RANGERS’ epic triumph over Celtic in the Scottish Cup semi-final at Hampden last year will be remembered forevermore by their followers.

Coming from behind and beating their city rivals in extra-time denied the Parkhead club the chance to complete a fifth treble in six years - and was joyously celebrated by the red, white and blue-clad hordes both inside the stadium and watching on television.

Yet, suggestions afterwards that the hard-fought and morale-boosting result would give Giovanni van Bronckhorst’s charges vital self-belief going into the 2022/23 season proved to be ill-founded.

The Herald:

The departures of Joe Aribo and Calvin Bassey, who had been the Ibrox outfit’s stand-out performers during their run to the Europa League final, after they had overcome Hearts in the final the following month coupled with an underwhelming recruitment drive resulted in another bitterly disappointing cinch Premiership campaign.

Prevailing in the last four encounter with Ange Postecoglou’s side in Mount Florida next week is certainly hugely important for Michael Beale’s team; a victory will keep alive their hopes of lifting silverware this term and prevent a furious backlash from their fans.

But a win will, as we have seen in the past 12 months, have absolutely no bearing on their long-term fortunes. What happens in the close season, who leaves and who is brought in, will determine whether they can lift the Scottish title.

READ MORECeltic and Rangers are big winners in Premiership rule change

Sporting director Ross Wilson, who had been targeted by those who sit in the stands as the Govan giants fell no fewer than 12 points behind the defending champions in the league, moving on for Nottingham Forest earlier this month will not hamper efforts to overhaul the squad. A list of potential targets was drawn up long before he exited.

Are Rangers, though, really going to be able to part with the sums of money needed to build a side capable of going toe-to-toe with Celtic and vying for the major domestic honour? 

Their age-old adversaries continue to operate at a higher level to them off the park as well as on it after years or shrewd stewardship in the boardroom, profitable player sales and European involvement.

The news this week that the administrators of the Elite Sports Group Ltd – who allege a contract which allowed Danish sportswear firm Hummel to provide first team kit was breached when they signed a deal with Castore in 2020 – plan to press ahead with a £9.5m legal claim showed they have by no means put their troubled past behind them. 

The Herald:

It remains to be seen what the outcome of that case will be. But previous court rulings have certainly hurt and hampered their progress. Their last annual accounts showed back in November that they had been forced to shell out £8.25m to Sports Direct owner Mike Ashley following a lengthy and costly dispute.

A profit or £5.9m was, thanks to the January sale of Nathan Paterson to Everton and their exploits on the continent, posted. But Van Bronckhorst spent little over £10m on new acquisitions in the last close season and it showed, not least in the Champions League group stages, in the months which followed. They can, then, ill afford to be hit with another hefty bill now.

The former Rangers director of football Gordon Smith expressed the view in these pages this week that good scouting and smart thinking in the transfer market can compensate for having an inferior budget. They have certainly punched above their weight before – their Premiership success in 2021 and Europa League performances last term were achieved against all odds – and can do so again.

READ MORERangers boss Michael Beale addresses Ryan Kent Burnley link

The impacts that Todd Cantwell and Nico Raskin have made since joining from Norwich City and Standard Liege respectively back in January augur well for the future.

Still, the gulf with Celtic is so vast, both in terms of quality and strength in depth, just now and the surgery which is required so extensive, ageing and underperforming players need to be offloaded and decent replacements found, that they will be doing very well to catch their near neighbours and become the dominant force in the country once again next season. 

Beale expressed the view that Rangers are just “four or five players” away from being able to do so during an interview with talkSPORT this week. But with Ryan Kent and Alfredo Morelos almost certain to move on and the futures of Scott Arfield, Steven Davis, Glen Kamara and Allan McGregor doubtful, he will surely need several more.

It will be interesting to see if the purse strings are loosened by his paymasters this summer, if any of the money banked from Aribo and Bassey will be freed up, if valuable lessons have been learned from last year.

However, at the moment it is, as they continue to wrestle with historical issues no fewer than 11 years after their financial implosion, very difficult to envisage Rangers having anything other than cup wins, like the one they will be bidding to record against Celtic on Sunday week, to savour.

The Herald: