Steven Gerrard has admitted Rangers will be counted out of the title race if there is any repeat of their performance in losing to Hearts at Tynecastle on Sunday afternoon.
It was a miserable 100th game in charge of the Ibrox side for a dismayed Gerrard who accused his team of carrying as many as eight ‘passengers’ against their relegation threatened opponents.
Rangers are now five points behind champions Celtic at the top of the table, albeit still with a game in hand, but Gerrard believes their margin for error in pursuit of the Premiership crown has all but disappeared.
“Before the game, Celtic were waiting for us to blink,” said Gerrard. “And we blinked big time. I’m not sure there will be too many blinks from now to the end of the season, so we need to try and avoid that level of performance from now on.
“Otherwise, we might not even be in a title race, never mind competing for the league. I could pick five, six, seven or eight players that I didn’t recognise – who were passengers.
“In a hundred games, I’ve never sat here and said that before. But I need to take responsibility because I pick the team, I pick the squad.
‘Yeah, we’ve got a couple of injuries and suspensions. But it wasn’t too dissimilar, that team, to what has been so good for us away from home in the past five, six or seven games.
“On the evidence [of Sunday's defeat], I’d like to bring eight new players in (before the transfer window shuts). But it doesn’t work like that.
“These players, over the 100 games I’ve been in charge, have more often than not been a delight to work with. They’ve had praise for getting it right, so today we all deserve criticism.
“Right now, it’s a concern and a worry. Because the reason we have been so good away from home is that we have been the total opposite to what we have shown today.
“I look at our performances at Motherwell, Livingston, Hibs and Celtic Park - they were the complete opposite to what I saw today, both with and without the ball.
“We got what we deserved in terms of the outcome of the game. You have to pay Hearts credit - they rushed us off the pitch, they outfought us and outbattled us.
“I don’t think they tore us apart in terms of chance creation. But if you talk about the basics in football and what you have to do to earn the right to win a football match, Hearts were better than us today.”
Rangers also suffered a potentially significant injury blow with midfielder Ryan Jack substituted at half-time because of a calf issue which will be assessed on Monday.