STEVEN Gerrard stepped out into a fair few intimidating arenas and hostile environments at home and abroad during his player career with Liverpool and England. So when he states the atmosphere at Ibrox on big European nights is the equal of anything in world football it is difficult to argue. He travelled to the four corners of the globe with both club and country so would know.

Gerrard, whose team won both of their Ladbrokes Premiership matches against Celtic at home last season and went undefeated in seven Europa League games on their own turf, welcomes the definite advantage it gives his side.

However, he understands, having spent over a year in the dugout at the Glasgow club, there is an unpleasant undercurrent to encounters in Govan due to bigoted songs that many of their supporters still insist, despite repeated warnings and anti-sectarian initiatives in recent years, on belting out.

READ MORE: Graeme McGarry: It shouldn't have taken UEFA sanction to draw a line in the sand for sectarian singing at Rangers

He is, after UEFA ordered that a section of the stadium be closed in the second leg of the Europa League play-off against Legia Warsaw on Thursday night as punishment for racist behaviour of some fans in the meeting with St Joseph’s last month, keen to see an end to sectarianism at Rangers games.

He stressed that Ibrox will still be a daunting place for opposing teams to come without the bile that so often tarnishes match days. “This club is world renowned for the fanbase, for the songs and for the support the fans give the team,” he said. “And that is without any of that stuff.

“The atmosphere at Ibrox can be brilliant. There is no better place. If you are a player or manager, when it is rocking and bouncing then few places can match that. It is unreal when it jumping and that’s the type of support we want.

“It gives you energy when you need it. In tough games it takes a lot out of you mentally and physically. So to have 50,000 behind you and egging you on – there is no better feeling. Unfortunately, a big chunk of that is going to be gone and that is frustrating for us all. It was a shock.”

Gerrard admitted that he had been surprised at the intensity and unpleasantness of the enmity between Celtic and Rangers since arriving in Scotland last year. “I was obviously aware of the rivalry and the religion and the politics around it,” he said. “But I didn’t realise how strong it was. I don’t think you do until you actually come here and are involved in it.”

READ MORE: Rangers ordered by UEFA to close section of Ibrox over 'racist behaviour'

Gerrard is optimistic this sanction will encourage the element among the Rangers support to think twice about the chants they sing in future and could be a significant turning point in the ongoing battle against the scourge of sectarianism.

“You’d hope so,” he said. “You hope that people see sense and realised that it’s not helping the team. If they’re real fans and real supporters, which I’m sure they say they are, they need to realise pretty quickly that it will be the team and the club, their own club, that suffers. No-one else. So they’re gaining absolutely nothing from this type of behaviour. But I hoped it was the turning point last time I addressed these questions.

“We’ve been here before, when I’ve been asked questions about fan behaviour. You know, I sat in a press conference ten days or two weeks ago, all about what the club were doing to address behaviour on the terraces. Everyone is working as hard as they can to promote that. Unfortunately, a minority is letting that down.

“It was the Anyone, Everyone campaign – and I think it was a fantastic thing for the club to do. That’s not just an idea that someone has come up with overnight. A lot of hard work has gone into that campaign. All the players back it and I certainly back it as the manager. So to have something like this so close to the launch of that campaign is disappointing.”

Gerrard spoke articulately when asked about this topic during his pre-match media duties ahead of the Premiership match against St Mirren in Paisley tomorrow afternoon. But it wasn’t difficult to detect his annoyance that he was quizzed about the issue the day after his side’s fine 0-0 draw with Legia in Warsaw. He would prefer to focus on football.

READ MORE: Steven Gerrard fears UEFA could force Rangers to play games behind closed doors

“I should be answering questions about how strong and brave my team were in one of the most hostile environments you can be involved in,” he said. “I should be talking about our positive start to the season. Unfortunately, I’m talking about statements we’re having to make every few months about fan behaviour.

“There have been numerous situations and questions I’ve had to face, in different press conferences, about different types of fan behaviour. I don’t know what to say. I’m sure that is the same for every club. Every club has a paranoia that a minority could let the club down. That is not just in this country either.”

Ryan Jack, the midfielder who has once again been one of the most consistent performers for Rangers this season and who was outstanding in Warsaw, echoed his manager’s views.

“As players we just want as good a support as we can get,” he said. “When you play in Old Firm games or European nights at Ibrox it is special. It is special for the fans and for the players. It is frustrating we are talking about it.”

In the Rangers statement published on their official website yesterday after the UEFA punishment had been made public, Ibrox chairman Dave King, inset, told fans who remain intent on singing sectarian songs at matches to stay away from their games in the future.

“Rangers is a club open to all and we will continue to convey this message at every opportunity through our Everyone Anyone initiative,” he said.

“Rangers has players and supporters from many religions, cultures and backgrounds, but we are one and the same when we gather to support our club. If any supporter cannot accept that then Rangers is not the club for them”.