Rangers manager Giovanni van Bronckhorst relishing Lyon reunion - 'He's been there almost my whole career'
The warmth of the embrace as Giovanni van Bronckhorst and Peter Bosz greet each other ahead of kick-off at the Groupama Arena on Thursday evening will be sincere and heartfelt.
For Rangers manager van Bronckhorst, his Lyon counterpart Bosz has been a consistent and influential presence ever since he started making his way in the game – a mentor, team-mate, rival and valued friend.
Bosz was the captain of Feyenoord when van Bronckhorst, almost 12 years his junior, broke into the first team at the Rotterdam club in the mid-1990s.
Later, as technical director, Bosz was responsible for bringing van Bronckhorst back to Feyenoord from Barcelona in 2007 to finish his playing career.
Van Bronckhorst’s subsequent move into coaching saw him go head-to-head with Bosz, emerging victorious in the 2017 Eredivisie title race as Feyenoord edged out Ajax by a point.
“He has been there almost my whole career,” reflected van Bronckhorst. “When I was a young player coming from the academy of Feyenoord, Peter was the captain of the team. He really welcomed me in the squad and was very helpful.
“After that, he was the technical director of Feyenoord when I came back in 2007 after my time at Barcelona. I had a lot of conversations with him about the future of Feyenoord and my role in that.
“Of course, being a head coach now, we played a lot against each other when he was with Heracles, Vitesse and with Ajax. I really enjoyed our friendship over the years and he has been there almost all of my career.”
The two men will be able to reunite in relatively relaxed circumstances on Thursday with the pressure very much off in Group A of the Europa League. Only pride, prize money and coefficient points are at stake with both Lyon and Rangers having already secured first and second place in the group respectively ahead of the final matchday.
But van Bronckhorst is still relishing the prospect of pitting his tactical wits against Bosz whose Lyon side are aiming to become only the 12th team to win all six of their games in a Europa League group stage.
“Of course it’s a challenge,” added van Bronckhorst. “Challenges are really good. You face your own development as a coach but also as a team.
“Lyon are a really experienced side with some quality players. In that aspect, we can expect a very tough opponent. But I’m confident my team will play well against them.
“It’s not going to be an easy game but for me it’s also a game to maybe make some slight changes in our technical plans to make sure we have a good result.
“For me, the challenges you have in football are the nicest things to have because you want to compete with good teams. We are definitely going to face a good team tomorrow.
“Of course, as you said, no matter what we will still be second in the group. But I think this game is for us a good game against a good opponent. We can have one more game against an excellent side who are first in the group.
“For me, every game we want to reach our level and also in this game. It is good for me to see where the players stand and where we stand as a team. Apart from the fact that we cannot go first in the group, I think the experience that we are having in this tournament is very good for our development.”
While van Bronckhorst is set to field a much-changed line-up, with Sunday’s Premiership clash with Hearts at Tynecastle taking precedence this week, he will look to maintain the momentum which has seen Rangers win all four games under his guidance since he took charge last month.
“I think it is going really well and that is also to do with the willingness of the players,” he said. “It is not easy to come in as a coach when you have a lot of games without a lot of time for preparation.
“We had to do a lot in our team meetings and also the sessions we had on the pitch. They were really open to playing a bit differently than they were used to.
“So far, the development has been really good and we will keep pushing them to prepare for games and to have that willingness to win games no matter what. That is the mentality that we have to have as a club.”
Among those who could come into the starting line-up against Lyon is midfielder John Lundstram who has been restricted to just two substitute appearances since van Bronckhorst replaced Steven Gerrard as manager.
With Ryan Jack also back in contention after his lengthy injury absence, Lundstram is aware of the intensifying battle to hold down a regular place in the Rangers midfield.
“There’s quality throughout the squad with a couple of players for every position who could easily play in the first team so looking at the club going forward to win things, we’ve got strength in depth,” said Lundstram.
“Any injuries on the way, you’ve got to be able to fill that place up. It’s massive competition but that only stands you in good stead.
“If selected, then obviously you’ve got to take your chance. Every game’s an opportunity to showcase yourself for the manager and we’ve got fans coming over to watch us perform, so we’ve got to go out and put in a display, definitely.”
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