Giovanni van Bronckhorst explains summer transfer policy that shaped Rangers' squad for European and SPFL ambitions
The same, but different. That’s what Giovanni van Bronckhorst was seeking in his Rangers recruitment drive this summer, and it’s what he’ll be seeking from the new season kicking off in Livingston this lunchtime.
The same SPFL opposition, different league outcome.
Regaining the cinch Premiership title is, naturally, high on the Ibrox priority list, and so too is another European campaign to match last season’s Europa League run. This year though, ambitions extend to the Champions League where the same aim of prolonged involvement remains, in a different competition.
Rangers are fighting on several fronts, both domestically and on the continent, with Union Saint-Gilloise following on Tuesday. They have spent the summer assembling a squad capable of handling weekend SPFL duty and midweek in Europe.
To do so van Bronckhorst will lead primarily the same squad that served him so well, based on the solid foundations inherited from Steven Gerrard last November – captain James Tavernier, Connor Goldson, John Lundstrum and Ryan Kent – supplemented with seven of his own signings to cover the departures of Leon Balogun, Joe Aribo and Calvin Bassey.
"It’s always been my team. Once you are the manager of Rangers it is your team,” the Dutchman explained. “Every player I had when I came in November was my team, because I am responsible.
“We’ve had windows to get players in but each and every player who I had in the squad, and have now, are my players.”
There is familiarity from his summer business, but also a freshness.
“We looked at each position, what’s already here and the qualities in the squad. When you recruit new players you want to be versatile – different characteristics and strengths in each player for each position, and be a little bit different because then you can switch easier in formation and the way of playing.
“We had to react on the sale of Bassey and have two players coming in for left central defence and left-back. I am happy with the squad we have, the competition and the qualities."
The lunchtime kick-off comes too early for one of those, Ridvan Yilmaz, and for Rabbi Matondo whose pre-season promise has suffered a minor injury setback. Both should be available for Tuesday night but the developed squad depth will be utilised to start the Scottish league season.
“The most important competition we’re in,” the manager added. “Next year we want to be champions of Scotland again. We have to make sure we have a good start against Livingston.
“The month of August is very important because we have the opportunity to qualify for the group stage of the Champions League so we have to take it step-by-step as we did really well last year.
“It’s a new challenge, a new season and we have to be ready again and make sure we are well prepared for each game in Europe and domestically as well.
“The target is very clear, we want to be champions and it is the first game of 38. The message is clear; go out, enjoy, push, work hard and make sure after 90 minutes we have three points, then we move on to the next game.
"We need to be consistent in all the competitions we play and we need a good start – but it’s only a good start when you have three points.”
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