WHEN Steven Gerrard walked through the doors of Ibrox for the first time as manager in the summer, he knew the timing of his arrival would be a double-edged sword.

On the one hand, the only way was up. The shambles of the Pedro Caixinha era and the fact the Rangers board treated that particular calamity

with the sticking plaster of Graeme Murty, meant any relative short-term success would be lauded by a support whose notorious lack of patience had been replaced by a desperation for any sign of life.

But he also knew that he would be hauling this club off the canvas and trying to carry the fight to rivals both domestic and foreign with one hand tied behind his back. The largesse displayed by the club in lavishing money on the Caixinha project may have seemed like simply supporting their manager at the time, but it has come at a huge cost to the wellbeing of the team.

Big earners like Carlos Pena and Eduardo Herrera remain a significant drain on Rangers’ finances, and due to the fact they are contributing nothing to the cause on the field, are now a significant source of irritation for Gerrard.

“It’s a huge frustration for me personally if I’m honest, because some of these players that are not with us at the moment are earning big, big money when you compare it to the rest of the group,” Gerrard said. “That’s money I could be doing with to recycle and make this team a lot stronger and healthier, and make it compete a lot better. It’s a huge frustration for me, but it is what it is.

“Hopefully in the coming weeks and months we can wheel and deal and move people on and bring people in and be in a much better position. That’s what I want, but whether we can make it happen, I’ll have to wait and see.

“There are issues that I have inherited. I was aware of them when I came in, but it’s very, very difficult to find people new clubs and move people on if they’re earning extreme amounts of money that other clubs are not prepared to pay. And those players are not playing at a good level and giving a good account of themselves, for people to come and want them.

“It is a frustration when you know large sums of money are going out of the club and we’re not getting any contribution for it.”

Gerrard has been around the block long enough to know though that while the legacy issues from Caixinha’s spell in charge of the club remain pertinent, the memories of where the club was when he picked it up are fading fast.

The Europa League run that was ended by Rapid Vienna on Thursday evening surpassed expectations, but the onus will now very much be on providing a credible challenge to Celtic for the Premiership title, a feat Gerrard feels would be miraculous given the money he has been able to spend.

“People will judge us now, others will wait for a few more windows,” he said. “The reality is that we had to try and make wholesale changes on a small budget. We had to try and find loans and frees. In important areas, we had to try and spend some money.

“The facts are that, net, we have spent probably around £4.5 million to £5.5m. I’m not sure you can do magical and wonderful things in one window with that in six months. That’s my opinion, but I also understand and respect other

opinions from the outside.

“We’ll keep working as hard as we can to improve on the training pitch. Recruitment-wise, we’ll keep trying to add and improve.”

What that will represent come January, not even Gerrard himself is sure. He has been happy enough with the results from the wholesale changes he made during the summer, while also recognising that fine-tuning is undoubtedly required.

He admits that Everton youngster Kieran Dowell is a player who impresses him, but whether a loan bid for the England Under-21 international is indicative of the sort of business Rangers will be looking to do next month remains to be seen.

Apart from Umar Sadiq, who has returned to Roma after a nightmare loan spell, and Ovie Ejaria, who is returning to parent club Liverpool, he feels there is some improvement to come from those he has already brought to the club.

“I don’t know why it didn’t work out for [Sadiq],” he said. “In my opinion, there’s a lot of reasons, but only the kid knows the real reasons why. I think it’s in the best interests of Rangers, Roma and the kid that he goes back and tries to find the next best step for his career. There was no point in us standing in his way, because it was very clear that he was quite far away from first-team football.

“Hopefully it frees up some funds for January. I think it’s quite clear that in the next window, if we can, we need to give Alfredo [Morelos] and Kyle [Lafferty] some support in that area. I’ve made it no secret that I am looking for a bit more quality in the top end of the pitch.

“I think, without naming names, if you look at the list of all the ones we’ve added to what was already here, the majority have given us an awful lot. They’re doing really well and I’m delighted with what they’ve brought. Without naming names, there’s two or three that can give more, step up more. But I have a job to protect my players as well.”