HEARTS’ response to winning the Championship by 21 points last year was to rip it up and start again. The party on Gorgie had barely abated when director of football Craig Levein and head coach Robbie Neilson began plotting for their return to the top division. Sentiment did not come into it. By the end of the summer, 11 players had moved on, with 10 arriving to take their places. It was wholesale change to reflect the increased demands that would be placed on the club. Their reward for that tinkering is the undisputed title of third best team in the country, with European football for next season all but already secured.

Mark Warburton is familiar with that tale from Tynecastle but has no plans of doing similar. Barring some Devon Loch-style collapse, Rangers will soon emulate Hearts’ achievements by winning the second-tier title by a sizeable margin. And then, unlike Hearts, there will be pressure on them to contest Celtic for the championship in their first season back up. Warburton, though, reveals continuity rather than a clean slate will shape his transfer dealings over the summer.

Cynics may wonder if that is partially because the funds aren’t there for a complete gutting of the squad but Warburton believes that, given how well his players have performed this season, it would be counter-productive to start over again in the Premiership. He acknowledges there will be a need to strengthen for the step up but clearing the decks is not in his thinking.

“No, I don’t understand that,” he said in reference to the maroon blueprint. “Everyone’s different. No disrespect to Hearts or Robbie, that’s their choice. But I think you have to recognise the quality you have in the squad. You always underestimate teams that go up and overestimate teams that go down. Always. That’s fact. So if people underestimate Rangers going up, that’s great but we have a number of people in the squad we know can go to the next level. Our job is to supplement that with four, five or six that we need to deal with the next level and make the impact we want.”

Warburton thinks he has earned the right to be trusted in the transfer market and his record bears that out. Since his arrival at Ibrox last summer, he has signed 15 players and virtually all have made some kind of positive impact during the campaign. There were raised eyebrows over many at the time as a raft of unheard of players arrived from unfashionable stations with a list of former clubs the length of their arm. James Tavernier, for example, had been involved in more loans than the Bank of England.

The manager felt these were players who just “needed to be loved” and was confident that regular football would bring out the best of them. And so it has proved. He hopes a previously sceptical Rangers support would now give him the benefit of the doubt when he begins his transfer work this summer.

“If Rangers go to sign someone from Fleetwood, no disrespect to them, the fans would say “who’s he?”. But they said that to Tavernier, [Rob] Kiernan and [Wes] Foderingham. If we can get players at the right level, then we’ll do that.

“I hope the fans will trust us. They are expectant and we understand that but I hope the performances of the guys they maybe hadn’t heard of before has given us a level of trust. We go for players we think can add value to Rangers. We never just add numbers. We’re rather be too light than be too heavy. I think some of the biggest disasters have been the biggest fees. It’s not about how much you spend, it’s how you spend what you have available.”

There was never going to be any chance of Rangers being allowed to gradually ease their way back into top-flight football after a four-year break. Logic would suggest the financial gulf between them and Celtic would make an immediate challenge unrealistic but football rarely lends itself to rational thinking. Many supporters will therefore expect a title tilt at the first time of asking, something Warburton is fully aware of.

“I understand that,” added the manager. “I understand the size of the club and it’s naïve not to think that way. Logic will tell you that Celtic, and teams like Aberdeen and Hearts, have been in Europe and have battle-hardened, experienced players at that level. But we have also got quality within our squad.

“What we have to do is recognise the task and recognise the expectation. The fans won’t say “go up there and enjoy it and hopefully in season 2018-19, have a go’”. That’s not going to happen. We know the club, we know the expectation. We have to go up there and give it the very best shot we can.”

The looming William Hill Scottish semi-final against Celtic offers an early barometer of just how prepared Rangers are. Tavernier, though, insisted there would be no deference shown to supposedly superior opposition.

“Not at all, we’ll stick to our game, stick to what we know, and what we know best is our system,” said the full-back bullishly. “We’ll use that no matter what, no matter who we play against. We don't adapt to any other teams, we always go out and play what we want to play. They need to adapt to us.”