How Rangers boss Steven Gerrard can match two Walter Smith records within a week

Rangers matched a club record at the weekend – the likes of which haven’t been seen since the early-nineties when Walter Smith was first in charge at Ibrox.

Rangers boss Walter Smith
Rangers boss Walter Smith

The class of 2020-21’s run of 29 top flight matches without defeat matched one of the most popular, and most successful, teams of recent Rangers history from 1992/93 when the team stood on the brink of European Cup glory in the inaugural Champions League.

On Thursday against Royal Antwerp, Steven Gerrard has the chance to equal another of Smith’s tallies – 23 victories in Europe as Rangers manager.

Currently on 22 from 41 games – a similar record to Dick Advocaat – Gerrard’s win percentage on the continent is the highest of Rangers’ modern-day managers since Jock Wallace and you must go back as far as Scot Symon’s reign to find a manager with more non-Scottish success.

Rangers manager Steven Gerrard pre match during a Europa League last 32 first leg match between Rangers and Braga, at Ibrox Park, in Glasgow, Scotland. (Photo by Alan Harvey / SNS Group)

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For a man on the brink of achieving legendary status in returning the long-awaited league flag to Ibrox after a decade, it’s exalted company to share after three years of his first job on Edmiston Drive.

Not that you’d hear the Rangers manager mention it either. Humility has been at the forefront of his managerial career at Ibrox – particularly this season. “Don’t get too high, don’t get too low,” Gerrard has frequently said. That’s why there’s little chance too much will be read into it if he draws level with one of the most decorated managers in the club’s history in a second category within a week.

As impressive as Rangers have been on the continent – particularly this year against the likes of Benfica and Galatasaray – Gerrard has faced 11 qualifiers in three years and half a dozen wins have been credited against European minnows like Lincoln Red Imps, FC Shkupi and St Joseph’s. Tough games on the night for sure, but not really on a level with defeating Eric Cantona, Gary McAllister and Gordon Strachan’s English title winning Leeds United home and away, Russian champions CSKA Moscow or Club Brugge at Ibrox.

But times now, have changed. Scottish football’s standing, has changed.

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Rangers boss Walter Smith took his side back to the Champions League in his second spell as manager.

Smith was rarely given the opportunity to play teams of such low-rank as Progres Niederkorn. His European record first time around was blotted by disappointing defeats to AEK Athens and Levski Sofia and only righted on his return with the run to the 2008 UEFA Cup final, defeating Lyon and Werder Bremen and drawing with Barcelona. Indeed his win record may be shortly matched by Gerrard in almost half as many matches, but under Smith Rangers were an undeniably hard side to beat – 23 wins are coupled with 26 draws across 79 European ties.

This Rangers side is proving just as difficult to break down this season and the progress being made across Gerrard’s 22 wins is slowly restoring a reputation where not quite so many qualifiers will be up for grabs as early-season gimmes in future.

He’s equalled Walter Smith’s stat once, now few would bet against him equalling another in Belgium this week.

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After that, what’s next? Matching 2008? There's a long way to go, there are other priorities and other titles to be won, but you can be sure that until they are, no-one will get too high, and no-one will get too low.

Rangers Manager Steven Gerrard during the Europa League Round of 32, 2nd Leg, match between S.C Braga and Rangers at Estadio Municipal de Braga on February 26, 2020 in Braga, Portugal. (Photo by Alan Harvey / SNS Group)

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