Giovanni van Bronckhorst seeks silver lining to a long and tumultuous season for Rangers

When Giovanni van Bronckhorst sent Rangers on their way to becoming the first club in world football to win 100 major trophies with the opening goal in the Scottish Cup final of 2000, silverware was standard currency at Ibrox.

Rangers manager Giovanni van Bronckhorst is determined to end the season with silverware as he prepares his team for the Scottish Cup final against Hearts at Hampden. (Photo by Alex Pantling/Getty Images)
Rangers manager Giovanni van Bronckhorst is determined to end the season with silverware as he prepares his team for the Scottish Cup final against Hearts at Hampden. (Photo by Alex Pantling/Getty Images)

It remained that way at the start of the 21st century with another 15 honours added to the list in the period leading up to the club’s financial collapse in 2012. Since then, amid Rangers’ recovery on and off the pitch, just one more has been claimed.

As precious and savoured as that 55th top flight title last season was in the eyes of their supporters, they have equally been dismayed and frustrated by the failure to augment it with any success in the domestic cup competitions.

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It is now 13 years since Rangers last lifted the Scottish Cup, their longest barren run in the country’s blue riband knockout tournament since the famous 25-year hoodoo which separated their triumphs of 1903 and 1928.

Aaron Ramsey, who was distraught after his crucial penalty miss in the Europa League final defeat against Eintracht Frankfurt in Seville, could make the last appearance of his loan spell at Rangers in the Scottish Cup final. (Photo by Alex Pantling/Getty Images)

As he leads his team into Saturday’s final against Hearts at Hampden, van Bronckhorst is under no illusions as to just how crucial it is that they have something tangible to show for their efforts in a marathon season.

It will be the 65th game of the campaign for Rangers and one where their powers of recovery, both from a physical and mental perspective, will be tested as never before after the sapping and dispiriting nature of their Europa League final penalty shoot-out defeat against Eintracht Frankfurt in Seville on Wednesday night.

But with some help from his tech-savvy sports science personnel, van Bronckhorst has no fears about the condition of the players he will deploy at the national stadium.

"I have a lot of confidence in my team and their ability to re-group and recover from big games,” said the Rangers manager.

Rangers' most recent Scottish Cup final victory came in 2009 when they defeated Falkirk 1-0 at Hampden. (Photo by Alan Harvey/SNS Group).

"Of course, the final in Seville was a big game for us. We didn’t get the outcome we wanted but overall it was good for my team to get the experience of playing in such a big game.

"It’s part of the game in finals, especially in Europe, to get very close but have a disappointment in not achieving silverware and the disappointment is very big. All the big teams in Europe play in Champions League and Europa League finals and there can only be one winner. Sometimes the big team is losing.

"But we have a very important game on Saturday because it gives us the chance of silverware this season and that’s what we want and that’s what our focus is on. I have full confidence that my team will be ready when the whistle goes.

"We had a tough game, 120 minutes in difficult circumstances and it took a lot out of us. But we had a good recovery on Friday.

"We use a lot of data. We can measure a lot of things in football right now about the load of players and the distance they have run.

“So we are also using software to see where we can help players or when we need to be careful.

“It’s the direction where every club is going. It’s getting more important, especially with the load of games we had this season.

“We are one of the teams who has played the most games in Europe. Some of my players have played the most minutes of all the players in Europe as well.

“So I think it’s very important to help players with the use of data in your medical departments. We also use it to help them improve and make sure we are not overloading them with the minutes they play.”

Borna Barisic, who limped out of the action in Seville, is the only fresh addition to Rangers’ injury list with the Croatian international left-back ruled out of the Hampden showpiece.

Van Bronckhorst also has a decision to make on the involvement of Aaron Ramsey who appeared inconsolable after his late cameo in the Europa League final saw him miss the decisive penalty in the shoot-out.

The Welsh international’s high profile January loan move from Juventus has failed to meet the high expectations it engendered among the Rangers support but van Bronckhorst remains hopeful it can have a happier ending on Saturday.

“We all had the disappointment of Wednesday’s game, unfortunately Aaron as well,” he said. “He was very down after the game and still on Thursday. We needed to lift him up, as we did with every player in the squad.

"We are focusing now on the final and we have to take the loss as a team, support each other as part of the Rangers family and make sure we’re ready for the game against Hearts. Obviously Aaron is down but we’re lifting him and he has all my support and the support of his team-mates. I’m sure he will feel the same support in the stadium when the fans will welcome him.”

Rangers midfielder Scott Arfield, who played for Falkirk against his current employers when they last lifted the Scottish Cup in 2009, accepts that the perception of the campaign’s success or failure is on the line at Hampden.

“The season always hinges on results,” he said. “When you get here and play for Rangers, you need to win.

“You are always under that expectation and that pressure that you need to win games, especially when you get to cup finals.

“We give Hearts the utmost respect they deserve, it has been an absolutely tremendous season from them so we know it’s going to be a very difficult game for us.

“If we’ve still got a hangover from Wednesday night then it’s certainly going to be a very difficult game for us. So we’ve got an opportunity to put that right, an opportunity to get silverware and we’re fully focused on doing so.”

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