Giovanni van Bronckhorst stressed the importance of Champions League football to himself and Rangers as he prepared for the first leg of the play-off against PSV Eindhoven at Ibrox on Tuesday night.
Rangers last played in European football’s elite
club competition in 2010/11 before their financial problems saw them re-emerge in the bottom tier of Scottish football, from where they eventually returned to the top flight.
They were knocked out of the Champions League qualifiers by Malmo last season, but Gers players and fans then enjoyed a memorable run to the Europa League final, only to lose on penalties to Eintracht Frankfurt in Seville.
However, it is the top-tier tournament that the Rangers manager, who took over last November, has targeted.
“It is my hope and our hope,” said the former Feyenoord boss, who confirmed Ryan Kent and James Sands are available after missing the 4-0 Premiership win over St Johnstone at Ibrox on Saturday.
“We are playing European football every season. Last season was the Europa League.
“Of course the disappointment in not going through to the group stage [of the Champions League] against Malmo, we changed that into a very positive year in Europe.
“But no doubt in my mind that, every year we are involved in European football, we want to be part of the Champions League.
“That has to be our goal and that’s why we work hard.
“It doesn’t mean we will play every year in the Champions League, but the desire [is to do that] and we want to show everyone that we want to be in that tournament.
“I obviously coached before in the Champions League, it is a tournament you want to be involved in a player, as club, as a coach.
“I came here and wanted to win this club prizes and wanted to play at the highest level and that is Champions League.
“The main thing for me is to qualify and bring the club back into the biggest stage in European football.”
Van Bronckhorst is a former Netherlands team-mate of PSV manager Ruud van Nistelrooy and he also worked under his assistant, Fred Rutten, at Feyenoord.
The Gers boss said: “I haven’t been in touch with him lately.
“I never thought that he would be a coach, I never thought of being a coach when I was playing either.
“He took his badges for a couple of years and made the decision to get his experience in the PSV academy and he did well with the U19s and last season with the PSV second team.
“He has been given the chance to coach the first team and PSV is a place he is familiar with and the back-up and support he gets from the club is similar to what I got at Feyenoord, so I am looking forward to meeting him again, to see a player I played with also making his steps in management”
Van Bronckhorst believes the players have to leave any pressure of getting into the Champions League in the dressing room.
He said: “The rewards you get are bigger and that is the pressure, but you don’t have to take it into the game.
“You just concentrate on your strengths and ability to play well and to overcome PSV in two games.
“It is a big game but you want to big games in your career, you like big challenges and it is a big challenge for us.”
Kent was rested for the win over St Johnstone, while Sands missed out through illness.
Van Bronckhorst said: “James Sands and Ryan Kent are back in the squad so we are looking forward to the challenge we face tomorrow.”
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