ROSS Wilson, the director of football operations at Southampton, insisted last night that rebuffing the chance to become director of football at Rangers was one of the 'most difficult decisions of his career' - but said he is heartened to see the progress currently being made at the Ibrox side by Steven Gerrard and Mark Allen.

Wilson, who rose through the ranks at Falkirk, Watford and Huddersfield, opted to stay at St Mary's last March prior to the appointment of Pedro Caixinha, a decision which led to the appointment of Allen from Manchester City. After a turbulent 2017-18 season, the early signs of the Gerrard era are far more positive. Under Gerrard, whose recruitment was overseen by Allan, he Ibrox side have taken four points from their first six in the Ladbrokes Premiership and travel to Maribor in midweek with a 3-1 lead to protect in a Europa League third qualifying round tie.

“It was one of the most difficult decisions of my career not to take that job at that particular time,” recalled Wilson. “It is a club which has so much history, such high standards and such an attraction to it, because of the size of opportunity which a club like that presents you with.

“There are a lot of people inside Rangers who I would consider friends of mine, who I keep in touch with and keep on top of how things are going," he added. "I am delighted to see how well things are going at the moment, they are playing with pride, there is a lot of excitement and the fans are turning up in huge numbers to support the club and the investment they have made. It is a hugely exciting time for Rangers and as a Scotsman more than anything else I make sure to keep an eye on it.

"There are some excellent operators there, whether it is the chairman Dave King right through Stewart Robertson, Andrew Dickson and Mark Allen, who is doing a great job there since coming up from Manchester City."

Another man who Wilson is tipping for great things at Rangers is Scott Arfield – because he embodies the same kind of work ethic and big club mentality as his manager. Arfield, who joined on a free transfer from Burnley, worked with Wilson worked with at Falkirk and Huddersfield. In addition to the midfielder’s qualities on the field, Wilson feels both he and Gerrard have the gravitas to handle everything that working at a club the size of Rangers can throw at him.

“I’ve known Scotty a long time,” said Wilson. “The two of us went to Falkirk on the same day and have been great mates ever since. We popped up again together at Huddersfield during our time there, we lived just next to each other and we are still in touch.

“He is a magnificent lad who worked incredibly hard at the Falkirk academy to get into Falkirk team and play as many games as he had,” Wilson added. “He was a huge success for us, playing in cup finals and the like, he was brilliant for us in that respect. But having worked ever so hard to get there he kept doing the same things in England.

“It didn’t always work out for him at Huddersfield - with different managers, before and during my time. But both Brian Rice and myself both recommended Scott to Sean Dyche at Watford, I remember speaking about how good a character he was.”

Having graced the top division - grabbing notable goals against the likes of Chelsea and Liverpool - Arfield returns to Scottish football aged 29 but Wilson knows that he has no intention of resting his laurels.

“Some people might say he will stroll Scottish football but Scott just isn’t that type,” said Wilson. “No matter where he is, he will work ever so hard and however well he does will be determined by that. That is just the type of boy he is.

“There is a danger that we talk down our game at times,” he added. “It is a tough league up in Scotland. I watched the Aberdeen Burnley match and it was a tough, tough game. You have got to earn everything you get up there.

“Scotty is the kind of character that can handle the size of club Rangers are, it won’t faze him at all. Clearly the qualities he has got from his time at Falkirk to Huddersfield and a wonderful spell at Burnley, all of that can only be good for Rangers. You can be as good a player as you like if you can’t handle a club the size of Rangers and everything that comes with it. But there is no doubt that Scotty can handle that. With his character, his temperament, his professionalism, and the family he has around him, there is nothing a guy like Scotty won’t be able to handle.”

Wilson hasn’t looked back since declining the chance to join the Ibrox club this summer, even if he agonised over the decision. If the 2017-18 season was a turbulent one for the Dave King project at Rangers with Pedro Caixinha and Graeme Murty both enduring difficult periods in charge, the early days of the Gerrard era promise better.

“Steven Gerrard has obviously had a big impact since his appointment, he has proven what an exciting young manager he is as well," said Wilson. “One of the biggest things at Rangers I think is the fact you have got to be able to handle the size and stature of the club. There are not many clubs of that stature out there but in Scotland we have obviously got two of them – Celtic and Rangers, which are massive institutions supported all over the world.

“With Steven’s exceptional playing career, before he even became a manager, you’d imagine the size, and stature of the club is something that wouldn’t faze him at all. Before you even look at anything else, that is one of the key credentials to be a manager of a club like that, whether it is Rangers or another of these other huge clubs.”