MARK WARBURTON wants to be judged in May. Dave King will give him a helping hand in January.

It is at the end of the campaign where Rangers, at every level from the boardroom to the changing room, will take stock. It will be the end of their first season back in the Premiership and the task ahead will be clear.

With their dreams of another top flight crown seemingly over, the Gers have now set their sights on finishing best of the rest this term.

Victory over Partick Thistle this weekend would move Warburton’s side up to second spot but Celtic remain some way in the distance.

There are many components Rangers require before they can look to overhaul their Old Firm rivals and the most significant commodity will be forthcoming once again as King prepares to sanction more Ibrox arrivals.

“He does have [a budget for January] – the view we have taken with Mark is that he must continue to look at his squad,” he said.

“I think he will admit certainly the summer transfer spending wasn’t as successful as it was the previous season.

“I know the standard is higher, but some of the players he has brought in – Joey Barton being a great example, he tied up a lot of wages but he didn’t perform for the manager.

“The manager then has to recycle that, and I think he has to keep looking, see what players are working in his squad, see what ones he may want to move on and which ones he might want to bring in. So I would expect some activity in January.

“Oh yes [there was enough investment in the summer], but if you look at the level of investment we have made on some of the players – Joey Barton who, for different reasons, didn’t make much of a contribution and tied up a big part of our budget, and Niko Kranjcar who is injured.

“So some of our players who Mark has brought in to give that balance of youth and experience haven’t worked out for various reasons.”

The acquisition of the likes of Barton and Kranjcar raised expectation levels before a ball was kicked this term but the Premiership reality is far different from the dream.

It has been a lacklustre start to the campaign from Warburton’s side and improvement is needed if the Gers are to fend off Aberdeen and Hearts in the battle to be best of the rest.

Asked if the team were where he had expected them to be at this stage, chairman King said: “On a specific basis, no, but I see in a certain sense, yes, as squad-wise, Mark has a team that could be sitting in a strong second place had the Aberdeen game gone the other way.

“Given he has done that with, I don’t want to say squad players, but he certainly hasn’t had key resources available.

“I would have liked us to be a strong second at this point in time whereas we are still fighting for second place, but that’s me looking at the longer point of view.

“From a squad point of view I think the work Mark has done with the squad and the work he will do in the January transfer window; I think we are about where we should be.

“The clubs that have a bigger budget should have a better quality of players, and Celtic have had a bigger budget.

“I did expect us to me more competitive, and maybe that’s just the artificial euphoria of the semi-final (against Celtic) last year which gave us a gloss where maybe we felt we were a little bit closer than we really were.

“I think that gap that truly does exist is more apparent this season, and it shows the gap we must bridge to be truly competitive against Celtic.”

The arrival of further reinforcements in January would give Rangers a better chance of finishing their first campaign back in the top flight in second spot.

That would earn the Light Blues a shot at the Europa League next term and be a welcome boost on and off the park as the rebuilding job continues.

And chairman King believes that has to be the aim for Warburton’s side in the coming months as they look to recover from a sluggish start to the season.

“This time next year, I would like us to be in Europe,” he told RangersTV. “It is important that we finish the league strongly, and I think we can do.

“If you look at the level of resources that are available to the manager, a lot of the money he’s invested into the playing squad hasn’t been playing for him because of injury and various other reasons.

“Yet, the team has done quite well. I’m optimistic on the football side we will finish the season strongly and get into Europe.

“That then allows us to invest again in the club to compete in Europe. Hopefully, if we look a year down the road and I keep on using the term a ‘recognisable Rangers,’ – it will only be truly recognisable once we are back in Europe.”