Giovanni van Bronckhorst stressed the importance of Champions League football for himself and Rangers as he prepared for the first leg of their play-off tie against PSV Eindhoven at Ibrox on Tuesday night.
Rangers last played in European football’s elite club competition in 2010/11 before their financial problems saw them re-emerge into the bottom tier of Scottish football, from which they eventually returned to the top flight.
They were knocked out of Champions League qualification by Malmö last season, but Gers players and fans then enjoyed a memorable run to the Europa League final, only to lose on penalties to Eintracht Frankfurt in Seville.
However, it is the top tournament that the Rangers manager, who took over in November last year, has set his sights on.
“That’s my hope and our hope,” said the former Feyenoord boss, who confirmed Ryan Kent and James Sands are available after missing the 4-0 Premier League win over St Johnstone at Ibrox on Saturday.
“We play European football every season. Last season was the Europa League.
“Obviously the disappointment of not progressing to the group stage [of the Champions League] against Malmö, we turned it into a very positive year in Europe.
“But there is no doubt in my mind that we want to be part of the Champions League every year we are involved in European football.
“That has to be our goal and that’s why we work hard.
“It does not mean that we will play every year in the Champions League, but the desire [is to do that] and we want to show everyone that we want to be in that tournament.
“Obviously I coached before in the Champions League, it’s a tournament you want to be involved with as a player, as a club, as a coach.
“I came here wanting to win this club’s prizes and wanting to play at the highest level and that is the Champions League.
“The most important thing for me is to qualify and bring the club back to the biggest stage in European football.”
Van Bronckhorst is a former Dutch teammate of PSV manager Ruud van Nistelrooy, and he also worked under his assistant, Fred Rutten, at Feyenoord.
The Gers boss said: “I haven’t been in touch with him recently.
“I never thought he would become a coach, I never thought about being a coach when I was playing either.
“He took his tags for a couple of years and made the decision to get his experience in the PSV academy and he did well with the U19s and last season with PSV’s second team.
“He’s had the chance to coach the first team and PSV is a place he’s familiar with and the back-up and support he gets from the club is similar to what I got at Feyenoord, so I’m looking forward to meeting him again, to see a players I played with also take their steps in management”
Van Bronckhorst believes the players must leave any pressure to enter the Champions League in the dressing room.
He said: “The rewards you get are greater and there is pressure, but you don’t have to take that into the game.
“You just concentrate on your strength and ability to play well and beat PSV in two games.
“It’s a big game but you want to play big games in your career, you like big challenges and it’s a big challenge for us.”
Kent were rested for the win over St Johnstone, while Sands missed out through illness.
Van Bronckhorst said: “James Sands and Ryan Kent are back in the squad so we are looking forward to the challenge we face tomorrow.”