IF you stand still, you go backwards. Rangers were striding ahead but are now playing catch up.

The reign as champions has lasted only a year and is now in its final weeks. Sooner rather than later, the red and blue ribbons will be replaced by green ones as Celtic are crowned as the finest side in the Premiership once again.

That fact will be as surprising to many at Parkhead as at Ibrox. It will be a success that few would have expected at the outset, but one that Ange Postecoglou’s side more than merit for their efforts during his first campaign in charge.

Frankly, it should be a source of embarrassment - never mind anger and huge regret - around the Ibrox boardroom that Rangers were even involved in a title race this term. To actually lose it from such a position of strength and opportunity is shameful.

A lack of investment and wretched recruitment policy has undermined Rangers for some time now and is at the heart of the Ibrox malaise. The failure in the Champions League - one which is on Steven Gerrard - set the tone for the term and Rangers have never recovered, never built any real momentum that marked them out as champions elect.

Rangers look like they rested on their laurels, that they gambled on Celtic being unable to close the gap so quickly and they subsequently failed to refresh a squad that needed a new impetus. Those decisions have backfired spectacularly and for all the mistakes made by those in the dugout and on the park, such a mindset ultimately flows down from the corridors of power.

The inquests began in the aftermath of the derby defeat that sealed Rangers’ fate on Sunday and key personnel across the club find themselves in the firing line. In times such as these, nobody at Ibrox escapes the crosshairs or the unfriendly fire from fans and the positions of many will come under increased scrutiny in the coming weeks as Rangers regroup for an overhaul of the squad under the guidance of sporting director Ross Wilson.

His track record deserves the spotlight treatment. So does the leadership of chairman Douglas Park, the actions of his directors and executives and the performance of the man that was chosen to replace Gerrard as boss in November.

The Europa League - which continues in Braga this evening - remains a dream for Giovanni van Bronckhorst. The Scottish Cup has taken on huge significance, though, as he attempts to salvage something from the campaign and deny Celtic the domestic clean sweep that should have been in Rangers’ sights before a ball was kicked.

The winning of 55 marked the end of an era. It should also have been the beginning of a new one, a time where Rangers could add to their roll of honour whilst continuing to enhance their reputation on the European stage.

Everything fell into place for Rangers last term as Celtic imploded on and off the park. Rather than learn from the mistakes of their Old Firm counterparts, they have followed them down a familiar road of failure and will now count the cost - which starts with a £40million deficit to a Celtic side that are Champions League bound - not just next season but in the coming years.

It is unfathomable just how much of a mess Rangers have made of this season. It has been an abject title defence.

To oversee a 12-point swing in as many games raises valid questions over the position of manager Van Bronckhorst and the players who were so lavishly praised on the back of their first title have shown they don’t have the mentality to stake their claim to be held up amongst the finest sides of yesteryear.

Legendary status is only bestowed on those who are worthy at Ibrox. It is earned by sustained success, not singular moments of triumph, no matter how cherished, and requires character to match ability.

Somewhere along the line, too many at Ibrox forgot about those prerequisites. Maybe they just didn’t understand them in the first place and 55 was seen as the peak rather than the base camp.

Rangers have lost their way this season in so many areas - from commercial to communications, from boardroom to dressing room - and are paying the price for a lack of planning, of vision and, ultimately, of talent. A rebuild is required on and off the park, but supporters must now be asking if those that will lead it are the right men to do so.

The foundations were in place at Ibrox. It has all come crumbling down, though, and Rangers are back at the drawing board once again, scribbling out a blueprint to try and overcome an adversary that they should have been miles clear of had the job been done properly when the chance arose.

If Van Bronckhorst cannot prevent Celtic moving to within 90 minutes of a Treble then the pressure will really build on a handful of key figures at all levels. Legacies and positions are on the line between now and the end of the campaign.

The mistakes made cannot be taken back or rectified. The damage has been done and has the potential to strangle the club for years to come as Rangers head into a defining summer knowing that every call, every strategy and every signing has to be spot on.

It comes down to whether those that devise the ideas and those that will implement them can be trusted, whether they have the nous and the credentials to truly lead and drive Rangers forward.

Their passion for the club, and in some cases their investment track record, cannot be doubted, but that doesn’t buy them the right to run Rangers, especially when the evidence is now stacking up against them in such an alarming manner.

Rangers need to stride forward once again. If they stand still this time, they will be left behind for many years to come.