “They get paid to give their opinions in the papers or on TV so I don’t mind those opinions,” he said. “We are all here and have our own opinion and speak about it. It’s their opinion and I cannot change that. It’s just nice to see the comparison with last season when everything was going well [and we reached a Europa League final and won the Scottish Cup]. They were, like, ‘everything is going fine, you’re doing well,’ and now it’s ‘everything is going wrong, you’re doing wrong.’ That’s it. That’s why they get paid.”
Van Bronckhorst maintains that he retains the confidence of the Ibrox board but admits that it can hard dealing with difficult times on his own.
“For me it is a bit more difficult because my family is in Holland,” he said. “At difficult times they are not around, which makes it harder. But I think once you have your moments to be together, I’m a manager but I’m a husband and a father as well. Those moments I can be with them you have to be 100 per cent there. Of course, it’s not always easy because of phonecalls, or whatever.
“They always support me. It works both ways – for me to have them around and for them to be with their dad or husband. It is something we manage to find the right balance. They travel a lot of times to here and I travel back if possible. But now we have a two week break we can be together.”