THE spend stands at zero. The comments from Steven Gerrard were a penny for the thoughts of the Rangers board.

Gerrard is as aware as anyone about the financial realities at Ibrox. That doesn't ease his frustration at it, though.

The winning of title 55 was a chance for Rangers to progress to the next level. Right now, they are in danger of standing still.

Gerrard can point to issues with injuries, suspensions, Covid and a loss of form amongst his most important players as reasons for Rangers' lacklustre start to the campaign. The biggest problem, he believes, is money.

The deals that brought Scott Wright and Jack Simpson to Rangers six months ahead of schedule didn’t burst the bank in January. During the summer window, John Lundstram, Fashion Sakala and Juninho Bacuna were recruited without a fee being spent.

Therein lies the issue for Gerrard. He is content with the squad at his disposal, but a manager, especially at a club like Rangers, will always ask for more, even if the bottom line means the dreams and the realities don’t stack up.

Gerrard has hinted at his frustration at Rangers’ moves in the transfer window previously this season but he was more pointed in his comments in the aftermath of the defeat to Sparta Prague that leaves his side bottom of Group A after two fixtures.

"I think you are well within your rights to read into anything that we are doing here tactically or my decisions," Gerrard said.

"That is what you guys are paid to do. I am fully aware that is what you do.

"We as a staff and me as a manager are trying to find the perfect solution, trying to find a settled team that will play with that spark and that life that we have been missing, if you like.

"But what I would say is that we are not concerned or worried here. We know where we are.

"We have been short in the two Europa League games, but at this level, which is improving year in year out, if we want to keep growing and going to the extra level, we need in transfer windows to spend big money.

"It is as simple as that. To compete with the teams that we are playing against, we have to spend big money."

The manner in which Gerrard brought up Rangers’ transfer strategy on Friday morning told its own story. It was unprompted and is clearly a point of concern - and one that will spark real debate - that has been on his mind.

Rangers should, though, be getting better value for money from the squad that Gerrard has at his disposal and the reverse to Sparta was their fifth in 15 competitive outings this term.

The loss of Champions League clash didn’t precede the departure of Gerrard’s key men this summer, but he clearly feels investment should have been forthcoming to prepare Rangers for another Europa League campaign.

"In the last two windows, we haven’t spent a penny," Gerrard added in an answer that was as lengthy as it was enlightening. "So there has to be some realism there as well.

"To compete with these teams, and to beat these teams on their own patch, when transfer windows are open we have to spend money to compete at this level.

"Not to win, just to compete. There has to be some common sense as well when you are judging us from the outside.

"The spark and this life that you guys are talking about in the last two press conferences, it will come. Trust me.

"We have got really good players here and we will keep improving and working hard and that spark will come.

"It will certainly come quicker if we can find this settled team and if we can keep our main players fit and available, and if players that are fit and available get themselves in better form."

The squad that Gerrard has to choose from at present is down on numbers as he deals with the long-term absences of Filip Helander and Ryan Kent and the usual array of week to week availability issues.

With no consistency of selection, it is perhaps not a surprise that there has been no consistency of performance and Rangers – having fielded 12 different forward lines already this term – have yet to click as an attacking threat.

"Maybe expect sequence number 16," Gerrard said ahead of the visit of Hibernian on Sunday. "That is the way it is. We have got Ryan Kent missing.

"[On Thursday] night, we needed to run hard and run fast and that is the reason we used Fashion Sakala. I thought he was really good last night in terms of what he gave to the game.

"He was a threat, he was non-stop running, we saw his shirt number on every occasion and that is what we asked of Fashion. We will have to see how he pulls through before we make a decision.

"But, in general, I am looking to try and find a settled team, a team where we can find more cohesion, more rhythm and get the boys in a place where we can find consistency a lot more.

"But it has been challenging. I think it is only Steven Davis I have had available for every single game over the course of the 15 games.

"This is the way it is, we need to accept this and adapt and change and we have to be ready. It has been virtually impossible to find the same starting 11 from game to game."