Rangers catharsis: Why Giovanni van Bronckhorst needed Scottish Cup win as uncertainty hangs over squad
The triumphs away to Borussia Dortmund and at home to RB Leipzig in the epic run to the Europa League final offered powerful evidence that the Rangers board had chosen wisely in naming van Bronckhorst as Steven Gerrard’s successor last November.
Yet whatever else the Dutch coach goes on to achieve during his tenure, he may have cause to reflect upon Saturday’s Scottish Cup final victory over Hearts at Hampden as arguably the most crucial of his time in charge of the club.
Because as van Bronckhorst appreciates only too well from his time as a Rangers player more than 20 years ago, there is no room for nuance when it comes to defining a successful season for those who wear the jersey.
For all of the prestige and praise van Bronckhorst’s team rightly earned from their European exploits, the 2021-22 campaign would have been regarded as a failure if they had not overcome Hearts at the national stadium.
Rangers simply had to claim that revered old piece of silverware in their 65th game of the season to ensure van Bronckhorst can go into the summer with a truly upbeat narrative surrounding his standing in the job.
The agonising manner in which they missed out on the Europa League trophy in a penalty shoot-out against Eintracht Frankfurt in Seville may gnaw away at the Rangers players for a while yet, along with their regrets at the cheap frittering of points in the Premiership title race which saw them lose their domestic crown to Celtic.
But the cathartic effect of Saturday’s win at Hampden was clear to see in the joyful celebrations of van Bronckhorst, his coaching staff and a playing squad who fully deserved to have something tangible to show for their admirable physical and mental exertions over the past few weeks.
There will be precious little time for van Bronckhorst to reflect on his first trophy win as Rangers manager. He must turn his attention to a summer revamp of his squad ahead of a 2022-23 season in which reclaiming the Premiership title will be the priority.
Uncertainty hangs over several of the players who featured at Hampden. Allan McGregor, handed a sentimental late substitute outing when he replaced Jon McLaughlin in goal, seems poised to hang up his gloves at the age of 40.
Defenders Connor Goldson and Leon Balogun are both out of contract – the former has shown no indication of signing a new deal while the latter has made it clear he is eager to do so. Completing the quartet of those whose current deals expire next month is midfielder Steven Davis who, at 37, showed against Hearts he still has much to offer.
Van Bronckhorst will also be bracing himself for transfer bids for Calvin Bassey. The 22-year-old produced another phenomenal display at Hampden and has spectacularly emerged in recent weeks as Rangers’ biggest playing asset.
It’s a crucial transfer window for van Bronckhorst but one that he and his board of directors can approach with renewed purpose and positivity now that he has delivered a much-needed addition to the Rangers’ honours list.
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