THERE were myriad reasons why Rangers, who unfurled the league flag for the first time in 10 years before their cinch Premiership match against Motherwell yesterday amid joyous and emotional scenes at Ibrox, won the Scottish title so convincingly in the 2020/21 season.

The inspired form of first team mainstays like Allan McGregor, James Tavernier Connor Goldson, Borna Barisic, Steven Davis, Glen Kamara, Scott Arfield, Ryan Kent and Alfredo Morelos had an awful lot to do with it.

The difficulties which Celtic, whose bid to make football history by completing 10-In-A-Row started badly and got progressively worse, helped as well.

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Avoiding the sort of Covid-19 problems which afflicted the defending champions was also a significant factor.

Yes, several of their players, including George Edmundson, Jordan Jones, Nathan Patterson and Bongani Zungu, picked up bans and fines after foolish and high-profile breaches of regulations.

Yet, Filip Helander, their Swedish centre half, was the only regular starter to test positive and spend an extended spell out of action as a result.

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The strength and depth that manager Steven Gerrard had in every position in his team, something he had craved since he had been appointed in 2018 and had never had the luxury of, meant there was no tangible drop in performance level. 

Even the absence of Ryan Jack, the Scotland midfielder who had two lengthy spells on the sidelines due to knee injuries, failed to have any significant impact on performance levels.

READ MORE: Scott Wright vows to give Rangers manager Steven Gerrard food for thought in Ryan Kent's absence

There were certainly setbacks to overcome and complications to negotiate during the course of the 10 months. But by and large everything that could go right did so. The planets well and truly aligned and a decade of disappointment, frustration and pain came to an end as result.

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It was a momentous success and everyone involved, fans, staff, directors, coaches and the manager, celebrated appropriately, before kick-off anyway, yesterday.

It is fair to say, however, that things have not gone quite so smoothly for Rangers to date this term.

A raft of key performers have been forced to quarantine amid rising coronavirus infection rates across the country. Speculation and uncertainty has surrounded the futures of several squad members. Helander, Jack and Kent are currently out injured. And those who have been fit and available for selection have lacked the sharpness and swagger of last term.

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That may seem harsh considering that Tavernier and his team mates moved a point clear of Hibernian and Hearts and four in front of Celtic at the top of the Premiership table yesterday.

But very high standards are demanded and expected down Govan way and at the moment, as was witnessed in a 1-1 draw with Motherwell yesterday that brought to an end a 21 game winning run at home in the league, they are not currently being met.  

READ MORE: Steven Gerrard on why the Europa League defeat to Lyon at Ibrox shows his Rangers side has made progress

There are reasons, as has been previously outlined, for the current wobble. Still, the malaise is definite cause for concern among their followers.

Gerrard had next to no money to spend during the summer transfer window. Nnamdi Ofoborh, John Lundstram and Fashion Sakala all arrived on free transfers while Juninho Bacuna joined for a nominal sun.

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Is the lack of investment costing Rangers? Will it ultimately undermine their attempts to retain their title? Time will tell.

But that was certainly the case after the elation of Helicopter Sunday back in 2005. Then manager Alex McLeish still had Thomas Buffel, Barry Ferguson, Nacho Novo, Dado Prso and Fernando Ricksen at his disposal. But bargain buys Olivier Bernard, Jose-Karl Pierre-Fanfan and Julien Rodriguez made little impact. His side finished third in the top flight and ended up trophyless. He moved on. 

Feted French coach Paul Le Guen came in and brought little-known reinforcements like Mhktar N’Diaye, Lionel Letizi, Libor Sionko, Karl Svensson and Filip Sebo with him. He departed in January.  

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Gerrard, like McLeish and Le Guen, still has an abundance of experienced, expensive and talented footballers at his disposal. But as the past has shown even top professionals require assistance and intense competition for a start.

He needs the new acquisitions and possibly even some youngsters to come to the fore and freshen up his starting line-up if he is to build on last term. Much depends on whether they can do so.

Lundstram, the former Sheffield United midfielder, has been lacerated by fans for his underwhelming displays in the middle of the park recent weeks. He was much improved in the 2-0 defeat to Lyon in the Europa League at Ibrox on Thursday night. His showing suggested more is to come.

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Sakala, the Zambia forward who has been brought in from KV Oostende in Belgium, scored his first goal for Rangers yesterday as he made his seventh appearance. Bacuna, the former Huddersfield Town man, also made his debut when he came on in the second-half. They all need to excel going forward.

Calvin Bassey and Nathan Patterson have shown in the past they are not out of their depth, in games both at home and abroad, in the Rangers side despite their youth and lack of senior football. Can they provide the spark that has been missing? Somebody has to.

True character, as the old saying goes, reveals itself in adversity, not when things are going well. It will be interesting to see if Rangers have the personnel and personality to emerge from this rocky patch and land further silverware.

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