THE first game of the Europa League first qualifying round double header against FK Shkupi at Ibrox on Thursday night will almost certainly see Jamie Murphy make his European debut for Rangers.

Yet, the forward, whose loan move from English Premier League club Brighton became permanent this summer, is no stranger to the sort of occasion he will encounter.

He is, after all, Motherwell’s all-time leading goalscorer in continental competition. He netted on no fewer than seven occasions in the early stages of the same tournament during the seven years he spent in the first team at the Fir Park club.

The lifelong Rangers supporter also sat in the stands cheering on his boyhood heroes against some European giants in the Champions League in what is now a bygone era.

Shkupi, who finished fourth in the First Football League of Macedonia last season, are hardly in the same league as some of the glamorous sides which rocked up in Govan when he was a boy.

But a sell-out crowd is, due to the appointment of Steven Gerrard as manager and the signings he has made since taking charge, expected to cram inside Ibrox. For Murphy, it is the way it should be.

The 28-year-old is determined to help a club which is still striving to recover from years of off-field mismanagement return to the level they were at before and he feels this will be an important outing for them in that endeavour regardless of the quality of the opposition.

“I’m really looking forward to it,” he said. “I remember coming to a few European games, especially when we were in the Champions League.

“I was at the Man United game when Wayne Rooney scored that penalty so late on. I went to the games against Porto and Inter Milan. They are games that stick in my head, as well as the run to the UEFA Cup final.

“I played loads of games in Europe with Motherwell against the likes of Levante and Panathinaikos. I’m the all-time top scorer for Motherwell in Europe with seven goals.

“I always enjoyed playing in Europe. It was a big start to the season playing against teams ranked higher than us and a chance to go out and perform.

“Maybe it brought out the best in me. It was quite early in my career so it was good to go out and try to prove yourself on a different stage. It’s something I always looked forward to and something I enjoy watching on telly too.”

Murphy was, like every Rangers fan, aghast when he learned that the Ibrox club had been knocked out of the Europa League by part-time Luxembourgian rivals Progres Niederkorn last year. There is no prospect of him underestimating Shkupi.

“I was down at Brighton when I heard the result,” he said. “Everyone down there could see the disappointment in my face. Connor (new Rangers centre half Goldman) will tell you.

“I was surprised more than anything. Clubs like Rangers should be getting put out as early as that, but it happens and you move on. It’s up to us to make sure it doesn’t happen again.

“When I was at Motherwell we were going into games against team like Panathinaikos and being really up for it. We wanted to do well. We didn’t do that well, but it was our biggest game of the season, even though it was the first game of the season.

“We’re well aware our opponents on Thursday will be well up for it. I’m sure they’re looking forward to playing in Europe just as much as we are. We have to go out and perform. If we can do that and score goals like we can, we should go through.”

Rangers spent four years playing in the lower leagues following their financial implosion of 2012 and have gone seven years without winning a major trophy. But those of an older generation, like Murphy, can remember a time when lifting silverware and competing with the elite of European competition was a regular occurrence.

Asked if that had made the Progres loss harder to bear, he said: “I think so. The club has been through some tough times over the past five or six years and we can to get it back to where we were.

“You can only build one stage at a time, get through rounds, do well, perform, score goals. It’s up to us to go out on Thursday and put us on the first step.

“The manager wants this to be a team people fear. He doesn’t want it to be easy for clubs to come here and think ‘we might have a chance here today’.

“That’s what it was like a few years back—everyone feared coming to Ibrox. That’s what we need to make it again. We can do it again. Whether it takes two weeks or two years, I don’t know, but it’s up to us to do. I think the club can definitely get back to where it was.”

Allan McGregor, the Scotland goalkeeper who returned to Rangers from Hull City on a free transfer in the summer, was one of the players Murphy enjoyed watching when the Ibrox club enjoyed success in Europe. He believes having an individual with McGregor's experience will be beneficial in the months ahead.

“Playing in Europe is a different thing from football in the league,” he said. “People like McGregor, who has been here and done it in the past, can help. I can tell the boys a few stories about Europe and Allan will tell a few better ones! We’re always here to speak to people.

“It’s great to have someone in the changing room that has been at the club and won trophies and won league titles, trebles and played on the biggest stages in Europe. He’s there for advice for any of the younger ones, and some of the older ones who have maybe not played in Europe before.”