Though the players are currently on holiday and the Premiership is on pause for the World Cup break, November 18 still represents an important day for Rangers manager Giovanni van Bronckhorst.
It’s now a year since the Dutchman was announced as the new manager of Rangers, a popular and relatively straightforward choice to to replace Steven Gerrard after the existing Ibrox coaching staff made a sudden switch to Aston Villa.
Van Bronckhorst was tasked with continuing the progress made under Gerrard and delivering success on the park.
Twelve months on, the manager finds himself under severe pressure after a run of underwhelming performances and a bruising Champions League experience, but can still look back on some real highs from his time in charge.
We’ve taken a look at what’s happened at Ibrox during his time in charge so far.
Wins, losses and mixed final emotions
Though van Bronckhorst was appointed on November 18, 2021, he watched from the stands as a Martin Boyle hat-trick for Hibs knocked the Ibrox side out of the League Cup three days later.
The Dutchman’s first game in the dugout was the Europa League group stage game against Sparta Prague that sealed Rangers place in the knockout stages.
That European win was the first of 68 games in charge so far. Van Bronckhorst has been on the winning side 42 times, drawn 11 times and suffered defeat on 15 occasions.
In that time, the Ibrox side have scored 131 goals, and conceded 72, though the average score varies over the different competitions they have played in.
That all adds up to a win percentage of 61.76%, lower than Steven Gerrard’s 64.8% win rate, but significantly higher than Pedro Caixinha’s 51.85%.
Broken down by competition, the ups and downs of van Bronckhorst’s time in charge are laid out clearly. The 100% record in seven domestic cup games have led to his one trophy – last season’s Scottish Cup, and progress to Hampden in this season’s League Cup.
The Europa League stats show five wins and two draws from 11 games in the competition last season, but raw numbers probably don’t do justice to the achievement of leading the team to the final, only to lose on penalties.
The Dutchman’s Champions League record makes for less pleasant reading. Two wins and a draw from four qualifying games saw the team reach the elite stages but once they got to meet the big names, with Ajax, Napoli and Liverpool in their group, it was a different story.
Six group games brought six defeats and a goal difference that set a new record, with an unwanted record defeat of 7-1 to Liverpool at Ibrox part of a sorry run of results.
Premiership results look reasonable on paper overall, with 28 wins and eight draws from 40 league matches, but the five draws and two losses last season let Celtic leapfrog the team to the top of the table and remain there until the trophy was handed out. This season, ten points dropped in 15 games have left the team trailing their rivals in the table and contributed to the pressure van Bronckhorst is under.
Transfers and squad turnaround
With two transfer windows having passed since his appointment, van Bronckhorst and sporting director Ross Wilson have done plenty of business over the last year.
Though the club’s scouting department helps identify targets, and Wilson is responsible for negotiations, van Bronckhorst has made it clear that he has a definitive say on who joins his squad. The club’s ambition to improve their trading model to provide revenue has seen record sales in his time in charge as well and a view of the ins and outs over January and the summer help illustrate his time in charge.
January 2022 transfer window
No first-team starters left the club in van Bronckhorst’s first transfer window, though the club did sell developing talent Nathan Patterson to Everton for a club record fee. Jermain Defoe departed for Sunderland and Juninho Bacuna and Brandon Barker also left.
Joining the Ibrox squad were New York City’s James Sands, Manchester United’s Amad Diallo and Juventus and Wales midfielder Aaron Ramsey, all on loan. Mateusz Zukowski arrived from Lechia Gdansk to replace Patterson as back-up for James Tavernier.
Summer 2022 transfer window
The summer saw more change. In addition to Diallo and Ramsey leaving at the end of their loan deals, there were other exits. Winger Jake Hastie moved to Hartlepool and striker Cedric Itten signed for Young Boys but the most significant moves were the departure of Joe Aribo to Southampton and Calvin Bassey’s move to Ajax for another record fee.
Seven players came in, all with designs on a regular first-team place. John Souttar had already agreed a pre-contract deal to join from Hearts, while Ben Davies arrived from Liverpool to further strengthen defensive options. Ridvan Yilmaz was recruited from Besiktas to challenge Borna Barisic at left-back.
Attacking prospect Malik Tillman was loaned from Bayern Munich, and Tom Lawrence and Rabbi Matondo were signed to provide further creativity. Antonio Colak joined from PAOK to challenge for the central striker role.
As the Dutchman has faced criticism this season, his supporters have pointed out the injury crisis that has hit the squad, with Souttar and Lawrence both long-term absentees, alongside stalwart defender Connor Goldson, and Davies also having missed a large chunk of the season’s fixtures. Colak is currently joint-top scorer in the league with 11 Premiership goals so far.
In his own words
In the club’s annual report, published this month, van Bronckhorst shared his own thoughts on the year to date with shareholders and supporters.
Reflecting on his return to the club he had served as a player, he highlighted successes and acknowledged some failures but said that he believed the club was moving forward.
He wrote: “In the last 12 months, all the memories of the past have come flooding back as we have created new memories with some truly unbelievable days and nights both at home and abroad.
“Forefront to that has been some of the astonishing European nights we have had. To firstly come in and defeat Sparta Prague to qualify for the knockout stages was a very early target, one that was very important for us as a club, and I was delighted to achieve that.
“What was to follow, though, was down to not only some outstanding work from my staff and my players, but a belief that ran right through the club that we were onto something special.
“To beat Dortmund over two legs was a fantastic achievement when you consider their power and stature within the game. Red Star were a very different challenge, and a really strong and experienced European opponent, but we showed great mental strength away in Belgrade when we were up against it to get ourselves through.
“Against Braga, we had it all to do at Ibrox, and while we were excellent on the night, there is no doubt the atmosphere played a massive role both for us and the opposition. And then there was Leipzig.
“Again, we had it all to do, and coming into that second leg, we had to deal with the loss of our beloved kitman, Jimmy, just two days before the match.
“What followed was one of the most emotional nights of my career as again, my players and staff delivered in front of the loudest noise I have ever heard in my life, and I have no doubt Jimmy was watching down on us cheering us on in his own unique way.
“To take 100,000 supporters to Seville at 13 days’ notice just shows the incredible power this club has, and every single one who travelled must be commended for the outstanding way in which they enjoyed themselves. I just wish we could have got ourselves over the line that night, but it wasn’t to be.
“At the end of the day, Rangers is about winning, and I was so pleased for everyone associated with the club that just three days after Seville, we defeated Hearts to win the Scottish Cup for the first time in 13 years.
“This new season saw us enter the market early to strengthen the squad in order to be ready to navigate the Champions League qualifiers and reach the group stage for the first time in 12 years.
“Of course, we were all delighted to successfully get there, and I was particularly pleased with the courage and determination shown by our players over two difficult ties with PSV. Given we had moved early in the market, it was pleasing to see some of our summer recruits scoring the goals that took us there – Colak, Tillman and Lawrence.
“Along with our Sporting Director, Ross Wilson, I will never stop striving to make us better. Ross is focused on developing the whole football side of the club from our youngest academy team and we work closely together to ensure the first team keeps progressing as our number one focus, not only on the pitch but also in the facilities and infrastructure.
“Qualifying for the Champions League was the last major milestone in the Club’s footballing ‘recovery’, and while there is no doubt it has been a difficult challenge for us, I believe we will be better for these, tough experiences in the seasons to come.”