The years always roll away when I return to Ibrox. Being there on Saturday, for the first time since the pandemic started, was a welcome reminder of just what a special place it is.
I actually thought the 1-1 draw with Hearts was a good advert for Scottish football, but, clearly, it came with disappointment from a Rangers perspective about not seeing out what would have been a very important win.
Steven Gerrard reflected some of that when I met him after the match. I had the opportunity to go downstairs and speak to him for the first time, which I really appreciated.
Brian Laudrup was in attendance on Saturday as Rangers were held at home by Hearts
He was great, if, obviously, a little frustrated at losing two points. I reminded him they were still top of the league and he smiled a little. But he also made it clear that Thursday night against Brondby — the club where I started my career — was going to be a massive game for his side.
It was just a brief bit of small talk. That’s all. I’d hope to maybe speak to him again if I get a chance to go back to Ibrox later this season. Because I hope and believe that Gerrard will still be in charge.
The speculation over Newcastle United will keep going until the new owners actually decide who is going to take the club forward. But I said in last week’s column that I couldn’t see it being quite right for Gerrard at this point and I haven’t changed my mind.
The first managerial appointment under this extremely rich Newcastle regime is going to be a stepping stone.
No matter who comes in, it will be a case of staying up this season and raising the squad to another level over two or three years. Then the next manager who comes in after that will reap the benefit and have to deliver some titles.
Everyone knows Gerrard’s dream of going back to Liverpool as manager one day in his career. Would the Newcastle of 2021, who have relegation worries, be the right step on that road? Only he knows, of course, but I’m not sure it would be.
The former Rangers and Denmark star chatted with Steven Gerrard after the clash (above)
I didn’t read too much into his comments last Friday, when he spoke about the situation on Tyneside being ‘interesting’.
Gerrard is a very smart guy. He knows football and its environment as well as anyone. And he knows when to push some buttons.
He wasn’t closing any doors. But he wasn’t saying that he wanted to leave Rangers either. I think he will stay where he is for at least this season. That’s my impression of the situation but, of course, time will tell.
More immediately, Gerrard has some thinking to do to try and create the right formula against Brondby.
On Saturday, Rangers could have been three or four goals up by midway through the second half, but Alfredo Morelos, in particular, wasted numerous chances. One hundred per cent chances at that.
They cannot afford that profligacy again on Thursday because this is a must-win. Zero points after two games in the Europa League tells its own story. It’s now or never in terms of building hope of again reaching the knockout phase.
You know Morelos will get his goals at some point in a season. He has been a huge presence for Rangers ever since he arrived, particularly in Europe.
But there have also been times when he’s not been at his best and we are in one of those moments right now. He works hard and is still a menace, I saw that on Saturday. But, then, he lets himself down with some bad decisions and bad first touches.
It’s a huge call on Thursday to decide whether a goal against Brondby and a positive display can catapult his season forward — or whether picking him carries a risk of another lacklustre showing that hurts the team?
Morelos’ excellent record in the Europa League makes me think he will start the game. But it’s a tough one for Gerrard, because we have seen in the past that Morelos can react and kick on after spending some time on the bench.
Laudrup believes Gerrard will stay in his post this season, despite Newcastle interest
While Rangers might not quite be firing on all cylinders, their defence of the title is going far better than Brondby’s. My first club sit sixth in the Danish league with just three wins from their first 12 matches.
No one really expected them to become champions last time round. It didn’t seem on the cards. Brondby have a wealthy investor in Jan Bech Andersen, but he had put in a lot of money without winning much in return.
They surprised people by getting over the line, just ahead of Midtjylland, but then sold numerous players. A few went to Germany. The transfers the other way weren’t great and the previous quality hasn’t been replaced.
They defeated bottom club Vejle 3-2 on Sunday, but that again showed some vulnerability. Brondby have scored 17 times this season, but have conceded the same number, which I guess tells you where they are.
It’s a special club in Denmark. It has the history and the support. But they are trying to build something again with talents coming through the youth academy. That takes time.
Laudrup insists Brondby are a special club, but have been struggling for form this season
It’s strange in a way because Brondby were actually the first fully professional club in Denmark, making that change in 1985. They were the train that pulled the others in the right direction.
I joined in 1987 and my dad has worked there, too. My brother Michael played for them for a period earlier in the 80s and he was actually the last coach to have won a title before last season. That was back in 2005, so we are talking about a 16-year gap for such a prominent club.
I wouldn’t discount Brondby at Ibrox. They do have threats within their 3-5-2 system, particularly with Mikael Uhre and Simon Hedlund up front.
But if Rangers can rediscover a clinical edge, I’d make them favourites to win this contest of my old employers and get their first three points in Group A.