Mark Warburton has admitted to The Scottish Sun that he believes the gap which exists between Celtic and Rangers is only going to get wider for the foreseeable future.
Warburton oversaw Rangers' long-awaited return to the Premiership in May 2016 but, despite beating their Old Firm rivals in a Scottish Cup semi-final when they were a Championship side, the Gers were given a series of harsh wake-up calls during their first season back in the top flight.
The Ibrox side, who recruited a number of high-profile players such as Joey Barton and Niko Kranjcar, only won two of their first seven Premiership games in a run of form which also saw Celtic ruthlessly bring them back to earth with a Moussa Dembele-inspired 5-1 defeat at Parkhead last September.
The Hoops hired former Liverpool boss Brendan Rodgers - who hasn't lost a domestic game of football in Scotland yet - to replace Ronny Deila a couple of weeks after their shock semi-final defeat to Warburton's side.
And the now-Nottingham Forest manager has heard suggestions that his good work on the blue half of Glasgow indirectly led to Celtic becoming the all-conquering side that they are today.
He told The Scottish Sun: “Someone actually said to me the other day: ‘Celtic responded because of the semi- final, Joey Barton and Kranjcar.' But we’d made a statement — we won the league, we beat Celtic to get to a Cup Final, and I think suddenly alarm bells rang.
“Celtic, though, have picked up two successive Champions League pay-outs. The gap is only going to get wider. But I hope very much whoever comes in as Rangers manager he gets the backing and they can look to compete.”
Warburton left Rangers in February of this year and his replacement, Pedro Caixinha, was sacked in October.
The Gers wound up finishing 39 points behind treble-winning Celtic last season, but only a five-point gap exists at the moment.