Pedro Caixinha and his players have been advised to batten down the hatches in the aftermath of their European humiliation.
Former Rangers midfielder Alex Rae says that the only way back from the “nightmare” of a first qualifying round exit to part-time Progres Niederkorn is to spend the next four weeks ensuring that they are in a fit state to make a better impression when the domestic league season gets under way, against Motherwell, on August 5.
“Let’s be honest, that result was humiliating. I have been in the game long enough to know that in a one-off game there can be an upset but to go out over two legs to a team, who, with all due respect, where progress into the next round should have been a formality, no wonder there is shock and frustration and the fans were shouting at the manager and the players.
“I was at the first game and I think if you have 50,000 people there to support you, for a home tie against a part-time team who only finished fourth in the Luxembourg league you have to turn up but Rangers didn’t really play well that night and you could see the 20 or so away fans and their players partying afterwards. For them, a 1-0 defeat in Europe was something to celebrate. They probably thought it was as good as it would get. So for Rangers to then let them win 2-0 over there was unacceptable. There are no excuses.
“I have friends who took time off work and spent the money and had to get two flights over for that second leg, in what used to be a football backwater, and that was what they got for their trouble. The fans are shocked, frustrated and angry and I can understand why.”
Refusing to tag it the worst result in the club’s history, saying he wasn’t around when the club succumbed to Berwick Rangers in the cup, Rae did concede that it was probably safe to label it the most humiliating outcome in a European tie.
“In all my years supporting and playing for Rangers it is definitely the worst result. It shows how much work the manager and the players have to do before the season starts. If I was them I would lie low, and get on with business in private and make sure everyone is ready because, let’s be clear, they won’t be given time, they must get off to a flyer.”
The Portuguese manager has only been at the helm since March and while he signed a three-year deal, Rae says a result like the Europa League debacle means he is already under pressure.
“If they are not up to speed, they will struggle. They have a few tough games in those first few weeks [facing both Hibernian and Hearts] and if they allow a gap to open up between them and Celtic before they play on September 23, the pressure will become intense.
“The players and the manager need to realise the demands at Rangers. There are probably only about six, maybe eight, teams in Europe where fans just don’t accept defeat, or not winning, and, along with the likes of Real Madrid, Barcelona, Manchester United, Celtic and Rangers are two of them. That is an elite band and it is something players who are new to the club have to get used to. But they need to get used to it fast.”
The arrival of Graham Dorrans and Bruno Alves could help with that situation.
“The fact they didn’t have them for the European games is still no excuse but, from what I know of both, it should help. I haven’t met Alves but if you have played football at the level he has you should be able to bring something to the team,” Rae said of the Portuguese international who has just returned from Confederations Cup duty. “From what I have heard and seen he seems to be a leader on and off the pitch and Rangers need players like that.
“The great thing about Graham Dorrans is he’s a big Rangers man so he knows what is expected and he will be doing everything he can to deliver.” Rae says he has known the 30-year-old who has arrived at Ibrox from Norwich City on a three-year contract, and believes the fan in him will be determined to help turn things around.
“I’ve known him since he was a young lad and I actually tried to sign him while he was at Dundee. On top of being a Rangers man, he is also a top talent.
“Rangers people know what the club has been through and they are resilient. The past five or six years have been a nightmare and having come through that people expect more. The money spent is as good as it has been in probably 10 years. They have made signings and now that they have sorted out the merchandising rights, strips are flying out the door and fans are buying season tickets in huge numbers. But the last couple of days have been a setback for everyone. They need to get things back on track and when the season starts everyone has to be up to speed.”