TERRY Butcher is expecting Rangers to raise their game to a new level under Steven Gerrard following the international break – and give Celtic a far closer game at Ibrox come December as a result.

Butcher has, like so many in Scottish football, been greatly impressed by how Gerrard has done since taking over at the Glasgow club at the beginning of June.

His fellow former England captain had never managed before and many in the Scottish game questioned the wisdom of appointing such an inexperienced coach to such a high-profile position.

But the Liverpool legend strengthened his squad significantly this summer by bringing in the likes of Lassana Coulibaly, Ovie Ejaria, Jon Flanagan, Connor Goldson, Ryan Kent, Kyle Lafferty and Joe Worrall.

And he has since led Rangers into the Europa League group stages - and then to the top of their section after a gutsy draw with Villarreal away and emphatic win over Rapid Vienna at home.

However, Butcher, whose arrival at Ibrox back in 1986 after Graeme Souness had taken over helped to spark a dramatic upturn in fortunes after a long period in the doldrums, believes even better is to come in the weeks and months ahead.

He is confident that his countryman Gerrard will have spent the past fortnight analysing how his team, who return to action in a Ladbrokes Premiership match against Hamilton at the Hope CBD Stadium on Sunday, have performed and working out how they can improve further.

And he fully expects them to compete with their city rivals Celtic – one of only two teams to beat them during the 2018/19 campaign – when the next Old Firm game is played in Govan at the end of the year.

“Steven is very much a thinker,” he said. “As a player with Liverpool and England he was always thinking about what he was going to do next and the next game after that and the games after that.

“He was always a thinker on the pitch and he is an even bigger thinker now off the pitch. He is a clever boy. He has to be.

“He has been brought up with clever people alongside him and clever people in charge of him, like Gerard Houllier and Rafa Benitez, who are fantastic coaches.

“Gary McAllister was with him as a player and is with him now. He has got good people around him at Rangers. That will help him enormously in his early management career.

“He will now be saying: ‘How can I take things forward?’ It is is a big challenge. He has got more players in and the squad is bigger and better now. They are improving and I think that will continue going forward.”

Butcher had won the UEFA Cup with Ipswich Town and played in two World Cup finals with England when he signed for Rangers.

But he still found playing in this country to be a shock to the system and has no doubts the new recruits from down south will have been surprised at the physicality and intensity of the game here in the past few months too.

And he anticipates that players like Ejaria, Flanagan, Goldson, Kent and Worrall will know exactly what to expect after the league resumes this weekend.

“Having walked the path that many of these players have in the past and come up to Scotland from England in the past I know that you have to get used to the game in this country pretty quick,” he said.

“It is fast and it is furious. It is a lot harder than any other league they will play down south. The intensity of Scottish football is remarkable. They have to get used to that.

“They also have to get used to the fact that everybody wants to beat you. If you are one of the Old Firm then everybody wants to beat you like there is no tomorrow. It is their cup final, their World Cup final, it is everything. You have got to be prepared for that.

“And the quicker you learn the better it is. They have got to hit the ground running. But Rangers have done that.”

Gerrard suffered a 1- 0 defeat in his first experience of the Glasgow derby match at Celtic Park back in September.

And the narrow scoreline was flattering as his team was outplayed for long periods by the side coached by his former Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers.

Yet, Rangers had only played four domestic fixtures under their new manager going into that game and Butcher, the veteran of numerous Old Firm games, is confident it will be a different story next time around.

The former Motherwell, Inverness Caledonian Thistle and Hibernian manager feels that Gerrard and his charges will be far better as a result of the experience and will be well placed to give a good account of themselves.

“The Celtic game wasn’t a wake-up call,” said Butcher. “I don’t think anybody at Rangers was under the illusion they were at the same level as Celtic when they met back in September.

“Steven, who is very new to the job, certainly realised that. He knew having seen Celtic play that it was always going to be a big ask beating them this year.

“Rangers could have played better. But at the same time have made strides forward. You can call not losing 5-0 progress.

“Rangers are closer now than they have been in the last six or seven years. Yes, they are still a long way behind. But you can look at that and say: ‘Rangers have made big strides forward’.

"Steven will have learned a lot about himself, a lot about the level his team was at and a lot about where Celtic are. The big question for him afterwards would be how can Rangers get to that level very quickly.

“Having gone through it once, he will look forward to the next one on home so soil at Ibrox even more. To get to beat Celtic you have got to do something special. He will know that, but he will try to figure out how to do it.”