Steven Gerrard came out to publicly voice his disappointment in his team’s drop in playing intensity following their 1-1 draw at bottom-side Hamilton Academical on Sunday, a game in which his Rangers side relinquished the victory by conceding a stoppage-time Ross Callachan equaliser following an earlier Brian Easton own goal.
It was, ultimately, a game that Rangers had not deserved to win, Gerrard admitted, and although an immense 56 points separates the two sides in the league, the champions-elect had, in reality, been second-best for the entire game.
The performance is one that will have surprised many, and Gerrard has been attentive to curb any hint of falling standards this season to assail such an insurmountable lead ahead of their bitter rivals Celtic coming into the final third of the campaign.
The big-picture reality is they have been so irrepressible that this is only the fourth fixture of the season that they have dropped points and still remain domestically unbeaten.
Indeed, there has been such a gritty resolve about this side since the first lockdown that has been unearthed by Gerrard through the pain of collapse from last year that has still not healed.
This time last year Rangers were in the desperate process of relenting all credibility in the respective title race: following their 2-1 win at Celtic Park on the 29 December 2019, they subsequently lost away to Hearts and Kilmarnock, and were defeated by Hamilton Academical for the first time in nearly a century.
By the time the Scottish Premiership was curtailed, rivals Celtic were crowned with 13 points daylight ahead of Gerrard’s men.
Regardless of the exceptional circumstances around time being called on last season, a reset was needed for the squad, and it has resulted in a quite emphatic turnaround around Ibrox.
Gerrard’s 150th game milestone was marked with a sweeping statement: a 5-0 thrashing of Ross County which at the time coincided with Celtic winless run extending to four games to virtually extinguish any hope they may have harboured of a late title challenge.
Their season stats to date have been undeniably impressive. They have scored 11 more goals than Celtic – comfortably the highest scorers in the league – and even more significantly have conceded only eight goals in 28 league games, typifying the organisation and discipline that has permeated across the squad since their reset.
In marked contrast, their old foes Celtic have suffered continued negative press extending far beyond their on-pitch regression, amid a total PR sham surrounding their annual New Year warm-weather training trip to Dubai, which inconveniently for Neil Lennon and the club hierarchy came immediately after the 1-0 defeat to Rangers on 2 January.
While the Hoops woefully crashed out of Europe in November with a 4-1 defeat to Sparta Prague, Rangers’ form in the Europa League has been nothing short of formidable.
Topping Group D two points clear of runners up Benfica and extending their unbeaten run in the competition – continued from the previous campaign – was a defining statement that Gerrard’s men can mix it with the bigger sides in Europe and have every reason to dream continental glory is within their capacity.
The impending notion of trophy glory is somewhat more layered than it should – particularly in such unprecedented circumstances given the wider context – for the most emotionally-invested party in Gerrard’s project: the Ibrox faithful.
Supporters of a superstitious disposition may even feel it is imperative to suppress all forms of emotion until their first title in a decade is mathematically secured, for fears of jinxing their beloved club reclaim glory – and bragging rights – over their bitter rivals.
There are those that will feel their right to eventually bask in full delirium has been overshadowed by the fact that it will be from the comfort of their sofa’s, due to the important the wider and more sobering reality of more than 80,000 lost lives in the UK.
And then there will be those that will simply wish to laud it over the rivals, to live out the full catharsis following the decade of pain since their last title: a period of time that has seen that them suffer financial insolvency and liquidation that led to enforced relegation, consolidation in the top flight, prolonged inferiority to Celtic, before and during this Gerrard era, right up until the lockdown reset.