Niko Kranjcar says he is looking forward to a fresh start at Rangers as both he and the Ibrox outfit look to bounce back from last year’s nightmare campaign.
Gers limped home a massive 39 points behind champions Celtic, and it proved to be just as distressing a year for Croat playmaker Kranjcar after his debut season in Glasgow was wrecked by a serious knee injury.
Although the former QPR, Portsmouth and Tottenham midfielder was ruled out from October, he claims to have felt just as responsible for the painful set-backs suffered by his team-mates as they struggled towards a disappointing third-place Ladbrokes Premiership finish.
Now that he is back to full fitness, however, Kranjcar says he wants to repay the fans who have continued to show their backing during those dark days.
The 32-year-old – who could make his comeback against Progres Niederkorn in Thursday’s opening Europa League qualifier at Ibrox – told RangersTV: “I always felt a part of it last season, I did all my rehab here and I was involved in, unfortunately, a really bad season for us.
“I feel part of that team, even though I wasn’t available for selection I do feel part of a team who underperformed largely last season.
“When we got back this summer we started hearing that the fans were going to support us in our first game this season in such numbers.
“There is a lot of appreciation and gratitude towards the support. An appreciation to play for such an important club in the world, a massive obligation to give your all for the cause and for the results of this football club.
“It is a new season and a new start, not only for me but for the football club, because we cannot allow anything similar to happen.
“I hope I am going to get a chance to prove myself again because for me this is early stages after being out for so long and I have to prove myself every day and in every game.
“It’s up to me to prove to my team-mates and my manager that I am still good enough to play.
“It’s the manager’s decision as to whether I start, I have been working towards that and I honestly feel physically good and that I can compete. If I didn’t feel that way I wouldn’t be sitting here.”
Kranjcar ruptured his cruciate knee ligament on the eve of the Light Blues Betfred Cup semi-final with Celtic but after eight months out believes he is returning to action in peak fitness.
He has appeared in all three of the closed-door friendly clashes Pedro Caixinha’s men have played so far this pre-season and is feeling confident as the real action looms near.
“The knee is great,” he said. “I haven’t had any problems since I started back with the team, I had already joined in before the summer and done a month of full training.
“You can’t have anything in the back of your mind, up until now I had had a nice career, I had had ups and downs in it but going into the last stages of my career there are no doubts in my mind.
“If something happens it happens but I am not going to dwell on it, I am not going to think about it and I’ll just enjoy my football.”