KEVIN THOMSON reckons the return of the Ibrox factor could be key for Rangers as Steven Gerrard's side set their sights on another successful Europa League campaign.

The champions have reached the last 16 of the competition in the last two seasons and will kick-off their Group A schedule with the visit of French giants Lyon on Thursday night.

Sparta Prague and Brondby also stand in Rangers' way in the coming months as they look to reach the knock-out rounds once again and then progress to the latter stages of the competition.

Thomson was part of Walter Smith's side that reached the UEFA Cup final in 2008 and believes the backing of a vociferous home support will be a significant advantage for Rangers this term.

Thomson said: "It is a brilliant group Rangers have been drawn in. Big games, big crowds.

"Playing for Rangers is playing in Europe and winning trophies so the staff and players will be looking forward to it, as will the fans. Ibrox will be rocking.

"I was at the Old Firm game a couple of weeks ago and I have to say the atmosphere was pretty special.

"I have been lucky enough to sample that when I was on the pitch, but to experience it whilst being employed to watch the game was unbelievable.

"The stadium was proper rocking and it gave me goosebumps just seeing how special the place is. The boys will need them.

"Cliché or no cliché, the fans are really important. You do need to have a thick skin and the right mentality to play for Rangers, especially when things don’t go well for you.

"But there is no doubt that when you get the fans onside and the team performs like they can, and I still think they are an unbelievably good team, it is a special place to be.

"They have got brilliant players, a brilliant manager, great staff and when you add the backing of the fans, that can make all the difference."