A third defeat against Celtic in all competitions this season leaves Rangers miles off the pace in the title race.
Both positives and negatives can be taken out of Kenny Miller’s performance against Celtic in Saturday’s Old Firm derby.
On one hand, the 37-year-old displayed his evergreen qualities once again, tapping in at the far post to net his tenth goal in this most historic of rivalries while causing typical havoc with his astute movement and predatory instincts.
On the other, the fact that no other Rangers player could match the influence of a man who made his Scottish Premiership debut on the other side of the century speaks volumes about the quality, or lack of, within Mark Warburton’s squad.
Barring 38-year-old Clint Hill, the only member of the team older than Miller, none of Rangers’ summer signings have managed to stamp their authority on the side.
In fact, while Celtic duo Moussa Dembele and Scott Sinclair added to their swelling reputation north of the border by turning a one-goal deficit into a 2-1 win on Saturday, marquee summer signing Joe Garner found enough time to make it 10 appearances without a goal prior to being forced off with a shoulder injury in the first half.
Rangers are hardly blessed with unlimited finances but chairman Dave King has no option but to try to gather enough funds together to close a gap that now stands at 19 points. Failing that, Rangers must show much more intelligence and foresight in the market.
Because their transfer policy of bringing in young, affordable talents from the English lower leagues, a la Josh Windass and Matt Crooks from League Two Accrington Stanley, and ageing, out-of-contract veterans such as Joey Barton, Niko Kranjcar and Philippe Senderos, will be enough for a second-placed finish at the most.
And a distant one at that.
“The money they’ve accumulated from the Champions League, and with the chance to add to it next season by getting there again, this is the time to tread on Rangers. You don’t let them get back up again,” Chris Sutton said in quotes reported by the Daily Record.
“Celtic had the chance to move away from Rangers for ever in 2012 when they went bust but they didn’t take it. They’ve got another chance now and they should be ruthless enough to take it.”
As it stands, there is not a lot Rangers can do to stop Celtic’s title procession. However, this could well be a running theme if the Hoops continue to bring big names to the green half of Glasgow while Rangers rifle through the bargain bucket.
If Miller is still Rangers’ main man this time next season, then Sutton could well boast a point proven – Celtic will have ascended on to a different plane entirely.