THE time for talking is over. Now, actions will speak louder than words for Rangers.

Twelve months ago, the messages coming out of Pedro Caixinha’s camp were positive and plentiful as the Portuguese, with a host of summer signings behind him, looked forward to the start of the new season.

One night in Luxembourg changed it all, though. Within weeks, Caixinha was gone and a remarkable, if short-lived, era came to an end.

That is the fate that Steven Gerrard must avoid this evening. The consequences for the 38-year-old and his players may not be as severe this time around but Rangers can’t allow FK Shkupi to follow Progres Niederkorn’s example in the Europa League.

That result in the Stade Josy Barthel will never be forgotten and those at the epicentre of the shockwave will never be forgiven for their part in the most embarrassing night in Rangers’ history.

Now, another manager and another group of players will set out in continental competition and bid for domestic silverware. Having talked the talk, they must now walk the walk this season.

“I remember it coming across the yellow bar on Sky Sports News,” Gerrard said. “You were like; ‘Woah, that’s not going to go down well.’

“I certainly don’t want to have that surprise on Thursday night at quarter to 11, certainly not.

“Yes [a bad result could kill the feel-good factor], but that’s nothing that we can control.

“We’re happy that there is an expectation and that there is a positivity about, but the players have to handle that responsibility and that pressure that is part of this club.

“Every player that comes into this club does an interview and says it’s great to be part of Rangers, one of the most successful clubs in the world, and they are at a big club now, but now you have got to go and perform and accept that.

“You have to play under pressure and enjoy that pressure and thrive on it. We can’t have players who are going to sink, because that’s when the problems happen.”

Plenty, of course, has changed at Rangers since that 2-0 defeat to Progres and supporters are once again full of optimism ahead of the new campaign.

There are only a handful of survivors 12 months on but it is the switch in the dugout that is arguably the most significant and important.

The Shkupi clash will be Gerrard’s first competitive match as Gers boss and he won’t allow any complacency to creep in ahead of the visit of the Macedonian minnows.

“I hope it is in the back of their mind and I hope they are determined, they have to be,” Gerrard said of those that will seek the slightest of redemption this time around. “A club this size shouldn’t lose games of football like that.

“We have to show this team respect and show the competition respect. There are no gimmies, no walkovers.

“We will approach the game right and show the level of intensity and desire that we have done in the friendly games. If we do, I am sure we won’t have a problem.

“We are not good enough at the moment to take our foot off the gas or be complacent or be enjoying ourselves.

“We have got tons of work to do, tons of improvement, before we can be relaxed and pick and choose when we turn up. I don’t expect any complacency and if I see it in any individuals, I won’t be happy.”

Rangers know all too well the perils of playing qualifiers at this time of the season with a squad that is still not up to speed.

Four ties stand between the Light Blues and the group stages but Gerrard won’t set targets for his players as he approaches the first hurdle.

He said: “Other people will judge it and consider it a success. My job is to get us through to the next round and that is my priority at the moment.

“We are not sure who we are going to be facing if we progress further down the competition so there is no point putting any targets on it.

“We will take it one stage at a time. I think that was probably part of the problem last year, being drawn against the team from Luxembourg and thinking ‘who have we got in the next round and what is happening there?’ All of a sudden, bang. There you go. There is the slap in the face for you.”

The first competitive outing of the campaign is a moment that Gerrard, and the Ibrox crowd, have waited some time for.

His appointment in May rejuvenated the supporters and there won’t be a spare seat in the house for a meeting with opponents few would have heard of until the draw was made.

That level of backing brings an added pressure in itself but the expectation is nothing new for Gerrard as he embarks on the next stage of his glittering career.

"I can't wait,” he said. “I am very proud and very humble to be the Rangers manager and go out in front of a full house for a Europa League qualifier.

“I think it shows the level of support and how big this football club is. You are getting 41,000 for a friendly against Bury in the middle of the summer when there is one of the biggest games of the World Cup on the TV.

“These fans are incredible. There will be no prouder man than me tomorrow.

“It is more excitement. I have got every confidence and belief in the players and the team that they can go out and do the job.

“The team talk is already done, someone done that for me 12 months ago. I am not nervous or scared, I can’t wait to walk out there and get the game going and the lads are really ready for it.”

It was in the previous incarnation of this competition that Gerrard experienced of his first real highs in the game as he lifted the UEFA Cup in 2001.

He and Ibrox assistant Gary McAllister both scored in the Westfalenstadion as Gérard Houllier’s side beat Alaves 5-4 after extra time.

Gerrard said: “I think the competition now has got its spark, its buzz and its mojo back certainly with the winners getting access to the Champions League.

“I thought when that wasn’t available, it was obviously playing second fiddle to the Champions League and there was a huge gap.

“But now, it’s got a bit of spark and mojo back.

“Obviously, I have fantastic memories of winning it as a 20-year-old kid and I managed to get on the scoresheet in the final, which capped off a great year winning the treble.

“Lifting the trophy is a fantastic experience, it’s a huge trophy – and very heavy – so I’ll never play it down, but I won’t argue that you can compare it to the Champions League, it’s a different animal.”