Van Bronckhorst ready to ring changes for Rangers
The new manager expects to implement his own system in his first match in charge, against Sparta Prague today
Indications are that Giovanni van Bronckhorst will not be shy when it comes to shaking things up at Rangers. The Dutchman has had only two days of training with his squad before Sparta Prague visit Ibrox on Europa League business today. Steven Gerrard, now at Aston Villa, implemented a solid template; his successor is of a mind to put forward one of his own.
“It has been a very short time with the players but I think they can already sense what I want to change and what is needed to become successful again,” Van Bronckhorst says. “Not only on the pitch but the way we behave as a team and the way we prepare mentally. You cannot do everything in two days, but step by step I am sure the players will understand the way I work and the way I want to play.
“I have a certain way of working. There are certain things I expect and want from my players.”
On the specific challenge of Sparta, who are level with Rangers in Group A, the former Rangers player expanded on the theme. “I have certain ways of playing against certain systems,” Van Bronckhorst says. “You will see a team tomorrow in the system I like to play and how it is best to play against Prague. You will definitely see some changes.”
Assessment of what Van Bronckhorst has walked into is not straightforward. After 13 games Rangers, who won the league at a canter last season, are four points clear of a Celtic team who are mid-rebuild. In the two Premiership matches immediately before Gerrard’s sharp exit, Rangers were comfortable in dismissing Ross County and Motherwell. Europa League involvement post-Christmas remains highly attainable.
Yet for a club which makes such great play of a requirement to succeed, recent events have been odd. Villa confirmed Gerrard as their manager on 11 November. Last Sunday, Rangers were humbled 3-1 by Hibernian in a League Cup semi-final with Van Bronckhorst, appointed three days earlier, in the stand.
That Rangers insist work permit timing meant Van Bronckhorst could not have any influence on the tie is fair enough but that the new manager was posing for photos over a city-centre dinner with Ross Wilson, the sporting director, on the previous evening looked especially clumsy – or complacent – as Hibs, who had not played in almost a month, raced into a 3-0 lead. “We weren’t happy with the result or the goals we conceded,” Van Bronckhorst says. “We have to make sure we are defensively much more focused and compact.”
After their latest bloody nose, the centre-back Connor Goldson claimed his team had “lost a bit of hunger”. Van Bronckhorst adds that he had spoken to Goldson about his comments. “Obviously the team was not happy or in a good place on Sunday,” he says. “It was quite an emotional game. For me, the most important thing is to move forward. If you might feel that as a player, you have to work hard to keep the hunger and desire, the willingness to work hard. That’s what I demand from day one.
So far, it has been really good.”
There is, typically, excitable analysis over Van Bronckhorst’s coaching credentials. The claiming of the 2016-17 Eredivisie with Feyenoord was a fine achievement, albeit this was no team of plodders. Feyenoord finished 17 and 21 points from the league’s summit in the following two seasons. Their European record was unimpressive throughout.
Van Bronckhorst’s only other management role, in China with Guangzhou City, was as brief as it was inauspicious. The 46-yearold is a sensible appointment by Rangers on grounds of availability and existing connection to the club. World-renowned dugout status is not required to prevail in Scotland. Yet a touch of realism may be useful; Van Bronckhorst was hardly on Premier League speed dials. He has plenty to prove.
“I can’t wait to feel the atmosphere again in the stadium,” he says. “The players are ready. It is a new start for them, as well, with me coming in as their new manager. They have worked hard. They have looked very fresh and sharp. We are well prepared.”
‘I have a certain way of working. There are certain things I expect and want from my players’