THERE have been unmistakable rumblings and mutterings of discontent coming from the Rangers support over the last week and a bit since the Betfred Cup semi-final defeat to Aberdeen, but I have a simple message for the fans; don’t panic.

The subsequent draw against Kilmarnock on Wednesday night at Ibrox – as disappointing as it was – and an unconvincing performance in the win against St Mirren on Saturday have done little to quieten the critics and the doubters that have been putting their heads above the parapet just a little.

But I would urge every Rangers supporter to keep the faith in Steven Gerrard and get behind him as he tries to take this club back to where it should be.

I played for Rangers for years, so no one has to tell me about the demands of the club. We all want to be winning trophies and competing for the league title, but it is important that the supporters maintain a sense of perspective.

A little over a year ago, our manager was standing in a hedge arguing with punters after one of the worst results in the club’s history, so I’m not having any of the comparisons that are being made to Pedro Caixinha’s time in charge at Ibrox due to Gerrard’s side’s own domestic record thus far.

In Europe, Gerrard’s team has set a new club record after going 11 matches undefeated and have surpassed all expectations just by reaching the Europa League group stages.

Nobody can tell me that what they are watching now isn’t night and day to what they were forced to endure back then.

It isn’t all going to be plain sailing, and there is no sugar-coating the fact that the defeat to Aberdeen is a massive blow. Losing any game at Rangers is a huge disappointment, but when it is a semi-final at the national stadium against a side that you have a real good chance of beating – and probably should have on the strength of the performance – then there will obviously be a bit of a fallout.

That’s fine. Let’s examine what went wrong in that game and in the Kilmarnock game, but let’s not also lose sight of the fact that the club has come such a long way in such a short space of time.

In Gerrard, Rangers have a true leader in the dugout. But he’s not a miracle worker. He can’t wave a magic wand and suddenly turn Rangers from what was verging on a bit of a laughing stock to the best team in the country overnight.

The harsh truth remains right now that Celtic have the best players in the country, and because of the finance they managed to accrue when Rangers were out of the top-flight, they have a massive advantage when it comes to the balance sheet.

They also have a terrific manager in Brendan Rodgers, so Gerrard’s task to compete on all fronts against them is a huge one. But it’s not one that I think is beyond him if he is given the time to build on the excellent work he has already done since coming to Glasgow.

The most important thing now for Rangers is staying on Celtic’s coat-tails going into the next Old Firm game at Ibrox between Christmas and New Year. That has the potential to be a massive, season-shaping game for Rangers if they can stay in touch with their rivals in the next few weeks.

It looks as if Celtic are really clicking into form now after a few hiccups earlier in the season, so while I am prepared to grant Rangers a little grace in this period of rebuilding, it is also important to highlight that they can’t afford too many other slip-ups. If any at all.

They have a tough match against Motherwell this weekend on the back of the trip back from Moscow, but these are the demands that are placed upon you as a Rangers player, and if you have any pretensions of competing at the top, then you have to handle these tests.

For all of the talk of Rangers’ stuttering domestic form to date though, they are only four points behind Celtic and five behind table-toppers Hearts with a game in hand. So, while that may not be ideal, it is hardly cause for talks of a crisis.

They must ensure though that those gaps don’t get any bigger before that showdown with their great rivals heading into the winter break, and if they can stay in touch, what an occasion that will be.

I fully expect them to, and come Christmas time, it may be humble pie instead of mince pie on the menu for a few of the snipers.