Graeme Souness is pretty sure a major reason behind Steven Gerrard’s sharp exit was a realisation Rangers were unable roll the dice for him.

The giveaway mention of “big money” being required to compete on a higher level, voiced in the wake of two Europa League defeats, spoke volumes.

But Souness reckons Rangers have hit the jackpot with the appointment of Giovanni van Bronckhorst.

The Dutchman is richly endowed with qualities and armed with talent at his disposal, Souness admits, he couldn’t compete with when rocking up at Rangers thinking he knew it all in 1986.

Van Bronckhorst has previous as a Rangers player in a trophy-laden era.

The 46-year-old is a title-winning head coach from his spell at Feyenoord.

And unlike Souness and Gerrard, whose remit was to rebuild from the wreckage of ruinous times, Gio strolls in to assume control of a group who only six months ago were league Invincibles.

When Souness left Ibrox for Liverpool in April 1991, the safest pair of hands was already on the premises with the late, great Walter Smith.

He steadied the ship to navigate a fraught final leg of the journey and edge an epic title duel with Aberdeen.

Gerrard’s mid-season dash to the Midlands sparked a mass exodus on the backroom staff, so there was no such smart in-house move to be made on this occasion.

However, kind fortune shone in the eyes of the Ibrox hierarchy.

An obvious, over-qualified option wasn’t just available. He was most willing.

This is no kind of gamble and Souness likes what he sees in Van Bronckhorst.

Souness said: “I don’t know the new manager personally but I know he knows what Rangers is all about and, trust me, that’s a big deal. Because it is a unique job. It’s an emotional job to have. A highly pressurised job to have because you’re expected to win every game.

“And it’s a special job. I’ve been saying to Martin O’Neill that managing Rangers, like Celtic, is as difficult as there is a job in football because of the huge expectation level and passion the supporters have.

“I came here as an experienced player, Scottish, to a team that I supported as a boy thinking I knew the club. I didn’t.

“So Giovanni is already ahead of me. He knows the club and what’s expected. So where he’s got an enormous advantage is there’s no surprises coming into this job.

“And he’s taking over the team that won the league, a team of champions.

“OK, they’re a bit far from the form they showed last year. So it’s about getting back to that and that’s the task.

“Giovanni was a top player, a classy player. He’ll have walked in the front door and said, ‘show me what you have got’.

“He’ll want to make changes, whether it’s with the same personnel or by moving people out.

“He’s got to come up with the winning formula. But he’s had a couple of managerial jobs, he’s got the experience. He’s a winning manager, too, so he knows what it’s like.”

Victories over Sparta Prague, to book a Europa League knockout stage berth, and at Livingston have turned down the turbulence caused by Gerrard’s departure.

Souness believes the best of Rangers is still to be seen this season and that augurs well for keeping Celtic at arm’s length, despite all the upheaval.

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Addressing the bombshell exit of the man who delivered the title of every Rangers follower’s dreams, Souness said: “Not ideal. It’s a blow to Rangers.

“Because Steven was so successful last year and the team was going in the right direction.

“Steven achieved what they brought him in to do – stop the 10-in-a-Row by Celtic.

“Yes, it has been slower this year so far. But they were still top of the league when he left – without being at their best. That is a really good sign.

“If you’re managing a team that’s top and know there’s a lot more come, that would give you confidence.

“But the fact that there wasn’t a lot of money for Steven to improve the squad at Rangers, I don’t know exactly how much of a factor that was in his whole thought process.

“I would imagine that it was quite a large part of it, however, having been a manager. To get into the Champions League and try to make a mark in that?

“That would’ve taken money Rangers don’t have right now.”

Crucially, Rangers could bank themselves an instant Champions League windfall by repeating
their title glory.

An automatic place among the 2022/23 elite almost certainly awaits the Premiership winners.

Souness noted: “Rangers’ financial results came out just recently and they are not in a great place. Getting into the Champions League will alleviate their financial problems in the short term.

“They’ve got to get there and stay there. Celtic will be eyeing that with the same attitude.

“It’s all open to the winner. But Rangers are sitting top of the league, with a new manager who knows the club and with players who know what it’s like to win the league.”

Gerrard called time on his three-and-a-half-year tenure when Aston Villa looked to the Liverpool legend to replace Dean Smith and lift them from the lower reaches of the top flight.

Souness admits he can appreciate Gerrard, off to a cracking start with two wins, selecting Villa for the next phase of his burgeoning managerial career.

The pressure there, says Souey will be satisfying the ownership they could gatecrash the top four establishment in the Premier League.

He said: “I was a bit surprised because I thought he would have waited until the Liverpool job came up. But I get the attraction in Villa. By English standards, that’s a big football club that has underachieved for many years.”

Gerrard has been linked with a clutch of Ibrox favourites.

Centre-half Connor Goldson, out of contract in the summer, took it upon himself to highlight a lack of hunger in the camp in the aftermath of losing the League Cup semi-final to Hibs.

Souness said: “I don’t want to hear that, it’s not something I want any of my players saying.”