Jermain Defoe says Rangers will be using the memories of last year’s Hampden horror show as fuel when they kick off their latest quest for silverware.
Steven Gerrard’s team dominated Celtic in the December’s Betfred Cup final yet still walked away empty-handed.
Alfredo Morelos missed a string of chances – including a second-half penalty – as Neil Lennon’s 10-man Hoops claimed victory thanks to Christopher Jullien’s winner.
Defoe was thrown on for the final 20 minutes in a desperate bid to force the game into extra-time, but the former England striker admits the feeling of trudging out of Hampden without the club’s first major cup win since 2011 was a bitter blow which still stings to this day.
The 38-year-old aims to use that pain as motivation when Rangers begin this year’s competition away to Falkirk on Sunday.
He said: “It’s important, especially when you play for a club like this, you have to compete in every competition and believe you can win it, whether that’s domestically or the Europa League which we’re competing well in.
“This is the first trophy and we’re certainly going to try and win it.
“The defeat in the final last season was horrible, that’s probably an understatement. Being so close and sitting there after the game and not coming away with the first trophy.
“You look at that and you don’t want to have that feeling again but there’s still a long way to go and we have to win the game his weekend and see what happens after that.
“But we’re playing for Rangers and everyone understands the demands of playing for this football club. The squad is really strong and you can see in different games there’s different personnel and players are coming in and producing.
“Credit to all the boys, everyone realises how important this season is and hopefully that can continue.”
Defoe is likely to have a bigger part to play this weekend than he has done of late.
The former West Ham, Tottenham and Portsmouth striker was forced to watch Gerrard’s team throw away a two-goal lead against Benfica for the second time in three weeks on Thursday night after being left out of Gerrard’s Europa League squad.
He has only started two games this term having seen competition increase with the arrival of Kemar Roofe and Cedric Itten and Gers start the season unbeaten.
But he showed he has lost none of his killer instinct in front of goal with a sublime first-time finish against Livingston last month.
While his Ibrox deal may be up in the summer, Defoe is not yet ready to hang up his boots.
He said: “It’s tough (to miss the European games) on one hand but I suppose on the other it gives me an opportunity to have that day off my legs and prepare for the game sat the weekend, which are important.
“Of course, over the years I always loved my time in the Champions League and Europa League with Tottenham.
“I scored a lot of goals and I’ll remember all these moments. When you get to the back end of your career you want to have those moments again, so it’s not easy watching it this season.
“To be honest I feel really sharp but I only feel like I’m playing at 70 per cent because you need that run of games to get that match fitness.
“Obviously not being in the Europa League squad means that on a Wednesday I can try harder. I’ll stay behind and do some running and a big session in the gym because I know I’ve got the day off the next day.
If I can continue still scoring goals at this level then for me there’s no reason to stop.
“That allows me to peak going into the weekend, which has really helped me.
“It’s really just a run of games I need. I still feel like I’ve got a little bit to go to get to that razor sharpness and where I’d want to be.
“I’ve always listened to my body. That’s important. And also be honest and be around people who will be honest with you.
“I’ve got a good relationship with the manager and I spoke to him about the Europa League squad and having that day off my legs so he can get the best Jermain Defoe at the weekend.
“If I can continue still scoring goals at this level then for me there’s no reason to stop.
“It’s about being honest and if I get to the stage where I’m struggling then of course there’s no point because I’ve had a long career, but at the minute I don’t feel 38.”