STEVEN GERRARD has left a legacy at Rangers. But does he depart Ibrox as a legend?

Such a conundrum is complicated to define or determine. What can be said for sure, though, is that Gerrard must be regarded as one of Rangers’ most important figures in recent history.

His detractors will point to a record of one trophy win out of nine and completely miss the point. His supporters, meanwhile, will highlight the progress, at all levels, that Rangers made under his stewardship and mourn his loss.

As usual, in both football and in life, the truth lies somewhere in the middle. Gerrard was undoubtedly good for Rangers, but Rangers were good for Gerrard and there is no need for recrimination or bitterness on either side.

Their coming together three-and-a-half years ago had an air of fate about it but the marriage has now ended prematurely. The timing and the situation are not how either wished to part, but circumstances were outwith their respective controls.

Gerrard’s departure to Aston Villa was a fairly swift, decisive process, but his exit from Ibrox felt like it was brewing for some time. Supporters may have been left angry, but they should not be overly surprised at a chain of events that sees Gerrard now preparing for a Premier League fixture with Brighton rather than next Sunday’s semi-final against Hibernian.

Whilst the deals were being done and Gerrard was edging towards the Midlands this week, Rangers fans were going through their own version of the five stages of grief. Now they must look forward rather than back.

First came the denial, the belief that Gerrard would never walk out on the club midway through a title defence to take up a post at a club of a lesser standing. Many used his answer in relation to links with Newcastle United, and his previous statements about his affection for Rangers, as an ultimately forlorn vindication of their stance.

That would turn to anger at the man who they had hailed as a ‘God in Glasgow’ in the aftermath of the 55th title win last term. Once they fell out of love with Gerrard, the relationship was broken beyond repair.

They would ask ‘what if?’ and state ‘if only’ as they sought to understand Gerrard’s reasoning, flitting between blaming their manager for deserting them or holding Rangers to account for putting Gerrard in the position where he felt he had to leave.

As the reality set in, it would prove good to talk. Gerrard was going and the only matter of course now was to come to terms with it as quickly as possible.

Finally, they are at the acceptance stage. Gerrard can be thanked for his efforts and memories can be shared, but it is about the next man in the dugout rather than the one that left so abruptly.

The manner of his departure will understandably be a factor that many cannot overlook, but the move makes sense on several levels for Gerrard. In time, supporters may well forgive.

They will never forget the success that the 41-year-old-brought, though, and nor should they. Gerrard may only have one medal from his Ibrox tenure, but the title last term overshadows everything else he achieved and would always have eclipsed future triumphs.

League flag 55 was more significant, more profound, than any other victory in Rangers’ history and Gerrard should forever be lauded and thanked for his part in delivering it.

Whatever sentiments supporters are feeling today, they should be enveloped by the memories of the afternoons in March and May as 55 was won and celebrated and those moments, of such a powerful concoction of emotions, should be Gerrard’s parting gift.

It would be churlish for those who once held him in such standing to now seek to denigrate his time with Rangers. Fans are right to be frustrated and disappointed at the timing and manner of his decision, but that shouldn’t cloud judgements when assessing the impact that he made in Scottish football and on the continent.

The Premiership win of last term – and the emphatic, dominant manner in which was achieved – will be Gerrard’s legacy at Ibrox. No matter what he wins in the rest of his career, no success will mean as much to so many as the title that completed Rangers’ journey and established them as Scotland’s premier club once again.

Gerrard has left Rangers in a far stronger position than he found it and his work over the years has raised standards, improved processes and given the club back a sense of pride, of belonging, after the most tumultuous period in its history.

Rangers’ reputation in Europe has been restored and the champions can now build from a position of strength rather than going back to the drawing board once again, as was so often the case in recent times.

Legendary status at a club like Rangers can only be bestowed on those who truly earn it and Gerrard’s place in the pantheon of greats is difficult to determine. Such terminology is used too regularly these days, and Rangers’ standards should be such that only their finest managers and players can be separated in such a manner.

Gerrard fully deserves to be classed as a hero, but not as a legend. His reign was ultimately too fleeting for that, and it would only have been by delivering sustained success that he would have earned promotion to be held alongside his most illustrious predecessors.

As he said himself in the aftermath of the title win, it may well be some time before he, his staff and his players truly grasp the enormity of their achievement. He will always have 55, but Gerrard needed 56 and more to be enshrined in Ibrox folklore in that manner.

Those that currently hold a grudge against him will soften their stance in time. As the months and years elapse, perhaps Gerrard will regret the way in which he left and have his own anguish at the fact he never said farewell to a crowd with whom he had a bond that was formed through adversity and the ultimate triumph.

That has now been broken by Gerrard, but it need not sour the memories or diminish the appreciation of what he accomplished and where he took Rangers. Number 55 will be Gerrard’s legacy.