By overthrowing Leipzig in an incandescent stadium, the Scots have definitively put an end to the worst chapter in their history. Ten years after being relegated to the fourth division for financial worries, the other club from Glasgow offers itself a first European final since 2008 and is truly back on the map of the Old Continent. It could only go through an evening as only Ibrox can book them…
By Florent Caffery, in Glasgow
11:07 p.m. this Thursday evening in front of Ibrox. For an hour, the Rangers no longer dream of a European final, they are there. And Joe, in his cream-colored three-piece suit, takes pleasure in sending a well-controlled finger of honor to the Leipzig players holed up in their bus. “We are back” , their mouth quadra with the baby’s skull, while the mounted guard escorts the Germans. Ten meters further, Sam, 80 springs on the clock and as many anecdotes stashed in his raincoat, bursts out laughing. “He didn’t just drink water” , laughs the octogenarian. He doesn’t either, to tell the truth, but this grandfather has the eyes of a five-year-old kid when he looks at the huge facade of the red brick enclosure. “This stadium is made for European evenings. This club is made for European parties. I’ve been a supporter for over 70 years and even after so many years, my hair stands on end. This game went down in history. »
“This stadium is made for European evenings. This club is made for European parties. » Sam, octogenarian supporter
This is precisely what Mike predicted, two hours before the semi-final, on the Albion Car Park which adjoins the Rangers’ lair. Between two hints of fish and chips, he swears that after “so many years of hardship where everyone buried us, tonight we are going to prove to all of Europe that the Rangers are back” .
The fourth division with an average of 45,000 spectators
Very few would have bet on such a quick resurrection. Because in the summer of 2012, the Light Blues are catapulted to the fourth national level. The British tax authorities claim 115 million euros from them, the total debts (166 million euros) are as deep as the ocean, and the consortium of the English businessman Charles Green is rejected. 25 of the 30 professional clubs ship the biggest trophy cabinet in the country (54 league titles at the time) to the depths of League Two, for a club which had never experienced relegation since joining the pros in 1890. “I still have it here” , mimes Bryan by putting his hand on the throat. The 48-year-old supporter is still struggling to evoke this free fall where “We thought we were going to be wiped off the map, that we would only talk about Celtic. But with heart and selflessness, a club like ours never dies.” .
Cut up – only three pros remained during relegation – Rangers came back step by step on the surface. 45,000 supporters on average at home in D4, two consecutive accessions before that in the elite in the spring of 2016, an integration of supporters into the capital (5% of the shares), a board of readjusted leaders, the machine is restarted. It will be all the more so with Steven Gerrard on the bench (2018-2021) whose championship title, stolen from Celtic in the spring of 2021, has become an indelible marker. But it was missing “this aura on the European scenecontinues Bryan. This return to the fore is a huge achievement. But elsewhere than in Scotland, we weren’t really talked about anymore. »
“With this relegation, we know what people have endured here, they defend their club, no matter the conditions. » Rangers defender Leon Balogun
“Nothing will stop us”
Until really in recent weeks when Dortmund, Red Star Belgrade, Braga and Leipzig have come up against Hadrian’s Wall. With the apotheosis for the Germans who took decibels in the face endlessly, where a world record for pints passed had to be beaten and where the goal of the issue in the last ten minutes caused yet another earthquake. Twenty minutes of lap of honor followed with 50,000 madmen jumping at the same time. “In front of such a crowd, conceding a goal very quickly doesn’t help” , estimated after the fact the German coach Domenico Tedesco, also disconcerted. Almost as much as Giovanni van Bronckhorst, whose handover with Steven Gerrard who left for Aston Villa last fall turned out to be the right one. “The last time I experienced that here was against Parma (during a third preliminary round of C1 in 1999, Ed). I may repeat it, but it is for these moments that we do this job. »
the Simply the best of Tina Turner still resounded under the hand stand that the central defender Leon Balogun took out the emotion card, one more: “Before the game, I exchanged messages with supporters. We knew the atmosphere would be crazy, but I didn’t expect that. With this relegation, we know what people have endured here, they defend their club no matter the conditions. And there, we offer them a European final. » There were thousands of them stuffing themselves with trips to the Highlands in the fourth division just ten years ago. They will be an army in Seville on May 18. “It doesn’t matter if we go there by plane, by train, by car, on foot or by bike, nothing will stop us” , Bryan promises. XXL determination.
By Florent Caffery, in Glasgow
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