THE overwhelming feeling expressed by Rangers supporters following their heartbreaking Europa League Final defeat, aside from anguish, has been pride. Pride that their team came so close to winning a major European final, particularly given their trials and tribulations over the past decade.

That they lost in the cruellest of circumstances, after Aaron Ramsey’s missed penalty in the shootout ultimately proved decisive, surely makes the pain of defeat sting that little bit more, but also makes their hearts swell that it came down to such fine margins.

Immortality may have eluded this group of Rangers players, but no supporter who lived through this run to Seville will ever forget it, or the glory nights at Ibrox along the way. By any measure, this has been a season to remember.

There is a difference though, as difficult as it may be to consider in the harsh light of the days following this loss, between a memorable season and a successful one.

Now that the Premiership title has been ripped from their grasp, and the Europa League too has slipped through their fingers, it is unthinkable for Rangers and their supporters that they could end this campaign with nothing tangible by way of silverware to show for their efforts.

Aside from a huge number of Celtic supporters licking their lips at the thought of rubbing it into their rivals, the people most pleased to see the Rangers players give every ounce of effort and sweat they had through 120 minutes and penalties in the sweltering Seville heat would have been anyone with a connection to Heart of Midlothian.

Some at Hearts had already been making noises behind the scenes about the confidence within the camp ahead of tomorrow’s Scottish Cup Final at Hampden, and Robbie Neilson and his team will surely now be salivating at the prospect of taking on a group that Giovanni Van Bronckhorst will have to lift off the floor - both physically and mentally - for the game.

The Rangers fans too will have to lift themselves after their own strangely subdued performance in the Ramon Sanchez-Pizjuan Stadium. Perhaps the nerves were too much for some. Maybe it was the three days on the batter beforehand. But there is little doubt that despite having the majority of the stadium, the Rangers support were - surprisingly given how red-hot the atmosphere has been at Ibrox during this run - outshone by their German counterparts.

Anecdotally, I have heard from many Rangers fans who were at the stadium who have reported the heat as a major factor, and worryingly, that access to water for the sweltering supporters was severely limited.

Tales of closed kiosks were widespread, with the only provision seemingly put in place until late in the game being a few individuals handing out cups for fans to fill up with tap water from the toilets. And then share.

Wasn’t it only a few weeks ago we were all wearing masks? There should be no risk to health, either through dehydration or otherwise, in simply going to a game of football. Far less one of the continent’s showpiece occasions.

The stadium always looked an ill fit for the magnitude of the evening, holding only 43,883 spectators, with two clubs who could have sold that many tickets on their own. Now it appears that those ‘fortunate’ enough to gain entry were mistreated at a venue that wasn’t fit for purpose.

It would be remiss then, particularly given the circumstances, not to credit both sets of supporters for their behaviour. Yes, there were fights here and there and drunkenness, hardly unexpected given around 150,000 revellers were present in the city, but the local police were pleased with the conduct of the vast majority of fans, and made only one arrest at the ground. A Frankfurt supporter, incidentally, for assaulting a police officer.

It has to be hoped though that the issues faced by the Rangers fans are brought to the attention of UEFA by the club, and that they actually care enough to take heed of them. I shan’t be holding my breath.

Anyway, back to on-field matters, and a final on Saturday that already looked to be a cracker has now been teed up brilliantly by the exertions of Rangers, which can only have levelled up the playing field.

Rangers are still favourites, in my book, but there is little doubt that what happened in Spain during the week will have taken a huge emotional toll on their players.

They have shown previously this season that they have a capacity to recover quickly. After the extra-time win over Braga, they regrouped to deservedly beat Celtic in the Scottish Cup semi-final. Between the matches against RB Leipzig, a much-changed Rangers side went down to 10 men at Motherwell, and still convincingly came out on top.

There is one major difference this time, of course. They lost. The spring in the step that compensated for the weariness in the bones may be a little harder to drag out of themselves at the national stadium as a result, even in the Scottish Cup Final.

They have to find it though. Such are the demands at a club like Rangers, that a week which tantalisingly promised immortality, may otherwise only amount to failure.