Rangers favourite Madjid Bougherra is revelling in the resurgence under Steven Gerrard and has praised the bold choice of trusting a “young coach” to extract them from “a very bad situation”.
Bougherra, 37, has watched his former team’s progress, with joy, from afar in his new role as manager of the Arabian Gulf League’s Fujairah. He’d previously won three-successive Scottish Premiership crowns at Ibrox from 2008-11 as a colossal centre-back.
A tumultuous spell since the last of these 54 top-flight titles, however, saw them enter liquidation in June 2012 because of serious tax problems and then climb their way back up the pyramid from the Third Division. This recovery has been accelerated by Liverpool legend Gerrard, whose riotous celebrations in the wake of December 29’s 1-0 victory at Celtic have already become iconic.
“I am very happy,” Bougherra tells Sport360 of his former club, who currently sit two points behind their Glasgow rivals – albeit, with a game in hand. “Especially for the coach, Steven Gerrard.
“He is doing a fantastic job. Rangers made a good choice; he’s a young coach, he has knowledge, big experience.
“Rangers was in a very bad situation before. But now a young coach comes in, with a young team, some experienced players around…
“They are coming back. This is what this club deserves; I am very happy for the club, the fans, for the players I played with like [Steven] Davis and Allan [McGregor].
“I am happy, also, for the coach. You feel that he loves this club and he is doing everything.”
Bougherra grew into an outstanding centre-back at Rangers in the wake of July 2008’s £2.5 million switch from Charlton Athletic.
The France-born, Algeria international won six major honours at Ibrox and formed a legendary partnership with David Weir, prior to departing for Qatar’s Lekhwiya in August 2011 after making 113 appearances.
“For me as a football player, it was my best club,” Bougherra said.
“This is where I got the winning mentality. This is where I improved, grew up and my image changed.
“This is because of Rangers. You play in the Champions League, you win trophies.
“I will always love this club – it is not just a club, it is something amazing. The day I left Rangers, I didn’t have any time to come back.
“This is my dream, to come back.”
A new juncture in Bougherra’s footballing life began this season at Fujairah. His first senior managerial role has contained an ongoing battle against relegation, with his employers sat only one place and two points from danger.
Walter Smith provides an obvious role model. The veteran manager’s return was the inspiration behind the glorious spell experienced when Bougherra was at Rangers.
This role was praised by his former charge.
Bougherra said: “Walter Smith had big, big experience as a coach. He was at the end of his career, but you felt he was like behind [in the background].
“He was not talking too much and when he talked, he was clinical and all people listened to him.
“I remember the training sessions I had with different coaches as a player and I keep them. Walter Smith was like the style of [Sir Alex] Ferguson.
“His assistant coach [Ally McCoist] made lots of decisions and he was there to talk.
“Here [the UAE], you cannot do it. This is because you need to be behind the player every day, every minute, every session.
“They are not the same mentality as Europe. It is a different style of coaching here.”
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