JIMMY Nicholl knows as well as anyone just how bad a situation Rangers were in last season. He found himself at the eye of the storm.

So the Northern Irishman can understand better than most what progress looks like at Ibrox as Steven Gerrard looks to lead Rangers into calmer waters and to success.

As assistant manager to Graeme Murty, Nicholl suffered the ignominy of two embarrassing Old Firm defeats as Rangers lost in the Scottish Cup at Hampden and watched Celtic party when seven-in-a-row was won.

When Gerrard’s side moved level on points at the top of the table before the winter break, Nicholl thought this was their chance, their moment, to end the years of hurt in the league.

It wasn’t to be. Yet there are positives to be taken from an ultimately unsuccessful campaign for Rangers.

Evening Times:

READ MORE: Derek Johnstone: I understand Rangers fans' fury - but Kilmarnock are entitled to cut ticket allocation

“When they beat Celtic 1-0 on December 29th that was it, everyone got wrapped up and thought this was it, it would be closer this year,” Nicholl, speaking at the launch of ‘Rangers - The Ulster Connection’ at Ibrox said.”It didn’t happen, too many draws so you have to assess that and ask what they did and didn’t do in those games, what players were used and look at all these things.

“There has been inconsistency with too many draws but Steven is a football man and upstairs will help him. It has been an eye opener for him at times. You say ‘I’ll get closer, I’ll get closer’ and then you have to say ‘hold on’ because there are other things going on around the scene you have to take on board and it’s more difficult than you realise.

“He’ll take everything on board and be a lot better for it. That year’s experience? Walter Smith once told me it’s not about a lack of experience, it’s about making the right decisions.

“Walter told me he made the same mistakes at 55 that he did at 35 and the same at 65 as 45.

“It’s about making right decisions and if you make more right decisions than wrong ones you’ll win things and achieve things in football.

“It’s about your team, your shape and your personnel.

“I was involved in those games [last season], including the semi-final.

Evening Times:

READ MORE: Craig Levein dismisses John Souttar link to Rangers as 'usual crap'

“That was the one time I was out of my seat and I was thinking this was it, if we were going to get closer this was the one game that would have defined the moment, that Rangers players decided they would get closer and it didn’t happen.”

Gerrard will end his first campaign as manager with no silverware to show for his efforts but the lessons learned will be invaluable at Ibrox.

He retains the backing of supporters and the Light Blues board will reaffirm their commitment by providing funds for the next stage of the rebuilding job this summer.

Nicholl said: “In difficult situations he handles it well and things he might have said in August and September he will not be saying in April and May. He has learned over the season.

“You get wrapped up in the thing but he’s level headed. I’m sure there are a couple of things he wishes he hadn’t said and he’ll look back and be better for it next year. No progress? There is progress all right, with things going on behind the scenes.

“That’s what I hope Steven does in the summer.... address whatever you think is wrong or needed and get the backing from the board.

Evening Times:

READ MORE: Motherwell chief defends decision not to offer long-term contract to Rangers target

“It’s about quality. They say we need so-and-so and someone who knows what it is all about. What does that mean - you’ve got to know what it’s like to be at Rangers - if you can’t pass a ball from here to there.

“It doesn’t matter if you’re steeped in Rangers or not, you’ve got to have quality. You certainly have to have just as much quality as Celtic.”

One player that does have that ability, and the mentality, to help Rangers compete is midfielder Steven Davis. His impact has been belated, but it could now prove to be prolonged in his second Ibrox stint.

Nicholl said: “He was outstanding for two games recently with Northern Ireland, he’s full of enthusiasm, he was outstanding when he had barely kicked a ball here.

“He’s a naturally fit boy. People say he’s mild mannered. he’s not. He’s not. He may not say too much but there’s a determination in him out on the park to win a game of football.

“You don’t remain captain of Southampton under five or six different managers if you’re not doing something right and contributing on the park that everyone gives you respect. He’ll be disappointed he hasn’t played more often, but he’ll be hoping to play a lot more between now and the end of season and next year he will be a benefit to the club.”