Richard Gough wants to bow out a winner in Auxerre tonight as he makes his final fling with Rangers in European competition. Gough is desperate to chalk up one more victory in Europe as Walter Smith's depleted side bid goodbye to the Champions' League.
The 34-year-old captain is poised to leave Ibrox at the end of the season and is fighting against a leg injury to make what could be his last appearance in Europe. "This will be my last match in the Champions' League, my last in Europe for Rangers and probably my last in European competition," said Gough, who has been linked with moves to Sheffield Wednesday and Southampton.
Despite the fact that pounds 13m worth of talent is back home in Glasgow - Brian Laudrup, Joachim Bjorklund and Jorg Albertz are injured and Paul Gascoigne suspended - Gough is convinced Rangers can claim their second pounds 500,000 Uefa win bonus. "We are playing for pride again," Gough said. "People are making a lot out of the players who are missing but those who came in against Grasshopper in the last match did well and can do so again."
Rangers are out of the quarter-final running after four opening defeats but Guy Roux's Auxerre, who will be backed by a 21,000 capacity crowd, need only a draw to complete their Champions' League fairy-tale.
"We can still affect who goes through and I still see it as an important match," added Gough, who took a knock in Sunday's 3-0 win at Aberdeen. "We must meet the challenge and not let ourselves drop from the recent good run we've had."
Gough has known highs in Europe since arriving at Rangers from Tottenham in October 1987, as well as lows in Athens, Turin and Zurich over the past three seasons. In the spring of 1988 he scored against Steaua Bucharest at Ibrox in a European Cup quarter-final before Rangers lost 3-2 on aggregate, but it was in 1992-93 that he led the club to one of their best Continental runs.
Gough captained the side on a 10-match unbeaten sequence as Marseille pipped them for a place in the European Cup final against Milan. "Richard has been tremendous for us over the years and obviously that doesn't just apply to Europe," said Smith, the manager at Ibrox.
While Gough should make it, Smith's selection has other doubts, given the absence of so many top names. Trevor Steven, usually in a Scottish television studio on European nights, is a candidate for a starting place after only six full league games in the last 18 months. The youngster Greg Shields should also play.
Ian Ferguson, Charlie Miller and Derek McInnes are pushing for midfield places but Smith will not be tempted to give Alan McLaren his first game in six months. McLaren has been out since the Scottish Cup final last May because of knee surgery. He will be on the bench at best.
"I've not even had a reserve match yet and the first game is the real test," said the Scotland defender. "I've a bit to go yet and hopefully by the end of December I'll have played four or five reserve games and be pushing for a place. I'd love to face Celtic on 2 January as I made my Rangers debut in an Old Firm game."
Smith's target tonight is another victory after Rangers broke their duck with a 2-1 home success against Grasshopper last month.
Auxerre have selection problems of their own with almost half the team that won 2-1 in Glasgow in September likely to miss out. Taribo West is suspended while injuries will deny Roux the services of goalkeeper Lionel Charbonnier, Thomas Deniaud, Sabri Lamouchi and Christian Henna.
Although a draw would allow Auxerre to go through, leaving Grasshopper and Ajax to contest the other place in Switzerland, Roux says that he fears Rangers might hand over the pounds 500,000 win bonus to their players as an incentive.
Meanwhile, Smith has had more talks with agents in his bid to bring the Chilean striker Sebastian Rozental to Ibrox from Universidad Catolica.Reuse content