THE famous red façade was the same, the sense of history still hung in the air and the crowd turned out in their numbers week after week. There was something missing at Ibrox, though.

Watching on from afar as he plied his trade in the Premier League with Burnley, Scott Arfield knew the fear factor had gone.

The midfielder had made the trips to Govan in his Falkirk days more in hope than expectation but that hasn’t been the case for visiting teams in recent years.

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Week in, week out, managers walked through the front doors fancying their chances and then boarded the bus with something to show for their efforts.

If Steven Gerrard is to achieve anything in his first campaign at Rangers, that situation must change, and quickly.

A crowd of 41,000 welcomed Gerrard and his new-look Light Blues on Friday evening as Bury were beaten 6-0 in the first public outing of the summer. When FK Shkupi arrive on Thursday, there won’t be a spare seat in the house.

As Rangers and Gerrard stride into the unknown this term, the only guarantee is that the Light Blue legions will be there with them every step of the way.

And Arfield knows the Gers must harness that support and use it to their advantage once again to ensure Ibrox is home sweet home this term.

“Of course [it is important to hit the ground running on Thursday],” he said. “But that is what the manager has said throughout pre-season. Regardless of the opposition or where we are, we are going to go at people.

“We are going to be as fit as possible and that is what the pre-season has been all about. It has been about getting that fitness to get into positions to make it uncomfortable for people.

“Because I think, over the years and when you speak to people, this place hasn’t been as dominant and as fearful as when I played at Falkirk. We used to hate coming here because we knew we weren’t going to get anything.

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“Over the years, it has kind of lost that trait. It is up to us to bring that back.

“You just kind of know through the results [that it wasn’t as hard for teams to come to Ibrox].

“The players got battered from pillar to post. Some rightly so. Some not.

“Some have left the club because they couldn’t deal with the expectation and mentality of this football club.

“But looking into this dressing room that we’ve got now, we can handle this. So it is up to us to start on Thursday night and go right through to the end of May.”

The appointment of Gerrard and arrival of a host of new faces has re-energised the Rangers support after two embarrassing campaigns in the Premiership.

The win over Bury will matter little come the end of the season but it was an important step in terms of the Light Blues’ preparations for the challenges that lie ahead.

Recent years may have been barren for the Gers but Gerrard has raised standards to ensure the expectation levels can be met once again.

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“It is one of the main pulls to come and play for Glasgow Rangers,” Arfield said. “You need to stand up and be counted.

“It is not always going to be as nice as it was on Friday night. There are going to be times when teams come and really sit in and it is up to us. We are not daft enough to think it is going to be plain sailing.

“But to have a manager with the experience he has – and also throughout the staff and the players – we now have real experience to pull on.

“It is not just young players who are learning on the job. We have now got things to deal with this expectation and this crowd.

“I think it is very important for the whole crowd, for everyone, to get on it, because it is not always going to be pretty. We need the crowd to stay with us as long as possible because we have got the talent to make it uncomfortable for teams. It’s time to get excited.”

With his opening friendly fixture now under his belt, Gerrard can now turn his attentions to his competitive bow as Rangers boss.

A repeat of the humiliating first round exit at the hands of Progres Niederkorn would get the Gerrard era off to the worst possible start.

But Arfield believes Rangers can capitalise on the enthusiasm and excitement of supporters as they embark on another Europa League campaign.

Arfield said: “It would mean a lot for the club to get [to the group stages]. On a personal level, you want to play at the highest level.

“It’s about time that we took this club back to glory. It would mean a lot, not just to me personally, but to a hell of a lot of people.

“But there is such a long way for us to go. We have three qualifiers and then a play-off to get there. It starts on Thursday night and hopefully it ends well.

“I was thinking [about the atmosphere] in my mind. The momentum is there already.

“We were away in Spain for ten days and kind of got lost from all the excitement of what it was like when the manager was appointed.

“We came back and it was up to us to put on a show against Bury to make sure that momentum stayed. I think we did that.

“If we had gone out and not played well, then maybe Thursday night would have been a little bit tricky for the crowd. But we have definitely given them something to be excited about now.”