THE phrase has become one of the stock answers from Giovanni van Bronckhorst in recent weeks as press conferences have seen the list of the walking wounded at Ibrox added to on a regular basis.

It is not his fault that he has had no choice but to repeat the often-used line 'until after the World Cup'. Indeed, he cannot take the blame for the situation that has left him juggling the group that he has at his disposal from game to game.

Questions remain over whether the recruitment policy in recent seasons, and especially in the summer, was fit for purpose. Come the end of the campaign, there will be definitive answer on that front.

Week after week, tens of thousands of pounds are going out the door on players who are unable to provide anything in return. Right now, Rangers are not getting full value for the money that they did spend and are spending as fans continue to bemoan the decision not to invest further on the back of Champions League qualification.

There are areas of the group that required more attention and many view Van Bronckhorst’s options as too limited. The quality of the squad can be debated but the fact that it has been decimated in terms of quantity has to be considered.

Time after time, the Dutchman has had to rule players out of action. Each occasion will have been even more frustrating than the previous one and it is hard to not have sympathy for the situation that he finds himself in.

Van Bronckhorst knows as well as anyone that there are no excuses at Ibrox. But the way in which his squad has been cut and cut this term can be taken into account as a mitigating factor when assessing how the campaign has unfolded.

Van Bronckhorst must surely have planned for a worst case scenario. He is now living through it and the starting line-up and bench against Ajax told its own story.

There have been few times this term when Van Bronckhorst has been able to select what many would see as his strongest team and have the back-up that would be expected. The head count has never been complete at Ibrox but it is fair to suggest that Rangers should be doing better with the resources that are available right now.

Van Bronckhorst knew at the start of the season that Ianis Hagi would not kick a ball again for some time and he was ruled out until, you guessed it, after the World Cup.

The same fate befell Filip Helander, while Nnamdi Ofoborh remains something of a forgotten man as he receives well-wishes and support amid his ongoing heart issues.

John Souttar has not been seen since the opening day win at Livingston. There was always a degree of gamble when it came to signing the defender given his injury issues in recent years and it is one that has backfired on Rangers.

Other events have only exacerbated the situation. Ben Davies has been restricted to just eleven appearances so far and the sight of Connor Goldson pulling up against Liverpool would have sent a shudder through the squad and the support.

The Englishman has been such a robust and reliable presence throughout his Ibrox career and when a figure like that is ruled out for several months, Van Bronckhorst must have been cursing his luck and wondering why he had been dealt such a rotten hand.

Those feelings were prevalent once again on Saturday when Ridvan Yilmaz was forced off against Aberdeen. A couple of days later, the usual timescale was given.

Glen Kamara returned after three weeks out against Ajax on Tuesday evening but Ryan Jack is once again a long-term absentee from midfield. So is Tom Lawrence and there is no doubt that his loss has been sorely felt by a side that could have done with his attacking nous.

The same can be said of Kemar Roofe. The striker played for 17 and 9 minutes respectively against Dundee and Livingston before being ruled out once again and his injury record now overshadows his scoring record at Ibrox.

Seeing Alex Lowry crocked in a B Team outing was cruel on the player and his boss but the issues regarding Alfredo Morelos were self-inflicted. His fitness and his mentality have been questioned once again and Rangers are suffering as a result.

The relentless nature of the season so far has taken a toll on Rangers. Even some of those who have been deemed fit enough to play have struggled at various stages and Van Bronckhorst’s side have been lethargic at times as the European hangovers have hit home domestically.

The team look a shadow of themselves right now. This was the side that were extra-time heroes against Braga, Celtic and Hearts last term and that came within a penalty of European glory in Seville as their remarkable efforts went unrewarded.

It is hard to fathom, then, just why Rangers have been so ponderous for large spells of the campaign and supporters have started to question general fitness as well as injury status as they search for answers heading into the second half of the campaign.

The World Cup cannot come quickly enough now. It will offer a chance to regroup and reset but the work done before then will shape the narrative and the future.

The trip to face St Johnstone on Sunday is a non-negotiable must-win. The same is true for the visit of Hearts in midweek and the final fixture before the shutdown as Van Bronckhorst’s side face St Mirren.

The best Rangers can hope for is surely to be four points adrift at that stage and emerging from the Premiership hiatus with Celtic in sight and a squad boosted by a couple of returning stars is as good as Rangers can expect right now. After all the trials and tribulations of the campaign to date, it would be something of a result for Van Bronckhorst.

It will soon be after the World Cup. Van Bronckhorst needs his luck to change and Rangers need their fortunes to improve sooner rather than later.