Steven Gerrard targets Europa League group stage with Rangers

Steven Gerrard met some of his Rangers players while on holiday. Picture: PA.Steven Gerrard met some of his Rangers players while on holiday. Picture: PA.
Steven Gerrard met some of his Rangers players while on holiday. Picture: PA.
Steven Gerrard has set himself the target of reaching the group stage of the Europa League with Rangers.

The new Ibrox manager took over the reins on Friday but was in France last week where he combined work on his Uefa Pro Licence with scouting for players at the Toulon Tournament.

Gerrard flew back to the UK last night and is due back in Glasgow just before he takes his team to Spain for a pre-season training camp on 17 June.

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The Europa League first round qualifiers begin on 12 July but clubs will find out their opponents on 20 June when the draw is made in Nyon. Rangers will need to negotiate four rounds of qualifiers to reach the group stage but Gerrard has made it clear he will demand his side hit the ground running in his first competitive match, even if he hasn’t assembled his best squad by then.

Gerrard said: “Every game for Rangers is a priority. Of course, it’s going to be very difficult to have everything done and dusted by that first game – because teams shut down for a certain amount of time. It can be difficult to get deals over the line in a short space of time.

“But in terms of that first Europa League game, I don’t prioritise any game. The fact of the matter is, we want to be in the group stages of the Europa League.

“So whatever players are available to me at that time will be expected to get results. And I’ll be expected to get results.”

Gerrard has not yet met his new squad officially, but revealed he had bumped into several players while on holiday in Dubai.

“I’m ahead of the game in terms of speaking to certain individuals and I’ll be speaking to more as we go along,” he said.

“The idea is to try to speak to the majority of them before we get back. But I also have to respect that some are on family holidays or international duty. There’s plenty of time from now until the first game of the season to have meetings and chats.

“I’m definitely ahead of the game – I’m not sure whether some of the players followed me to Dubai but a few were staying in the same hotel as me! So that gave me a chance to speak to them.”

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Gerrard’s arrival in Glasgow has generated enormous interest around the world. But he accepts the spotlight will firmly be shown on him even more now.

“I’ve not been surprised by the level of interest or intensity,” he said. “I knew it before I was announced. I knew all about Rangers from the outside. I knew the size of the club, I knew the opportunity and size of the task.

“I’m surprised how many Rangers fans I’ve bumped into so far. I was in Dubai for nine or ten days on a family break.

“The support and welcome I’ve had has been superb.”