STEVEN GERRARD has paid tribute to former Lyon manager Gerard Houllier ahead of the Europa League clash with the French giants.

Houllier handed Gerrard his debut at Liverpool and would play a pivotal role in shaping the midfielder into an Anfield legend and one of the finest players of his generation.

The Frenchman spent two years at Lyon following his departure from Liverpool in 2004 and remained a key confidant for Gerrard as he began his coaching career at Ibrox three seasons ago.

Rangers will meet Houllier's former side - now managed by Dutchman Peter Bosz - on Thursday evening as they look to get their Europa League campaign off to a winning start.

And Gerrard is sad that his mentor will not be at Ibrox to watch the action unfold following his death, at the age of 73, last December after a heart operation.

He said: “I’m very much aware of Gerard’s career. He was a man I had a lot of admiration and respect for.

“He gave me my big opportunity at Liverpool to play for the first team. It was a really sad day for me from a personal point of view when he passed.

“I wish more than anything that he was at [the] game. He was someone who followed my career all the way through as a player and also as a manager.

“The amount of education and knowledge I had from that man is unbelievable. So I hope he is watching down [tonight] and is really proud of both teams.

“When a new manager comes into a team, it takes time to build a system and way of playing.

“It takes time for the manager and players to get used to each other. Lyon have high level players, it’s a big club, a club that should be in the Champions League.

“They have a very experienced manager and we are under no illusions how tough this game is. We have big respect for the team we are playing."