The end of the 12-month registration embargo means the club have signed eight players, all of whom will now be available to the manager. That represents a step forward, but so too does the growing sense that Rangers are now overcoming teams as emphatically as they are expected to, given the contrast in resources.
East Fife set out to be dogged and resilient at Ibrox, but they could not cope with Lee McCulloch's forceful intent to win every meaningful header in their penalty area, the attacking thrusts of the home side's full-backs, or the bold imagination and deft touch of Lewis MacLeod. Without performing especially grandly or domineeringly, Rangers racked up five goals and completed their task with impressive drive.
Performances such as this were sporadic last term, but are becoming commonplace. Rangers have scored 18 times in four league matches, conceding once, and the difference in quality between the Ibrox side and their opponents is becoming increasingly emphasised. Ally McCoist has sought to eradicate complacency. He performed in a battle-hardened side that had an attitude honed by the pursuit of glory. Circumstances are different, but the manager has been attempting to instil the same bloody-minded ambition in his team.
There was no competition for places last season, yet every player is challenged for their position now. Cammy Bell and Nicky Clark made their competitive debuts on Saturday, with the former keeping a clean sheet and the latter opening the scoring within 30 seconds. It is conceivable, although unlikely in Bell's case, that either could be replaced in the starting line-up for the next game, since Scott Gallacher has performed competently in goal so far, while Jon Daly and Andy Little have developed a partnership up front. Even in scoring his first hat trick for the club, McCulloch is not guaranteed to take a place in attack next time, either.
"Every day at training there is a really good buzz, everyone is flying," said Bell. "So [McCoist] will have a bit of a headache, but a club the size of Rangers should have a competition for places in every position. This is the best team I've played in. The quality of players we've brought in and the ones we have already are very good and I can see that on the training pitch; everyone trains at 100%."
East Fife started with Robbie Neilson, the former Hearts defender, in the middle of a back five, but even with his experience he could not marshal his team-mates into an effective unit. They were undone within half a minute by Clark's pace and directness, then two Lee Wallace crosses resulted in McCulloch scoring from back-post headers. Liam Buchanan and Cedric Tuta were isolated up front for the visitors, but McCoist constantly berated his own defenders in the first half for sitting too deep, preventing Rangers from squeezing their opponents out of possession in more dangerous areas upfield, and inviting pressure by leaving too many gaps between the back line and the midfield.
"I don't think the manager was too happy with our defending," said Bell. "They didn't have too many chances in the second half, so that's a positive. I obviously realise the situation that I won't have 10 saves a game here - well, hopefully not anyway. But it's about concentration, playing the ball from the back, distribution, everything is important, and you have to concentrate for 90 minutes."
Clark worked tirelessly, while McCulloch made the most of his aerial power and striker's instincts - he anticipated the cross from Kyle McAusland that led to his third goal, again from a header. The balance between MacLeod and Ian Black was not always as smooth as it might have been in central midfield, missing the all-round dynamism of Nicky Law, but Black plugged away and MacLeod scored a fine volley from 20 yards.
Rangers are making progress, and McCoist is finally being allowed to build a team to his own standards.