Giovanni van Bronckhorst sets Rangers demands and recalls favourite Euro nights at Ibrox

WHAT is done is done. Previous deeds, actions or words do not feature prominently in the thinking of Giovanni van Bronckhorst.

Whether it be a Premiership title win or a Premier Sports Cup defeat, the Dutchman cannot shape the past. On a night where he will roll back the years, the focus is on the future.

Two decades after he left Ibrox for the next step in a career that would take him to the top of the game, Van Bronckhorst will return to familiar territory facing a new challenge with Rangers.

The first task for Van Bronckhorst in recent days has been to pick his players up from their loss to Hibernian and to decipher just who is with him and who is not as a new era begins at home to Sparta Prague.

Comments from Connor Goldson – in which he admitted the champions have ‘lost a bit of hunger’ and needed a ‘spark’ from their incoming manager – have been the subject of much debate in the aftermath of a humbling Hampden defeat.

Van Bronckhorst was powerless to prevent the result as he watched on from the stands. He cannot alter the past, but he can look forward as Rangers set their sights on a place in the knockout rounds of the Europa League for the third successive season.

“It is obvious that the team wasn’t happy and wasn’t in a good place on Sunday,” Van Bronckhorst said. “I think it was quite an emotional game for the team and the club being out of the cup after the game.

“For me the most important thing is to look forward. If you might feel that as a player, you need to keep the hunger, keep the desire you have to work hard and that is what I demand from day one.

“So far it has been really good. The most important thing is that you want to be a better team, a better player in the coming days, weeks, months, years and that is what you have to do being part of this club.

“That is what I also demand from all my players. I am looking forward to work with the players also in that aspect for the next months because so far this season we haven’t won anything.

“We are the champions last year, which was a great performance from everyone, but this year is a new year and we have to be there, have to be ready and have to be fully focused for the games that come.

“As I said before, I want to be involved in Europe after the winter break so [tonight] is a good chance to make a good step.”

The meeting with Sparta was always likely to be decisive in Group A and the appointment of Van Bronckhorst has added to the excitement for supporters ahead of what could be a memorable night under the floodlights.

The 46-year-old was no stranger to such occasions during his time as part of Dick Advocaat’s side and he would later go on to lift the ultimate prize on the continent by helping Barcelona clinch the Champions League crown.

Rangers are operating at a level lower than that these days. Yet fond recollections of his stint at Ibrox first time around will inspire Van Bronckhorst as he begins his second coming.

“I am looking forward to the first game back in the stadium and of course it will bring many memories of my time when I was a player,” Van Bronckhorst said. “Very good memories.

“I can’t wait to feel the atmosphere again in the stadium but I am old enough to separate my emotions into the focus I need to perform with the team.

“Before the game it will be mixed feelings but once the whistle goes from the referee I will be fully focused on my task and that is to guide my team to victory.

“A couple [of games stand out for me]. The Parma game we had, qualification for the Champions League was a very good experience.

“We qualified for the group stages against a Parma team full of international stars. I think, for me, it was one of the best nights that I had with Rangers.

“Of course, playing against the likes of Bayern Munich, Monaco, which we want to have.

“At that time we could compete with the top clubs and that was good for us as players and also good as a team and, of course, for the club as well. Good memories in Europe.”

The departure of Steven Gerrard to Aston Villa earlier this month could have threatened to derail Rangers at a crucial time of their title defence and European campaign.

There is a renewed sense of optimism and excitement ahead of the Sparta showdown, however, as Van Bronckhorst prepares for his dugout debut.

His first sight of his side on Sunday wasn’t a positive one but he has been encouraged by his opening days since taking office.

Van Bronckhorst said: “It’s a very short time – only two days to train with the players. But I think they can already sense the things I want to change and what is needed to become successful again.

“Not only on the pitch but also the way we behave as a team and the way we have to be prepared mentally. You cannot do everything in two days. I need more time.

“But step by step, I’m sure the players will understand the way I work and the way I want to play.

“As I said, I have a certain way of working. There are certain things I expect and want from my players.

“It’s not maybe a change or different. I don’t know how previous managers worked.

“Gerrard worked in a certain way. I work in a certain way.

“But I demand that we play as a team and doing everything we can to play as a team, whether it is defending or attacking.

“We need to be prepared. We have our tasks. The players have their tasks on the pitch, they know.

“We talked a lot about it in the last couple of days and now we need to execute it [tonight] and make sure we are ready for Prague.”

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