While Richard Gough achieved legendary status as a Rangers player through his domestic exploits for the Ibrox club, many of his finest moments in European competition came earlier in his career with Dundee United.
As Gough assesses the progress being made by Rangers under Steven Gerrard’s management, one of the highest compliments he can pay is a comparison with the United side who made such an impact on the continental stage in the 1980s.
Gough reached the quarter-finals of the Uefa Cup twice and the semi-finals of the European Cup once with the Tannadice men during that halcyon period of Jim McLean’s tenure.
A key factor in their success was a capacity for counter-attacking which Gough also sees in a Rangers side who have lost only two of the 23 European matches they have played since Gerrard’s arrival in the summer of 2018.
It’s a record which will be tested on Thursday night when Rangers face Swiss champions Young Boys in Bern in their second Europa League Group G fixture, seeking to build on their opening 1-0 win over Feyenoord at Ibrox two weeks ago.
“Rangers have a fantastic record in Europe under Steven so far,” said Gough. “Okay, it’s not the top level of the Champions League at the moment and they are not facing teams like Juventus and Ajax which we did in my time as a Rangers player.
“But I think European football suits the way Rangers play. It reminds me of when I was a kid at Dundee United and we used to hit teams on the break in Europe. We had a very good back four and midfield.
“We could be very defensive in Europe but we had players like Ralph Milne, Eamonn Bannon, pictured, and Paul Sturrock who could really hurt the opposition on the break. We would soak up pressure and then counter, which we were very good at.
“Steven’s Rangers team reminds me a lot of that style, especially away from home in Europe. If you can defend well, you can break well. Against the Danish team Midtjylland earlier this season, for example, they scored a few on the break and could have scored even more.”
Former Rangers captain Gough believes this week’s assignment in the Stade de Suisse represents another step up for Gerrard’s men who will lack their normal travelling support on the road after the club declined to accept any tickets in the aftermath of Uefa punishments for sectarian chanting.
“That will be a factor,” he added. “It’s always good to see and hear your fans behind you. But there were times when I played that we did not get many tickets. I remember matches away in Belgrade and Athens where there were a handful of fans up in the corner but you could not hear them. Every away game in Europe is an adventure.
“Young Boys are a good team. They won their league and they’ve had good runs in Europe in recent years. They will be a strong team but these are the games you look forward to. No disrespect to the likes of Hamilton or Livingston in the domestic league but European games in the big arenas is where you make your reputation because you are being tested and there’s worldwide coverage.”
While Rangers’ return to the European stage has been the most tangible aspect of their recovery and improvement under Gerrard, Gough feels ending Celtic’s current dominance of the domestic scene is still a more daunting challenge.
“It will be difficult for Rangers to win the league this season,” he said. “It reminds me of my time when Celtic were chasing us. It’s hard to be the team chasing. The season we made it eight-in-a-row in 1995-96, for example, a very good Celtic team under Tommy Burns only lost one league game but we still won the title.
“Last season, Rangers beat Celtic a couple of times which was important because previously everyone in Glasgow knew we were likely to be on the end of a hammering in the Old Firm games and often were. I don’t think that will happen anymore, the games are back to being tighter and closer.
“But Celtic are still the dominant team and it’s up to Rangers to do what Sir Alex Ferguson used to say about Liverpool when he took over at Manchester United – knock them off their perch.
“I don’t think either Rangers or Celtic will drop too many points this season. You just have to win your own games and see where it takes you.”
l Richard Gough was promoting The Game of Legends which takes place at Ibrox on 12 October. Gough will captain a Rangers Legends side against a Liverpool Legends side featuring Steven Gerrard.