ANY season that sees Rangers knocked out of both cup competitions by Aberdeen and finish behind Celtic in the Premiership title race cannot be considered a success.

But this term - Steven Gerrard’s first at Ibrox and first as a manager - cannot be written off as a failure just because silverware has not been won.

That is the barometer by which every Rangers boss is judged, yet supporters are not questioning Gerrard’s position or getting anxious about which direction his side are heading in over the summer.

Those early exits in the Betfred Cup and Scottish Cup will be two of the biggest disappointments that Gerrard takes away from this term.

Both defeats - 1-0 at Hampden and 2-0 at Ibrox - saw Rangers produce lamentable performances as their two best chances of a winner’s medal this season slipped through their grasps.

As it turns out, there should be an even stronger sense of regret when it comes to the Premiership.

At the start of the campaign, a cup win should not have been outwith Rangers’ realistic aims, but few would have backed Gerrard to lead his side to the title at the first time of asking.

That could easily have happened, though. There is no doubt that it has been an opportunity missed.

They say the league table doesn’t lie, but it also doesn’t tell the whole truth about how close Rangers have actually been, how fine the margins were at times in the title race.

Celtic are deserving and worthy champions and their eight-in-a-row success cannot be questioned, nor their achievement diluted.

But Rangers will rightly look back at the season with a sense of annoyance that they were not able to apply more pressure to a team that lost their best player in Moussa Dembele and then their manager when Brendan Rodgers left for Leicester City.

Victory in the fourth and final Old Firm fixture on Sunday proved that Rangers are more than a match for Celtic, and that the derby win in December was no one-off.

It says much about the job that Gerrard has done this season that supporters no longer go into the Old Firm games with a sense of trepidation, not just about the outcome but the manner of any likely defeat.

Many would have fancied Rangers’ chances this time around and that faith was not misplaced. Instead, it was reaffirmed as Gerrard’s side produced a dominant display.

The difference in the respective teams was stark. Rangers were not just physically superior as they hassled and harried throughout, but they had more class and more composure on the ball as Celtic were swept aside for the second time this term.

Pass marks were few and far between in green and white, but there wasn’t a failure in Light Blue. On a day of fine individual showings, the collective would have pleased Gerrard more than anything.

It is only 12 months since Rangers were trying to heal the wounds of hugely damaging defeats to Brendan Rodgers’ side at Hampden and Parkhead and the gap across the divide was more of a gulf at that stage. That isn’t the case today, though.

Celtic are still superior, but only marginally. As they have regressed, Rangers have taken strides forward under Gerrard and fans are now looking for the point where the lines cross, where the balance shifts.

That could well arrive next term and a title win, never mind just a challenge, is now a realistic prospect for Gerrard second time out.

Much, of course, will depend on what Celtic do and how heavily they invest in both a manager and the several players required to freshen up a squad that has become stale and tired, even as they stand on the brink of history at Hampden.

But Rangers are building from a position of relative strength for the first time in many years. No major overhaul of the squad or settling in period for a new manager will be required this time around.

This summer is about quality rather than quantity for Gerrard and Mark Allen, the Director of Football.

The deficit has been reduced on a fairly meagre budget thus far and the money that will be spent on a handful of positions- mainly in defence and attack - could have a significant effect on the team and squad.

Rangers have a core of players in place now, and a manager who is older and wiser having come through the trials and tribulations of a season that delivered much, but not enough.

If Gerrard’s side had turned a couple of draws into wins, the table would have a very different look to it heading into the final round of fixtures this weekend.

The Gers only have themselves to blame for that, but confidence should be taken at how they have gone about their business at times and thrilling displays in the Old Firms at Ibrox will only add further fuel to the fire.

The desire for success burns within Gerrard and those he has around him next term will be in no doubt about what the targets are for Rangers.

There has been no silver lining, but there are no dark clouds, either.

This season, the message from Gerrard was ‘let’s go’. Now, he will go again with even more confidence and belief that the trophy that is so craved at Ibrox can finally be delivered.