WELL, Dave King’s latest madcap missive caused much mirth and merriment in Scottish football, among the followers of Rangers’ rivals at least, didn’t it?

Declaring the Ibrox club were in “tangible reach” of becoming a dominant force once again in an online letter to supporters that announced there will be a five per cent increase in season ticket prices next season might not have been as risible as warning there is “concomitant risk” in taking over as manager there.

Fans of other top flight clubs, not least Celtic, had a field day all the same. The fact Rangers are set to once again finish the season trophyless and their city rivals are hoping to complete a third consecutive treble, an unprecedented achievement in the game in this country, didn’t exactly go unmentioned.

Still, it is undeniable that Rangers have made progress under Steven Gerrard in the last 10 months. Is it really so fanciful to suggest they could challenge for the Betfred Cup, Ladbrokes Premiership and William Hill Scottish Cup in the 2019/20 campaign?

Gerrard, the Liverpool and England great who is in his first managerial role, will be more experienced, more streetwise, more prepared for the challenges his men will face, next term.

His squad will require less radical surgery than last summer, when he brought in no fewer than 15 new players, as well. He will be looking for a handful of players, not an entire side. He may, as a result of Europa League qualification and the possible sale of Alfredo Morelos, have more money to spend in the transfer market too.

The financial gulf with Celtic will remain considerable regardless. The double treble winners revealed their revenue had topped £100m for the first time, and that they had £27m cash in the bank as a result, when they published their annual results in September.

But is it really so laughable to suggest Rangers can challenge Celtic for the major honours next season? What exactly needs to happen for them to be crowned champions?

Gerrard admitted after his team lost the Scottish Cup final quarter-final replay to Aberdeen at Ibrox last month that he required superior quality to land silverware. If Mark Allen, his head of recruitment, and his scouting team can deliver that in the weeks ahead then the gap to Celtic will narrow further. Transfer activity will be less frenetic than was previously the case. Already, Jake Hastie, John Souttar and Greg Stewart have been targeted.

The Liverpool winger has been by far the best of Gerrard’s signings. It is no wonder the Rangers manager has been in touch with his former club to enquire about keeping him and taking more emerging talents who are coming through the ranks at Melwood. If Kent returns north of the border, either on loan again or in a permanent deal, it will be a major coup. It will enable his countryman to build on the headway he has made to date.

HeraldScotland: Ryan Kent in trainingRyan Kent in training

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Neil Lennon, the Celtic interim manager, has admitted a major rebuilding job is required in the East End this summer. Dedryck Boyata will move on, it is still unclear if Mikael Lustig will stay and the future of Scott Sinclair is the subject of much conjecture. Oliver Burke, Jeremy Toljan and Timothy Weah, meanwhile, will return to their parent clubs. Furthermore, can they keep their squad intact? Callum McGregor and Kieran Tierney, to name just two, are sure to attract interest.

Celtic have far greater funds at their disposal. But they will have to spend that cash wisely to maintain their domestic dominance.

Lennon remains the front-runner to be appointed on a permanent basis this summer. Retaining his services makes perfect sense on so many levels for the Parkhead club. But if they opt, as they feasibly still could, to go in another direction there will be, er, a concomitant risk. There are no guarantees another coach, especially one unfamiliar Scottish football and the Old Firm, would work out.

HeraldScotland: Neil Lennon remains the favouriteNeil Lennon remains the favourite

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Not receiving much, if indeed any, income from the sale of replica kits and official club merchandise as a result of the deal Charles Green brokered with Sports Direct back in 2012 has led to Rangers sparring against Celtic with one hand tied behind their back since returning to the top flight. The two sides were back in court in the latest round of hostilities last week. Reaching an amicable agreement would be an important development. But don’t hold your breath.


IF Malcolm Kdedekpo, the former Aberdeen striker who has been appointed to SFA board, wants to make an early impression as non-executive director he could do worse than push for the governing body to look to his old club in their search for a new Scotland manager.

There are some strong candidates to replace Alex McLeish, whose rollercoaster 14-month tenure came to an end last Thursday, with the national team. The appointment of Steve Clarke, who has performed miracles at Kilmarnock in the last couple of seasons, would certainly be widely welcomed by Tartan Army footsoldiers.

But Derek McInnes ticks a lot an awful lot of boxes as well. He has overachieved on his budget, enjoyed consistent success with predominantly Scottish players, shown a willingness to promote youth and has, with three wins over Rangers in Glasgow this term, silenced those who claim his team are “big game bottlers”.

Would, after six years at Pittodrie, he be open to the prospect of a move from club to international football? It would certainly be worth asking the question.