Rangers captain Lee Wallace has urged his team-mates to turn the agony they experienced at Celtic Park on Saturday into a driving force for improvement in the coming weeks and months.
The Ibrox club’s ambition to deliver a credible title challenge in their first season back in the top flight was made to appear risible as they were humbled 5-1 by reigning champions Celtic in the first Old Firm showdown of the season.
With away fixtures at Aberdeen and Hearts on their schedule over the next few weeks, Rangers face a significant challenge to avoid rapidly falling off the impressive early pace being set by Brendan Rodgers’ side.
But Wallace remains defiant in his belief Rangers manager Mark Warburton can quickly turn around the form of his team.
“We never want to feel the pain we felt on Saturday ever again,” said Wallace. “We have to use that as motivation to get ourselves going, to quickly move on and be better for it.
“We are disappointed, frustrated and hurt by the defeat. There is heartache in our dressing room, I’m not denying that.
“But while all these things were mentioned in the long chat we had after the match, one thing I said is that now, more than ever, we have to stick together.
“We are obviously going to be in for some criticism this week, but it is about how we deal with it as players – how brave we are. We have to learn from it, use it as motivation and move on from it. While we are using all these emotional words about being down, we have to quickly get back to what we do.
“That means coming in on Monday and working hard to make sure we get back to winning ways.
“There is gap at the top of the league now and we know the gap between the two clubs could be greater if Celtic’s game in hand is won.
“But it is still so early on in the season that we are not going to read too much into it. While we are aware of the gap, there is a lot of football to be played. There is time for us to turn this round and get ourselves back to winning ways.
“I believe in the group of players we have and I believe in the manager. We are not going to let this disappointment and this type of result change that.
“We know that we are still a way off where we need to be. That has been spoken about after a couple of the early league games. We are not kidding ourselves on when we say we still have to get to the levels we got to last year.
“That has been the biggest disappointment for me. But I believe we will get there. I have got that belief in my manager, the staff and the players.
“While I have got that belief, we need to quickly show it. The games at Pittodrie and Tynecastle which are coming up over the next few weeks are going to be challenging games. We know that and we have to be ready for it.
“There have been spells in some of our games, against Dundee and Kilmarnock, when we have hit our best levels. But spells aren’t good enough for us.
“At the tail end of last season, after the Scottish Cup semi-final win against Celtic, we did tail off. We know that. We haven’t got that back yet, which is the real disappointment. But we are working so hard to get there, working so hard to get that swagger back, that confidence.
“We are ready for any pressures, any criticism, any scrutiny we are going to get after Saturday’s defeat. We are going to have to challenges ourselves, be brave and be better for it.”
Former Rangers manager Ally McCoist had predicted in advance of Saturday’s match that it could take three years before the Ibrox club would be capable of posing a serious title challenge to Celtic. Wallace, who was signed by McCoist in 2011, politely disagrees.
“I have to respect my old manager but he is much more inclined to make those comments than I am,” said the 29-year-old.
“I saw all the comments from the legends of both clubs in the build-up. Of course, you have to listen and you have to respect that, albeit that we want to challenge a lot sooner than that.
“There is no doubt about that. Our manager just now will certainly share the belief that we want to do it a lot sooner than that.”