By all accounts, it has been a pretty successful first season for Steven Gerrard at Rangers.
Nobody knew what to expect when the Liverpool legend was appointed considering his lack of managerial experience, but after accruing eight more points in the final standings than the tumultuous 2017/18 campaign, there are clear signs of progress.
There is certainly much more to do if the Gers are going to overhaul Celtic at the top of the table next season and prevent nine in a row. One of the areas that many fans would like to see some improvement in is away from home, and midfielder Ryan Jack is also keen to see some progress in that area:
“Part of it is down to mentality. I’ve played in the league a long time so I know what it’s like going to Rugby Park, Easter Road and Tynecastle and they are tough grounds to go to.”
“You can’t just turn up and think because you’re Rangers you’re going to win the game. You have to be fully focused and if you aren’t fully focused or switched on results like Sunday’s defeat will happen.”
Rangers’ two defeats at Kilmarnock, as well as losses at Livingston, Aberdeen and the draws versus Hibs, are where the Scottish club can make the difference next season in their quest to beat their Old Firm rivals.
Of course, beating Celtic at Parkhead would also be a massive statement, but these away trips to teams lower down the table have to become banker three points if Gerrard’s side are to mount a serious title challenge.
You need to build the type of mentality where you go to these grounds, not expecting to win, but believing you have the ability to grind out hard-fought victories and command respect from your opponents by the way you play.
This aura can only develop through consistency. Rangers played some excellent football at times last season, but there were clearly performances which didn’t live up to the standard expected by the manager.
Gerrard was scathing after defeats to Livingston and Kilmarnock earlier in the campaign, but those types of displays seemed to disappear after the split.
Six consecutive wins showed a team that appeared to be maturing and demonstrating signs that they could be real contenders next season. However, the final day loss to Kilmarnock shows there is still a lack of depth in this squad.
Gerrard rested the likes of James Tavernier, Nikola Katic and Scott Arfield for the game at Rugby Park and the difference in performance levels was self-evident.
Still, one poor game shouldn’t undo all the good work that has been done over the past few weeks. If the right decisions are made in the transfer market, the gap to Celtic could close even further.
Especially with doubts over who will take the manager’s job permanently at Celtic Park, and significant changes to the playing squad likely, the greater stability that Rangers possess could swing things in their favour.