Dave King challenges Celtic to join Rangers in fight for Champions League spot
The Ibrox side are eyeing up a return to the group stages of Europe’s premier competition for the first time since 2011 after being crowned Scottish champions on Sunday.
Steven Gerrard has not only transformed the Light Blues’ domestic hopes, he also rebuilt the club’s European ambitions.
A team that suffered humiliation at the hands minnows Progres Niederkorn of Luxembourg the year before the former Liverpool skipper took over has been rebuilt into one capable of advancing to the Europa League’s last 16 for the second year running.
But while Gers fans have realistic hopes their team can march past Slavia Prague into the quarter-finals – boosting Scotland’s hopes of securing a guaranteed Champions League place in 2022/23 – their Old Firm rivals are busy just trying to forget their latest disasters on the continent.
For the third year running the Hoops failed to make it past the Champions League qualifiers and went on to suffer a catastrophic Europa League campaign that saw them ship 19 goals in six group games.
Now King has urged Rangers’ Parkhead foes to get their act together and support their attempts to prop up Scotland’s co-efficient.
The former Ibrox chairman said: “Celtic for a long time have been in a position of comfort where they felt they didn’t feel the need to invest in their squad.
“But I felt that was detrimental to Scottish football. We saw it where Celtic were winning trophy after trophy in Scotland but then competing very poorly in Europe.
“I’d like to think that Rangers, however, will now kick on and that this will be the beginning of a further level of improvement where we’ll do better in Europe.
“I’m hoping Celtic will also kick on. I’d like to see Celtic re-invest in the interests of Scottish football because we really need to see that coefficient get up.
“We need a situation where Rangers and Celtic start to do better. We’re not far away from automatic qualification for the Champions League and that is so important to Scottish football, not just Rangers and Celtic.”
King admits seeing James Tavernier hoist the Premiership trophy aloft in the coming weeks will mean more to him than the prospect of hearing Zadok the Priest blare out around Ibrox next season.
But that does not mean he thinks Rangers will be looking to qualify just to make up the numbers.
“For me, personally, winning the league is ‘getting back’,” he said. “The Champions League is the Champions League.
“There are things that effect how we do there. You could be in a qualifying stage and end up against a club like Ajax, for example, and you don’t make it.
“To me, the Champions League is a bonus. I think Rangers have to be guaranteed Europa League, sometimes Champions League.
“Personally, though, winning the title is the culmination for me in saying ‘the club is back’.
“But no matter what the most optimistic outlook on the group stages is, we will be unseeded and I think at this stage that if we could go into that and finish third and continue in the Europa League after that, I think that would be an extremely successful first campaign back in the Champions League.”