THEY say that it takes money to make money. In Steven Gerrard’s case, it has taken it to win it.

The Europa League was never going to give Gerrard the opportunity to win silverware as Rangers boss, but if that very aim is achieved domestically this term then the importance of continental competition cannot be underplayed at Ibrox.

Put simply, Gerrard would not have the squad he has at his disposal had he not been as successful in Europe over the last three years. Indeed, he may not have the approval rating amongst supporters or the backing of his board to such an extent without his achievement in clinching a hat-trick of group stage appearances.

Rangers, and their manager, are very different propositions to the one that lined up against Shkupi in Gerrard’s first qualifier in July 2018. Few could have imagined back then the journey that would follow as Rangers have taken on and beaten some of the best the Europa League has to offer.

The memories will last a lifetime for the supporters that have been with them every step of the way, from Macedonia to their last trip away to Braga. Gerrard knows full well the significance of every tie won and every point earned.

“Without giving too much information away, this club needs to be in Europe for financial reasons,” Gerrard said ahead of the Group D opener against Standard Liege this evening.

“And I have probably had the backing and support I have had up to date because we have been so successful in terms of manoeuvring through the three qualifying campaigns.

“This year is different because of Covid and having no fans in the stadium but, without a doubt, I think as a staff we have earned the support that we have got and it has enabled us to go and try and improve certain individuals and to support the good players that we have got.

“That needs to continue. We are not a finished team, we are not a finished group and there are still some areas where we need to keep trying to strive to be better.

“But we have to play our part as well by trying to play as many games as we can because it certainly helps and gives the board confidence to go and back it up.”

It says much about how at home Rangers feel at this level these days that the ambition is not simply to qualify for the group stages, but to progress from them.

The aim proved beyond Rangers at the first time of asking but a run to the last-16 in Gerrard’s second season has raised expectation levels.

The wins over Willem II and Galatasaray to reach Group D were hugely impressive, but not out of the blue, and the challenges of Standard, Lech Poznan and Benfica will not be feared over the coming weeks.

“In football terms, I think a couple of years is a short space of time in the big picture,” Gerrard said. “But we have had a lot of experience in those two years.

“We have had some real good times together and some setbacks and bumps in the road. Through highs and lows, you grow and stick together and try and learn from your mistakes.

“The amount of games we’ve played in such a short space of time has helped us get to where we are today.

“Getting back in the transfer market has certainly helped in terms of adding and tweaking the personnel.

“I think the progression has been positive but in no way do I sit here and think the job is done or nearly done. We need to keep moving forward, improving and getting closer to where we are trying to get to.”

The squad that Gerrard has been able to assemble this term is certainly the strongest that he has had at Ibrox. It is, in fact, the best to wear the famous jersey in a decade.

The juggling act between competing in Europe and challenging in the Premiership has been a difficult one to master for Rangers and domestic success will always trump continental achievement.

This time it could be different, though. Rangers are well placed in the title race and the options available mean changes can be made from game to game without standards slipping.

Gerrard said: “I think the players are ready for the schedule. In the first season, it takes you aback, it shocks you and it shocked certain individual players that were coming from clubs that weren’t used to that schedule or didn’t have that experience of playing Thursday, Sunday, Thursday, Sunday.

“I think at times we probably haven’t had the scope able to cope with that demand. Last year we were better at it and hopefully this year we will be better again.

“It is about individuals being professional, recovering well from each challenge and players being ready to come in when I feel players need offloading and we need to tweak certain things.

“I don’t think there will ever be a case where we make lots of changes from game to game, but I can’t ask players to play 60 games a season.

“Players need to be ready to come in when called upon and step up and so far this season players who have come in from the side or off the bench have been ready to deliver. That needs to continue all the way through to May.”