Steven Gerrard believes his players will meet the demands and scrutiny placed on them when they open their Europa League qualifying campaign on Thursday night.
The new Rangers manager declared himself satisfied with the 6-0 friendly victory over Bury at Ibrox in front of an enthusiastic crowd of 41,015.
Gerrard now faces his first competitive test against Macedonian side Shkupi in the first leg of their first qualifying round tie in Glasgow as Rangers fans look to restore credibility after last year’s humiliating defeat at the same stage against Luxembourg side Progres Niederkorn.
“We are ready for the challenge,” said Gerrard, right. “The expectation and pressure is going to be completely different from tonight. Yeah, there were 40,000 here, which was fantastic for a friendly against Bury, so there was a slight bit of pressure, especially for the new players getting judged for the first time.
“After what happened last year [in Europe], then of course we know there is going to be a lot more pressure and eyes on us. But I’m confident that come kick-off the players will be ready to go.
“It was pleasing tonight, it was exactly what we were looking for – a good, strong, positive win full of energy. We asked for desire and commitment and we saw lots of that. The most pleasing thing for me was the clean sheet, we’ve spoken about how important it is to be a difficult team to play against. Teams who come into this stadium need to start fearing Rangers again.”
Gerrard confirmed James Tavernier, who wore the armband for most of last season in the absence of the injured Lee Wallace, will be captain this season.
Allan McGregor, who played last night, looks set to be first-choice goalkeeper again and Gerrard accepts that could mean a departure from the club for either Wes Foderingham or Jak Alnwick.
“I have three fantastic goalkeepers but somewhere down the line one of them isn’t going to be happy,” he said. “There’s nothing I can do about that. At some point, one of them won’t be around because three top goalies don’t go into one position. I’m going to have to make a difficult decision.”