IT hasn’t been a perfect ten for Steven Gerrard. His first run of games as Rangers manager could barely have gone any better, however.

Friendly wins over Bury and Wigan were a means to an end but the victories against Shkupi, Osijek and Maribor have seen his side surpass the expectations of many supporters and taken them to the Europa League play-off round.

Domestically, the two points dropped at Aberdeen will still sting but the Premiership campaign was quickly put back on track by seeing off St Mirren.

Now, Gerrard is preparing to enter a third competition as Rangers get ready to face Kilmarnock in the Betfred Cup tomorrow afternoon.

The 38-year-old has experienced the frantic and the fraught in recent weeks but there is a pride and satisfaction at the progress that has been made in such a short space of time.

“To be honest with you, I didn’t really focus on the Europa League run,” Gerrard said. “For me, the focus was on pre-season and trying to connect everyone at the club. It felt a bit fragile and split when I walked in.

“Looking in from afar, I knew there was going to be a lot of changes in terms of personnel and staff in the playing squad.

“The main challenge for me and the staff was just trying to connect everyone, bringing in togetherness and a team spirit and then just focusing on each game as it comes.

“The most important thing was the togetherness, obviously the new players settling in quickly and the existing players buying into what we were trying to do.

“That gave me confidence that we could win football matches. We had to take in a lot of information and also play with different styles and different game plans.

“To be fair to the players, they are the ones who have maybe exceeded my expectations.

“But with the quality we have got within the squad – and hopefully we can add to it – it is no surprise we have been winning football matches.”

The changes that Gerrard has made on and off the park this summer have transformed Rangers’ fortunes and raised excitement and expectation levels amongst supporters.

The aggregate win over Maribor was notable not just for the result, but also the manner in which was achieved in the Stadion Ljudski on Thursday night.

This may still be a side in its infancy, but a spirit has already been formed as the foundations have been laid at Ibrox.

“I’ve got a good staff that’s helped me connect everyone,” Gerrard said. “We try and create an environment that’s enjoyable for everyone.

“Whatever work you are in you have to come with a spring in your step and enjoy it.

“Very early on we made it clear what standards were expected at this football club.

“All the players realised that, they knew they had under achieved and that there had been a lot of criticism of them and the club.

“When I came in the players were keen to raise the bar and those standards. They have all done that.

“It was important we made changes and we brought in the staff to surround these players and help them perform in every single game. I am delighted with my staff and players so far.”

Having overcome another hurdle in Slovenia on Thursday night, Rangers are now preparing for a far different challenge at Rugby Park.

A trip to Kilmarnock is the first step on what Gerrard hopes will be a road to Hampden and Betfred Cup success.

The turnaround time is short and the schedule far from ideal but the situation won't faze Gerrard and his players.

He said: “I think you can see quite clearly what I have been doing with team selections and how I have been trying to manage the squad.

“I have always made it clear it is not just about 13 or 14 players. We have used a lot of bodies to try and off-load certain individuals, to try and keep energy in the team, to try and avoid us playing fatigued as a group.

“It’s why I want to add one or two more bodies to it, because of the schedule and how thick and fast the games are coming.

“We are hoping we have got enough. It goes back to what I emphasised at the beginning about fitness and how well these players have to look after themselves.

“They have to do every single thing right on a daily basis when you are playing on a Thursday and a Sunday. I have experienced it myself. It’s a tough schedule.

“But we are doing our best to share the load and the minutes to try and keep a healthy and energetic team.”

The 11 players that Gerrard has brought on board have given Rangers a new look this term but there is also a fresh mentality from recent seasons.

The targets will always remain the same, however. No matter who wears the shirts or the suits, silverware must be sought.

“That will be my team talk on Sunday,” Gerrard said. “If you sign for Rangers you are signing up to the expectation to stay in competitions as long as you can and compete.

“Sunday is a fantastic chance to get closer to where we want to get to.

“We are four games away, three from a final. That excites me as a manager. The players are well aware of the opportunity on Sunday and they have to go out and grab it.

“Yeah [it is welcome to Scotland]. And welcome to management. But it’s what I want and it’s what I like and what I thrive on. I love being around big games.

“I love an opportunity and a challenge. This is happening to the players every three or four days at the moment, they should love it.

“For me, I need to just try to get them a little bit of help and support and try to add a couple of numbers to it so we can try to keep churning out energetic performances and keep trying to build on the momentum that we’ve got at the moment.”