THE floodlights will beam down on a pristine pitch and the theme music will blast over the tannoy system as the players line up for a hugely significant 90 minutes.

But it sadly just won’t be the same. It won’t even be close when Rangers face Galatasaray at Ibrox.

The financial impact of the banning of supporters on clubs has been debated and discussed at length in recent weeks and will only become an even more pressing issue as the months without gate revenue continue. Scottish football faces a long, hard winter without its fans.

It is impossible to forget the ramifications of the current situation, but tonight it will really hit home just what is missing from our games.

Had Rangers been allowed to open the gates in the Europa League, they would have banked hundreds of thousands of pounds from the matches with Lincoln Red Imps and Willem II. Both fixtures would have been profitable but, as Steven Gerrard’s side proved on the park, fairly straightforward ones.

The visit of Galatasaray is different, though. Rangers wouldn’t have needed their 12th man to get to this stage, but what a miss the Ibrox crowd will be as Gerrard looks to lead his side into the group stages for the third consecutive season.

This would have been a proper European tie, an evening that would make the hairs on the back of the neck stand up. The energy would have coursed through the packed stands quicker than the adrenaline rushed through the veins of Gerrard and his players.

Come the final whistle, that backing from a demanding yet raucous crowd could have given Rangers the minimal gains required to win the tie.

Ibrox would not have intimidated Galatasaray, but it wouldn’t have had to.

Fatih Terim’s players are well accustomed to playing in front of fanatical supports and would surely have taken whatever the Light Blue legions could conjure up as Ibrox rocked in encouragement and bounced in celebration.

The home crowd doesn’t have to reduce the performance of the opposition, it has to raise the levels of their own players.

It is a phenomenon that Gerrard knows all to well from his playing career. When it comes to magical European nights, the Anfield legend has inspired more than his fair share down the years.

He has spoken about harnessing that power over the last two seasons when Rangers have taken to the continent and must surely have been impressed by the efforts from an Ibrox crowd that are desperate for success and a return to the glory years.

There are few clubs that could give Gerrard that buzz or pressure that he craved in his new career, few grounds that have the history and sense of occasion when you step onto the pitch or stand on the touchline.

Ibrox on a European night can be special and the 40-year-old has played his part in a couple already as Rangers have restored their reputation beyond these shores.

When Rapid Vienna arrived two years ago, there was an expectancy around Ibrox. On an incredible night, a 3-1 win was secured as another step was taken on the long road to recovery and Ibrox had it’s moment on the European stage.

That was a significant night for the club as well as Gerrard and his players. It meant more than just three points to fans.

And that is what makes the absence of the supporters as sad and disheartening.

Football is about moments, about memories, and those are made when player and punter are united. The Gers fans will be there in spirit tonight, but Ibrox will be eerily quiet.

Those that have been fortunate enough to gain entry to matches, both domestically and in European competition, this season are the lucky ones and the privilege should not be taken for granted.

Whether it is work or pleasure, it is undoubtedly a far less enjoyable experience these days. It is football as we have to live it, but certainly not as we love it and the realisation that this new normal shows no sign of ending any time soon is tough to take and accept.

The header from Alfredo Morelos to beat Legia Warsaw or the unforgettable comeback against Braga - inspired by Ianis Hagi and Joe Aribo - were feats to admire from a sporting perspective. But they were enhanced by the roar and scenes of delirium in the stands and the sight of Gerrard celebrating.

Fans can only dream of such instants of exhilaration and excitement as strangers are hugged, songs are sung and famous wins are earned. The day when supporters are allowed back in to cheer on their team cannot come quick enough.

Gerrard will stress to his players the importance of putting on a show, and earning a result, for those that watch on across the world tonight.

The game may have changed for the worse, but the result will always be what matters most.


IT is the way of the world that players, no matter their age, will be targeted by clubs from more illustrious leagues that can offer greater contracts and, in their eyes, greater opportunities.

Rangers made the most of that scenario by agreeing a deal they felt was suitable for the transfer of Dire Mebude to Manchester City. It was an arrangement that made sense for all parties, especially given the signings of forwards Tony Weston and James Graham from Blackpool and Ross County respectively.

The new contracts for Adam Devine, Arron Lyall and Cole McKinnon were even more important, though, as Rangers ensured they weren't lured by a move to England and committed their long-term futures to Ibrox.