Throwback Thursday: Rangers European run of 2008

“Club Captain Barry Ferguson” by superleague formula: thebeautifulrace is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

Following a highly successful season so far from the Ibrox side, I take a look back at Rangers’ incredible European run during the 2007/08 campaign.

In January 2007, Walter Smith and Ally McCoist, returned to Rangers as manager and assistant.

The appointment of the two favourites was a bid to stop Celtic from their few years of dominance in Scotland.

If they were to do so, Rangers were going to have to bolster their squad. This is exactly what Smith did.

The addition of Steven Davis, Carlos Cuéllar and Steven Whittaker, were merely a handful of the players that Smith brought to Ibrox in his first full campaign in charge.

With a Scottish Cup and League Cup win in their first full season in charge, it looked like better times were ahead for the Glasgow side.

Two cup wins was a fantastic achievement but what really got the fans talking that season was the Gers’ European run.

With an impressive start to their Champions League Group Stage, two wins and a draw, this left them on track for a third-place finish, resulting in the Ibrox side dropping into the UEFA Cup knockout stages.

Rangers’ impressive away form would see them progress through the tournament.

After a fantastic 2-0 win away to Sporting CP in the quarter final, Rangers came up against Italian side Fiorentina.

Despite the Italians dominating the second leg tie, with nothing to split the two sides after both games, the fate of the two clubs would go on to be decided by a penalty shootout.

The shootout got off to a disastrous start for Rangers when captain Barry Ferguson’s penalty was saved by Sebastian Frey.

With the score at 2-2 and Fiorentina still to take a penalty, Fabio Liverani sent his penalty low, however it was saved fantastically by Neil Alexander.

A goal from midfielder Brahim Hemdani and a miss from Italian striker Christian Vieri, left it all down to Rangers’ striker Nacho Novo.

A long run up from Novo, and a coolly placed finished down to the keeper’s left, sent the Scottish fans wild, as Rangers progressed through to the final.

Manchester would be the venue for the final, with the match seeing just shy of 44,000 fans inside the City of Manchester Stadium.

Zenit Saint Petersburg had also been on an incredible run to the final, beating German giants, Bayern Munich 5-1 over a two-legged semi-final.

In a final that was dominated by Zenit, two late goals from the Russian club gave them a 2-0 win.

Ultimately not the result Rangers would have hoped for but overall an incredible achievement that all involved at the club would have been extremely proud of.

Where are they now?

Neil Alexander

Alexander went on to have spells at: Crystal Palace, Hearts, Aberdeen, and Livingston.

The keeper went on to have a successful spell at his boyhood club Hearts, helping them return to the Premiership at the first time of asking.

Since his retirement Alexander has moved into coaching and was appointed goalkeeping coach at Dundee United.

Kirk Broadfoot

Broadfoot went on to have spells at: Blackpool, Rotherham United, Kilmarnock, and St Mirren.

The right back is still currently playing.

On 31st January 2020, after only five months with the Paisley side, Broadfoot returned to Killie for a second spell, on an 18-month contract.

David Weir

Weir saw out his career at the Glasgow side.

Having retired in 2012, Weir returned to Everton, in a coaching role, where he enjoyed several years during his playing career.

In 2013, the Scottish international then went on to manage Sheffield United, where he did not have a successful spell and was sacked after 13 games.

Having assisted Mark Warburton at several clubs since then, Weir now finds himself at Brighton & Hove Albion in a role where he manages some of their younger players who are out on loan to foreign clubs.

Carlos Cuéllar

Cuéllar went on to have spells at: Aston Villa, Sunderland, Norwich City, Almeria, Maccabi Petah Tivka, Ironi Kiryat Shmona, and Bnei Yehuda.

Since retiring the central defender has been busy.

He has expressed a keen interest in coaching and recently partaken in a coaching course.

The Spaniard has also done a lot of media work since ending his playing career.

Saša Papac

Papac, like Weir, ended his career while at Rangers.

With three league titles, and five cup wins, Papac played a massive part in a highly successful Rangers squad.

In 2015, the former full back was hired as a scout for his national team.

He also had a seven-month spell as Željezničar Sarajevo’s director of football.

Brahim Hemdani

The Uefa Cup final would turn out to be the Algerian’s last ever game at club level.

Having been voted as Fan’s Player of the Year in 2007 and then playing a huge role in the European run the year after, it was certainly controversial that he was frozen out in the 2008/09 season.

Hemdani was named by Barry Ferguson in the midfielders Birmingham & Rangers XI.

Barry Ferguson ©

Ferguson went on to have spells at: Birmingham, Blackpool, and Fleetwood Town.

In 2014, the midfielder joined Clyde as player-manager. However, having featured very little, in April 2015 he announced he had retired and was focusing on the management side.

Since 2018, Ferguson has been enjoying a spell at Kelty Hearts, winning the Lowland League in his second season in charge.

Ferguson works on the Go Radio Football Show and has a column in the Daily Record.

Kevin Thomson

Thomson went on to have spells at: Middlesbrough, Hibernian, and Dundee.

After Dundee, Thomson returned to Hibs for a third spell, combining his duties on the pitch with helping Eddie May coach the development squads.

The midfielder can now be found doing media work for the Scottish game.

He has also set up the Kevin Thomson Academy where he offers private sessions to players of all ages.

Steven Whittaker

Whittaker went on to have spells at: Norwich City, Hibernian,

The full back is currently playing at Championship side Dunfermline.

The former Rangers star has struggled with injuries more in recent times.

Alongside his playing duties, Whittaker has also taken up a coaching role at the Pars.

Steven Davis

Davis went on to have a spell at: Southampton.

After seven years with the Saints, Davis returned to Ibrox, originally on a six-month loan, before signing on a permanent deal.

In 2017, Davis was awarded MBE for services to football.

The midfielder was part of the 2020/21 squad that won the Premiership title, stopping Celtic’s ten-in-a-row bid.

Jean-Claude Darcheville

Darcheville went on to have spells at: Valenciennes, Nantes, Kavala, Sinnamary and Saint-Georges.

After Rangers, the former striker struggled to settle anywhere, having extremely short spells at all clubs.

Since retiring, he has expressed a keen interest in coaching, and stated he is looking to complete a coaching course. When asked about it he said: “I want to get back to the football world and bring my experience to a club”.

Kris Boyd

Boyd went on to have spells at: Middlesbrough, Nottingham Forrest, Eskişehirspor’s, Portland Timbers, Kilmarnock, and Rangers.

After his second spell at the Gers, Boyd moved back to Killie for his third spell at the club.

He is the founder of the Kris Boyd Charity that aims to assist people that are struggling with their Mental Health and to encourage them to talk about it.

Kris Boyd now features regularly on Sky Sports as a pundit.

Nacho Novo

Novo went on to have spells at: Sporting Gijon, Legia Warsaw, Huesca, Greenock Morton, Carlisle United, Carolina Railhawks, and Glentoran.

After his time with Glentoran, the former attacker announced his interest in coaching. However, also expressed an intention to open a Rangers bar in Glasgow.

Last year at the age of 41, Novo made a shock return to football when it was announced he would play for English non-league side, Biggleswade United.

In 2014, Novo was inducted into the Rangers Hall of Fame.

Lee McCulloch

McCulloch went on to have a short spell at Kilmarnock as a player/coach, playing only one game as his main role was looking after the development of younger players.

McCulloch is one of the few players that stuck by the side when they were sent down to the third division.

In 2014, he also was inducted to the Hall of Fame.

McCulloch has had a few different spells as assistant manager, including one in Poland.

He is very hard to miss these days with his pearly new white teeth, and can be found in the Hearts dugout, as assistant to Robbie Neilson.

Walter Smith

With ten league titles and eleven cup wins, in two spells at the Glasgow side, Smith is the second most successful manager in Rangers’ history.

In 2011, Smith left the club and retired from football.

The former Rangers’ manager was linked with a return to the Scotland national team as manager in 2018, however turned it down after discussions with the SFA.

Success in Europe seems to be getting harder and harder for Scottish teams right now.

However, although not winning the competition, what this Rangers side achieved that year was fantastic.

Although playing not the most exciting football, they stuck to their game plan each game and it paid off.

Can Steven Gerrard do the same with his side this year? They’re certainly on course to do so.

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