Former Rangers skipper Richard Gough admits he had a tear in his eye as he watched his old team reach the Europa League final on the nosiest night he has heard at Ibrox.
The man who skippered Gers to a record-equalling ninth consecutive title, and a European campaign that took them one game from the Champions League final, felt the atmosphere was “spine-tingling” for the semi-final second leg.
Rangers dispatched RB Leipzig 3-1 to overcome a first-leg deficit and set up a trip to Seville to face Eintracht Frankfurt on May 21, with many of the players dedicating the victory to long-serving kit man Jimmy Bell, who died earlier this week.
“I’m still pinching myself,” Gough told BBC Radio Scotland. “I came in on Wednesday night from San Diego and I was at the game. I did some work in the fan zone and I could feel the emotion. It was an emotional night because of Jimmy Bell as well.
“The team were absolutely fantastic. I played at Ibrox on some huge nights, notably Marseille, Leeds United, winning league titles, but honestly last night was as loud as I’ve heard the place. I have never heard anything like it before. It was spine-tingling to be there.
“I am so proud of the team, I am so proud for the supporters of our club. I was standing with John Greig and I must admit we both had a wee tear in our eye.
“A remarkable achievement from the team and the club from where we were. I don’t think any Rangers supporter saw us making a European final for a while.”
Gough’s former team-mate, Ally McCoist, agreed with the sentiments and reflected on a journey from the bottom tier of Scottish football, which he started as manager.
The Rangers record goalscorer told BT Sport: “I can’t tell you how proud I am of that team, those players, those fans.
“I have seen victories over Dynamo Kiev and Leeds United when the atmosphere was the best. That will take some beating.
“That performance, to a man, every one of them should be so proud of themselves.
“Nine years ago we were playing East Stirling in the Third Division. We’re in a European final.
“We were playing against one of the top teams in Ibrox that spend £50-60million on players. Giovanni van Bronckhorst got everything tactically spot-on.”
As well as Bell, McCoist was thinking of his former mentor Walter Smith, who led Gers to the UEFA Cup final in 2008, and died in October last year.
“It’s the first person I thought of,” McCoist said. “Old Walter and Jimmy up there, they will be having a wee dram and a cuddle because that was absolutely magic.”
Former Gers striker Kris Boyd believes the team spirit fired the team to Seville.
“The real togetherness of this team is something you can’t buy and it’s going to get stronger now,” he told Sky Sports.
“It’s an unbelievable achievement, not only for Rangers, but the finances of Scottish football are not there to compete with the elite in Europe. But Rangers, with that togetherness and team spirit, have shown you can go far in Europe.”
Former boss Steven Gerrard sent his congratulations via his Instagram account and added: “What a performance.”
Former Rangers skipper Barry Ferguson believes they will go and win the final.
“We’re off to Seville,” he told Go Radio. “I cannot wait.
“It’s an unbelievable achievement and they deserve it. They knocked out the favourites for me, Dortmund. They have gone to tough places in Red Star Belgrade, Braga, and they have come up against a very good team in Leipzig, and they deserve to go through.
“Do you know what? I think they will go one better and I would love nothing more than that to happen. I’ll be there, don’t you worry about that.”
Former Rangers defender Graham Roberts added on Twitter: “Well done to the mighty Rangers what a performance and well done to the supporters you gave the team energy that was for you jimmy bell and Walter smith.”
Former Scotland international Pat Nevin watched Frankfurt beat West Ham but told Rangers they had nothing to fear.
“Eintracht Frankfurt are a really nice team, I enjoyed watching them and I liked the way they didn’t give up attacking,” he said on BBC Radio 5Live.
“But should Rangers be sitting here fearful? Absolutely not. They have got a very good chance of winning that trophy.”
Rangers will go straight into the Champions League group stages if they do so, after it was confirmed earlier this week that Celtic will go straight in if they clinch the title.
After congratulating Rangers, Scottish Professional Football League chief executive Neil Doncaster said: “Their fantastic performances throughout the competition have made a massive contribution to the country coefficient, with Scotland set to start next season in ninth place in the UEFA rankings.
“This ranking ensures that we continue to have five clubs competing in UEFA competitions, which I am sure will be welcomed by supporters across the country.”