Giovanni van Bronckhorst took over at Rangers a year ago during a rollercoaster 12 months.
In his first season, the Dutchman led the way to the final of the Europa League and Scottish Cup glory, but failed to retain the Scottish Premiership title.
He then took Rangers to the Champions League this season where they recorded their worst campaign in history, as Celtic went nine points clear of the 2022-23 title race after just 15 games.
Before the World Cup, Van Bronckhorst spoke unless to Sky Sports news to reflect on his first 12 months in charge at Ibrox…
What do you remember about the first day, walking through the door at Ibrox as a manager?
It is a proud memory for me. It was a very busy week because last week you didn’t know what your future would hold. Five days later you are on a plane to Glasgow to sign the contract. I was very happy with the first steps I took at Ibrox because at the training ground to start working with this team was the best time for me because of the history I have with this beautiful team.
What did you look for in the first few weeks to make sure you were up and running?
I saw from the semi-final against Hibs when we lost the team went down with the results, but I could see how we were and still are. We made sure to push the players. Technically we changed a few things, we couldn’t change the whole setup. I think the players were free to change and, of course, it helps when you win.
The first sneak was against Aberdeen – what were your thoughts at the time?
We were supposed to play Aberdeen and Celtic in the last game before the winter break, then they rescheduled the break and we had to play after that. At that time we were playing our best football and we wanted to play. There were only one or two clubs that wanted to continue because of the Covid situation at the time we couldn’t have full stadiums. It wasn’t our idea though, we came back with a draw at Aberdeen and a poor result against Celtic.
How difficult was the defeat at Celtic Park?
It was very difficult because it was a big loss for us. Also, how we lost. It was a game where we didn’t play well at all, we started to panic and it cost us the first few goals and it’s always difficult to recover.
What has been the hardest day so far?
My hardest day was two days before Leipzig got home we got a call at 6 o’clock that Jimmy (Bell) had died. We had to come here instead of preparing the team for one of the biggest games in the club’s history, we had a sad day and everyone was very upset about the news.
You can see everyone coming in with good energy and good looks because of the game and what’s going to happen and then you can see in a second, boom, everything changed. Everyone felt the same way. This is the most difficult time I have had as a coach, and as a manager now.
How did you do at the end of the season? Disappointment in the league means you have to play in the Europa League and Scottish Cup finals.
In the league, there is distance, but we still had to win our games. Of course, I changed some players because they had to be new for the final and the cup because they were two important times for us.
Playing in the Europa League final and being disappointed not to win the final then being ready at Hampden two days later against Hearts was difficult. We finished the season with a good minute to win the Scottish Cup.
Are you having a hard time this season, especially in Europe, have they been taking a toll?
It’s not what we want to see. Physically we had to play at a much higher level than we are used to, and, when you play against Napoli, Liverpool and Ajax and lose a game your mental strength is also affected. It’s normal because we are all human and when you have a problem or a bad time it will affect your life. These are things that were difficult for us and we had to play the game in a short time because of the World Cup. It was very difficult.
Looking back do you think enough happened over the summer to go?
We lost some players who were out of contract or on loan and some players moved on. Joe Aribo and Calvin Bassey both took the best steps in their career and we had to add new players. We did our homework, we had a list of potential players and that’s where it starts. Does this player exist? Can we have them? Is it possible to find players? Every window you have, you do everything to get the players to enter. We had seven new players and some started well, others needed more time.
I think it’s always the same with new players because they come from different countries. In the end what we wanted was to reach the Champions League, which we did. Yes, we did not foresee many problems that we may have due to injuries.
Does this sound like your group yet? If you look at the team, not many have come from where you arrived.
Every player in this team is my player. It doesn’t mean I have to get new players then it’s my team. That’s not my job. From the moment I walked in the door, these are my players and I work with the players. Sometimes you go to change things because the players are out of contract or we sell them and we have to revive the team, but every player is my player. I don’t like it when it’s said ‘it’s not my team’, this is my team.
Several players are inactive during the summer. Will the renovations begin in January or will rebuilding begin in the summer?
I speak almost every day with Ross (Wilson) and we have to see how my team is when the window comes. For each window you need to make sure you end the window stronger than you started. You can see what is possible and what we can do. We always want a good team.
Did you enjoy your first year?
Yes, I have enjoyed one year. Overall I have enjoyed every minute of my time here. Just like in life you have bad times and good times, bad times and high times. Last year has gone by and I am blessed and happy to be in charge of the football team.
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