There may have been no guard of honour at Ibrox yesterday. But the lap of honour that followed Rangers’ second comprehensive slaying of Celtic in the arena this season may for the home denizens have felt like it could be the precursor to a champions’ reception for their team a year down the line.
The post title-winning results of any side can be misleading and, of course, diddly squat was at stake for eight-in-a-row Celtic yesterday.
Yet, there is no mistaking that the ability of Steven Gerrard’s side to dole out two humblings to their bitter rivals in Govan – and against two different managers in Brendan Rodgers and now Neil Lennon – is the surest evidence that the gap between the two teams has become one that credibly could be bridged over the course of a season.
Lennon lamented that his team lacked energy, desire and quality. Basically, everything that Rangers had by the bucketful. The assurance with which the Ibrox side are now capable of outplaying a team that for so long have seemed to be out of reach is entitled to have their supporters smelling blood – and not just of the Fenian variety they sung about in bellowing through their anti-Catholic repertoire.
The gulf in class between the two midfields jumped out at any observers. Glen Kamara and Steven Davis were sleek and smart as they stamped their authority on proceedings.
Scott Arfield, Ryan Kent, and Ryan Jack sent their toiling Celtic counterparts spinning and sinking to their haunches through their industry and incessant forging and forcing.
Such as Scott Brown, Tom Rogic, Callum McGregor have rarely been made to look so ordinary.
The problem for Rangers is that the Celtic hierarchy will hardly have failed to register precisely what is required of them after the real going-over administered by the only club capable of threatening their hegemony.
They did so following the Ibrox side’s Scottish Cup semi-final triumph of 2016 that was presented as a potential watershed. It transpired to be so for Celtic and no-one else when they upped the ante both in a financial and in the football sense in a manner beyond any pretenders by recruiting Rodgers and then allowing him to double the club’s wage bill.
With nine-in-a-row - and the Parkhead faithful’s demand for a record ten - probably resting on how Celtic reshape their playing operation over the summer, the need to make their monetary advantages count will be acutely recognised.
As with the result and performance, that is unlikely to enhance Lennon’s prospects of being upgraded from interim to permanent successor to Rodgers.
Rangers, now with six straight league wins for the first time this season, seem firmly on the rise.
Celtic, meanwhile, appear to have found themselves at a juncture wherein they must rise again to ward off the genuine threat posed by the efforts of Gerrard across the city, a fact recognised by Lennon as he spoke of the extensive team-rebuild required in a brutal post-match assessment.
If nothing else, the days of one-sided championships, and lop-sided results in Scottish football’s most high-profile fixture, look to be over in the immediate term.
It remains to be seen if any other redrawing of the game’s landscape follows on.