Rangers’ European cup run has “elevated the game in Scotland massively”, a former player has said – even though the Glasgow side were ultimately left heartbroken by defeat in Seville.
Giovanni van Bronckhorst’s side lost out to Eintracht Frankfurt after a penalty shootout in the Europa League cup final on Wednesday night.
But Trevor Steven insisted his old club can be proud of their “mind-blowing” efforts to get to the final.
Speaking on BBC Radio Scotland’s Good Morning Scotland programme on Thursday, Steven said: “This run has been just absolutely mind-blowing, no-one expected Rangers to go this distance in the competition when you consider how it all started quite shakily really.
“For Scottish football, it has elevated the game in Scotland massively.
“When you consider the journey through the season to get to the final, and the euphoria it created, it was such a great experience for everyone.
“The lads should be absolutely proud of themselves, and the fans supported them brilliantly all the way through this tremendous run.
“To get to the end of extra time, and have the chances we had… that is probably the most galling part of it because it was so close to a victory and then goes into penalties, and anything can happen.
“Frankfurt are a good side, they are a well organised team. There is reasons why they put out Barcelona and there’s reasons why they put out West Ham.
“It was a tough 120 minutes and we weren’t quite at our best.”
After the final whistle blew in Seville, politicians from across the political spectrum praised Rangers for their performance as they commiserated with the team.
Scottish Secretary Alister Jack said the players had done “yourselves, your amazing fans and Scotland proud”.
He added it had been a “fantastic achievement to get to a major European final”, but “it just wasn’t to be on a hot night in Seville”.
Health Secretary Humza Yousaf – a Celtic fan – said the penalty shootout had been a “cruel, cruel way to lose it” but he added that the fans “should be proud of their team getting to the final”.
Sports minister Maree Todd said “defeats don’t come tougher than that”.
She tweeted: “The players will be devastated but there’s a lot to be proud of. Brutal way to end a well matched game.”
Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar praised the “tremendous effort by @RangersFC”.
He added: “While the loss in the final will hurt, they should be proud of the incredible journey.”
Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross tweeted: “Well played @RangersFC. Not the result you deserved but you did Scottish football proud this evening.”
Fans who had watched the game in Glasgow also insisted the players “did us proud”.
One said: “We did really well and that’s what matters. You can’t ask for more than what they did.
“In life, you get defeated. If it wasn’t going to be this game, it would be the next game.
“The atmosphere in Glasgow is really, really poor right now but I’ve had a good night.”
A small group of supporters had gathered in the city’s George Square after the game – where statues had earlier been barricaded and memorial benches had been removed.
Police had regularly patrolled the area throughout the night.