Rangers season awards: Best player, signing, goal and game; biggest letdown and Giovanni van Bronckhorst's managerial report card

The 2021-22 campaign proved to be one of the most dramatic and remarkable in Rangers’ history as they marked the club’s 150th anniversary in tumultuous style over the course of 65 games in all competitions.

Rangers captain James Tavernier holds aloft the Scottish Cup in the midst of his jubilant team-mates after the Hampden victory over Hearts. (Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images)
Rangers captain James Tavernier holds aloft the Scottish Cup in the midst of his jubilant team-mates after the Hampden victory over Hearts. (Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images)

Player of the Year

In the first half of the season, Joe Aribo looked like a runaway contender for the individual plaudits – not just as Rangers’ top man but also for Scotland’s Player of the Year honours.

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The Nigerian international playmaker couldn’t sustain those exceptional levels after the winter break, albeit he continued to make valuable and latterly selfless contributions to the Ibrox cause in an unfamiliar role up front.

Midfield John Lundstram enjoyed an impressive first season at Rangers after his move from Sheffield United in the summer of 2021. (Photo by OLI SCARFF/AFP via Getty Images)

Rangers’ most effective and eye-catching performer in the second half of the campaign was John Lundstram, the English midfielder growing in stature with some towering displays at home and in Europe which earned him adulation and Belinda Carlisle-inspired serenading from supporters.

But in terms of consistency and stellar numbers, James Tavernier was out on his own as Rangers’ leading light. The marauding right-back leads by example and posted an incredible haul of 18 goals and 17 assists.

Ibrox immortality may have eluded Tavernier as he agonisingly missed out on holding aloft the Europa League trophy in Seville but he richly deserved the reward of becoming the first Rangers captain in 13 years to receive the Scottish Cup at Hampden.

Signing of the Year

Glen Kamara displays poise and awareness to guide home Rangers' second goal in their 3-1 win over RB Leipzig in the second leg of the Europa League semi-final at Ibrox. (Photo by ANDY BUCHANAN/AFP via Getty Images)

It was a season when Rangers’ recruitment was the source of considerable discontent among the club’s supporters and placed unforgiving scrutiny on the work of sporting director Ross Wilson.

Indeed, Steven Gerrard would later cite the club’s inability or unwillingness to ‘push on’ with major investment in new signings after he had guided them to the Premiership title last season as a factor in his decision to move on and become Aston Villa manager in November.

But one of the players whom Gerrard played a key role in bringing to Ibrox did ultimately prove to be the best acquisition of the campaign.

John Lundstram certainly didn’t hit the ground running as a Rangers player following his free transfer move from Sheffield United. The English midfielder also had an initial struggle to convince Gerrard’s successor Giovanni van Bronckhorst of his worth and there were strong rumours of a return to English football during the January transfer window.

Giovanni van Bronckhorst ended his first six months as Rangers manager with silverware after victory over Hearts in the Scottish Cup final. (Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images)

Since the winter break, however, Lundstram has effected a transformation into a key member of van Bronckhorst’s side and will be pivotal to the Dutch coach’s bid for further success next season.

Goal of the Season

Rangers scored 128 goals over the course of the campaign with no shortage of contenders as the best of the bunch.

James Tavernier set a high standard with a stunning long-range strike which dipped over St Johnstone goalkeeper Zander Clark for a late winner at McDiarmid Park in September.

At the club’s own annual awards dinner, John Lundstram received the prize for his magnificent left foot finish from the edge of the penalty area to round off a flowing move in the astonishing 4-2 win over Borussia Dortmund in Germany in February.

But it was another goal in the epic run to the Europa League final which was arguably even better – the poise and subtle but deadly precision of Glen Kamara’s shot which put Rangers 2-0 up in the second leg of the semi-final against RB Leipzig at Ibrox was truly something to warm the heart of any football purist.

Most entertaining game

On the domestic front, the Scottish Cup semi-final against Celtic at Hampden in April was compelling fare. Rangers ultimately won both the physical and footballing battle as they came from behind to deservedly win 2-1 and deny their great rivals the opportunity of a domestic treble.

The Europa League run provided many thrilling encounters and the nights under the Ibrox lights when Braga and RB Leipzig were overcome will live long in the memory of this generation of Rangers fans.

But perhaps no 90 minutes was as riveting as that 4-2 triumph in Dortmund in the knockout round play-offs as the then tournament favourites were put to the sword.

Turning point

In a Premiership title defence which saw Rangers go into the winter break with a four-point lead at the top of the table and ultimately end the season four points behind new champions Celtic, it would be easy to pinpoint the 3-0 defeat at Parkhead on February 2 as the moment when the tide turned.

But just as significant was Rangers’ failure to see out victory at home to Motherwell later that month, drawing 2-2 after leading 2-0, just a couple of hours after Celtic had opened the door to them by dropping two points in a goalless draw at Hibs. Effectively, that was the day when there was really no way back for van Bronckhorst’s men in the title race.

Biggest letdown

Given the sense of collective anguish among both players and supporters in Seville on May 18, the cruel nature of the penalty shoot-out loss to Eintracht Frankfurt in the Europa League final could be regarded as the greatest anticlimax of the season.

Yet despite the levels of dismay prompted by falling agonisingly short of such a momentous achievement, time and reflection should see the European run as a whole placed in a justly positive perspective.

The same cannot be said about the failure to retain the Premiership title from the position of strength Rangers so clearly enjoyed over Celtic at the start of the campaign.

Manager’s report card

Van Bronckhorst lost just six of his 41 games at the helm after taking charge in November. Three of those losses came away from home in Europe against Red Star Belgrade, Braga and RB Leipzig, all of them wiped out by victories at Ibrox as the Dutchman displayed admirable tactical nous on the continental stage.

It couldn’t quite secure him the ultimate prize in Seville where he suffered defeat in the most marginal manner posssible against Eintracht.

Van Bronckhorst’s other two losses both came at the hands of Celtic in the Premiership where Rangers dropped eight points in total in the three Old Firm fixtures they played under him in the title race.

But with the season rounded off by collecting his first trophy as Rangers manager with the Scottish Cup final win over Hearts, he will go into next season with credit in the bank as far as the Rangers fans are concerned.

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