On the day he was unveiled as Rangers manager last year, Steven Gerrard described his immediate priority as “getting our house in order”.
While Gerrard has recently experienced the most frustrating and disheartening spell of his tenure, which included the Scottish Cup quarter-final replay defeat at home by Aberdeen, he can generally reflect on having succeeded in meeting the initial task he set himself.
By any fair-minded measure of judgment, Rangers have improved under the former Liverpool captain. In guiding them to the group stage of the Europa League alone, he has contributed significantly to what chairman Dave King refers to as the “normalisation” of Rangers.
But like any other Rangers manager, Gerrard will ultimately succeed or fail on how he fares against Celtic.
Since returning to the top flight in 2016, the Ibrox club have finished 39 points and then 12 points behind Celtic in the table. If Gerrard is to close that gap further at his first attempt, then next weekend’s Old Firm showdown at Celtic Park appears pivotal.
Defeat for Rangers would see them slip 13 points behind the champions. That raises the prospect, statistically at least, of the gap between the clubs widening on Gerrard’s watch.
With his team having failed to build momentum after their 1-0 win over Celtic at Ibrox in December, Gerrard could do with the kudos of leading Rangers to a first win at Parkhead since 2010.