As Champions League qualification officially ends, Rangers fans are still licking their wounds following a bitterly disappointing campaign.
The Gers could yet get the consolation prize of a place in the Europa League but must overcome a potentially tricky tie in Armenia to do so.
Amid Covid-19 outbreaks, suspensions and a 7000-mile round-up trip, if the club doesn’t come back with a place in the group stages of Europe’s second-tier competition it’s an unmitigated disaster.
Whilst the Champions League qualification effort certainly felt like that, the financial safety net of the Europa League – although tethered together itself – is quite simply paramount to the club.
Rangers’ conquerors Malmo have their name in the prestigious Champions League draw, banking £30m+ in the process, and fans will go back to that disappointing night at Ibrox.
Steven Davis’ last-minute strike in Sweden had built up hopes that the Gers could overturn a 2-1 defeat in Glasgow.
Steven Gerrard called on the crowd and for the opening 30 minutes the difference was tangible and Rangers were level on aggregate.
What followed is a turn of events that will long live in the memory for the wrong reasons as the Gers capitulated in the second half at Ibrox and fell 2-1 to Malmo after the Swedes had been reduced to 10.
Rangers knew they’d have suspensions to the likes of Glen Kamara and Kemar Roofe for this tie and amid players returning from summer competitions, on reflection, our preparations appear particularly complacent.
That Malmo disappointment has also seeped into our season as the engines only now begin to get fired up as the club stumbles to the upcoming international break.
Lessons that must be learned here concern most pertinently our preparations – these were off and despite outside factors hampering our fluidity, we should’ve expected no less.
On top of this, it’s wrong to discount anyone you play at this level with Swedish Champions Malmo proving they’re no mugs by overcoming Bulgarian counterparts Ludogorets.
Joining them in the draw will be RB Salzburg, Shakhtar Donetsk, Sheriff Tiraspol, Young Boys of Berne and Benfica as over £180m of UEFA’s cash is spread around Europe.
The fact Rangers are not amongst those names is sure to hurt for some time yet but there are lessons we can learn from a failed exercise which had promised so much.
Despite Steven Gerrard claiming that perhaps the Europa League was his side’s level, the success of a team of relative minnows in the competition will have some asking why the Gers faltered.