Chris Jack: Rangers can welcome the chase after Old Firm power shift

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THE first card is set to tumble. The rest will then fall into place for Rangers.

Of all the headlines that Dave King made during his chairmanship at Ibrox, his famous ‘pack of cards’ line stands out more than most. It has also stood the test of time.

It was May 2018. Rangers had just appointed Steven Gerrard as manager and Celtic, having secured a seventh successive Premiership title, were on the brink of winning what was then an unprecedented double Treble.

For those that scoffed at King’s comments, those who disparaged the man rather than listened to the message, life is very different these days.

The last two seasons have been painful for Rangers as the progress that Gerrard has made and the work that he has done has gone unrewarded while Neil Lennon doubled the silverware and Treble counts.

But Rangers are now ready to push that first card over as they close in on the Premiership title this term.

The Old Firm divide has closed bit by bit and the balance of power will now shift from Parkhead to Ibrox as King’s predictions come true.

“We appoint a manager who can win games, with more resources, and we take one league title way from Celtic,” King said two-and-a-half years ago. “We only need one league title, we don’t need two or three.

“We need one. Once we take one away, it’s like a pack of cards. Celtic’s cost structure is more like we were ten years ago. We needed Champions League football, and if we went into the Europa League we were in trouble because the cost structure was so high.

“Take that away for one season and it will change the numbers on the Celtic side very quickly. Celtic have the comfort levels we once had of knowing we were going to get Champions League money.

“We have to take that away from them and hopefully we have started that process last Friday with the appointment of Steven Gerrard.”

There seems to be a state of shock amongst the Celtic support these days. Having had it all their own way for so long, they cannot handle the fact that ‘the ten’ won’t be won.

The sense of entitlement has been remarkable in recent times but that is what happens when titles are delivered via an email from Hampden. Even in recent days, there has been a stench of arrogance in the aftermath of the Covid failures that threaten Scottish football.

For years they trumpeted ten-in-a-row as if it was a right, a fait accompli. 
But they failed to recognise that a challenge would arrive from the other side of the city. 

Soon, Celtic inexplicably lost their minds as fans rioted in the car park and the board signed off on the ill-fated and ill-judged trip to Dubai. 

The collapse has been astonishing. While Celtic have imploded spectacularly, Gerrard’s side have been relentless and ruthless and shown the character and qualities that their Old Firm foes possessed for so long.

Some fans will console themselves with the cries of ‘Sevco’ and insist that the league flag that will fly above Ibrox next season is the first that Rangers have won. If that helps you sleep at night, then you go ahead, Bhoys.

But they should really look closer to home for the reasons why their dreams of ten have turned into a nightmare.

The failure to recognise Rangers as a credible force has been Celtic’s undoing. They saw the Gers toil in the lower leagues and burn millions on dud managers and duff players and assumed that was the new normal in Scottish football.

In reality, it has taken Rangers two seasons of getting their act together to go from potential challengers to likely champions as Gerrard has restored pride and standards.

It has never been about stopping Celtic. The title means everything to Rangers for their own sake and winning number 55 is more important than denying ten-in-a-row.

There is a clear process in the way in which Gerrard and his staff work and that Rangers operate, while the squad assembled is once again the best in Scotland thanks to proper scouting and recruitment blueprints.

Fans once feared for the future of their club, but now they can have belief in it.

The rebuilding process took too long at Ibrox as Rangers were condemned to a second season in the Championship and spent the first few years back in the Premiership throwing good money after bad.

It was easy for Celtic to take the mickey when putting five by teams managed by Mark Warburton, Pedro Caixinha or Graeme Murty. The days of wrapping scarves round the posts at Ibrox and acting the idiot with a police hat are gone.

Given the head start that Celtic had over Rangers, they really should have been out of sight for years to come but it has taken just one proper, sustained challenge for the Parkhead empire to crumble and collapse and Rangers are well in the ascendancy right now.

There is a modern, forward-thinking, professional feel around Rangers these days and Gerrard has been the catalyst for change. 

There is a modern, forward-thinking, professional feel around Rangers these days and Gerrard has been the catalyst for change.

It has been part evolution and part revolution and, on and off the field, Rangers are now close to where they should always be as they prepare for their crowing moment this season.

It is their turn to toast success and the long-awaited 55th league flag will be transformative as Rangers get set to head into their 150th year as champions.

This Premiership win is unlikely to herald in a period of monopolised dominance at Ibrox, but it will bring an end to the golden era where everything came just too easy for Celtic.

It hasn’t even taken one title confirmation for King to be proven right. Once again, Rangers will welcome the chase.

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