FOR years, Paul Murray could only watch on from the outside at Ibrox as Rangers were damaged by those who were supposed to be the custodians.

Over the course of his first months back inside the club, he learned how deep the wounds actually were. Indeed, some have still to be healed.

But it didn’t take as long to realise just how far Rangers had fallen on the park. The afternoon following the night before was a sobering cure for any hangovers that lingered.

More than four years on from the regime change that saved Rangers, the Light Blues have still to taste the ultimate success once again.

Next term, with Steven Gerrard as manager and another round of signings to come, could be the year. If it is, it has been a long time coming.

“We took the club over on March 6, 2015 and the following day, with all due respect to Cowdenbeath, we played at Central Park and drew 0-0,” Murray said. “I have pulled Jimmy Nicholl’s leg a few times about it, he was the manager at the time, because the previous Saturday Hearts had beaten Cowdenbeath 10-0. I often say to Jimmy that he must have given some team talk that day!

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“I think you have to look at the progression from that point to where we are now and that is only four years. Obviously we would have liked to have won the league by now but as long as you can see that there is steady progress… We obviously have to win the league at some point.

“I think we have made progress and in particular in the last 12 months. I think any fair minded person would say the club has progressed on the pitch and it has been down to relatively fine margins in key margins.

“That is different to last season where we had some pretty heavy defeats, particularly by Celtic. That hasn’t happened this year. If that is the measure of progression, then I think we have progressed.”

When King, Murray and Gilligan stood outside Ibrox that March afternoon, it heralded the beginning of a new era for Rangers and its fans.

That season may have culminated in the embarrassing play-off defeat to Motherwell, but many would have expected Rangers to have put in a stronger challenge in their first three years back in the Premiership.

Murray always knew the road back to the top would be a long and difficult one for Rangers, though.

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“I think it is now over four years since myself, Dave and John Gilligan came back into the club,” Murray said. “We said at the time, and Dave has said since, we all knew at that time it wasn’t going to be a short-term project because of the damage that had been done to the club over many years. It was going to be hard to repair. So I don’t think anyone was under any illusions about how long that would take.

“You always want to do things quicker than sometimes you are able to do but I think there has been steady progress. Everyone is a genius with hindsight in terms of decisions that were made and you can look back at things and think ‘that was the wrong decision’.

“Football is one of these sports and businesses where there is a lot you cant control, even in terms of injuries, suspensions, loss of form, players wanting to leave, managers wanting to leave. It is a business that is unlike many other businesses.”

Having made a series of wrong calls over the last few seasons, the most costly of which was the appointment of Pedro Caixinha as manager, Rangers had to go back to the drawing board ahead of the current campaign.

The arrival of Gerrard gave a dispirited and disillusioned fan base a much-needed boost, while the Ibrox squad was overhauled once again.

Debates over what progress has been made in recent months can never be won either way, while only chairman King and his fellow investors can determine whether they feel it has been money well spent.

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That pool of resources isn’t bottomless and Murray knows success is required before the books can be balanced at Ibrox.

“I think Dave has been consistent in saying that we want to get the club to a sustainable financial position and the only real way of doing that is to get regular European participation,” he said. “This year, I would imagine, I don’t know, that the Europa League was a bit of a bonus in the sense that maybe we didn’t think we would get to the group stage and we did, which was great.

“The Europa League has improved financially but the Champions League is obviously still the place you want to be eventually in terms of real finances. I think they can keep the investment in the club for the short to medium term, but at some point it has to become sustainable. To do that, you have to have regular European participation, and in particular the Champions League. So that means winning the league at some point, which has to be the focus.”

It was in the first full season with the new board in control that expectation levels were raised once again as Mark Warburton’s side beat Celtic in the Scottish Cup at Hampden.

That victory proved to be a false dawn. It is one of many that Rangers have suffered in recent times.

“There are a lot of social media myths around that in terms of what Celtic did apparently on the back of Rangers directors celebrating in the stand,” Murray said.

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“It was more just relief after several years of pretty tough times. It was nothing more than that. I don’t think it was a false dawn. I just think that on the day we played pretty well and Celtic were going through an indifferent season with Ronny Della there. It was one of those things.

“They had lost to Inverness and Ross County before and these things sometimes happen in football. We certainly weren’t expecting that we would go from there to winning the league. It was a one-off game, a cup game, and we were aware there was a lot of investment still to be done.

“Even though it’s Rangers, not many teams can come from the Championship and immediately win the Premiership the following season. We were under no illusion it was going to be a tough way back.”

The first two seasons back in the top flight, with Warburton and Caixinha, and Graeme Murty in spells, at the helm were disastrous for Rangers on the park. Rather than take strides forward, they stumbled back.

This term has been different, however, and there is more belief amongst supporters ahead of Gerrard’s second campaign at Ibrox.

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It is an enthusiasm that Murray shares. The 55-year-old now watches and supports as a fan only rather than also as a director and he has faith in belief in the current setup in the boardroom and the dugout.

“I think so,” Murray said when asked if there was more optimism around Rangers now. “Steven Gerrard is about to go into his second season and I’m pretty sure he will have learned from this season.

“He will have learned about the teams we face, the football they play, the fact Rangers and Celtic have to win every game and when you go to places like Hamilton you have to grind a result out. People say it’s easy but it’s not. Every team wants to beat Rangers and Celtic so there is that level of competition.

“Although Steven Gerrard has people around him in the club like Gary McAllister and others who will understand a bit of that, there is no substitute for actually experiencing it yourself. Having had that for the past year, I think that will serve as a good intro to next season.

“You always start every season optimistically, but I think next season there is a lot to be optimistic about.

“I think we have made genuine progress and with a bit of investment in key areas and a bit more consistency I think we can go far.”