There was an unusual feeling of optimism in the Hampden air as Rangers prepared to face Celtic in the Scottish Cup semi-final in Glasgow’s southside.

The Gers, preparing for their last hurrah this season, needed to stop their Old Firm rivals to prevent a fifth Parkhead treble in seven seasons and land a necessary blow heading into the new campaign.

Rangers v Celtic: Scottish Cup Semi Final
Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images

This flailing Ibrox squad, perennial bottle merchants might they be, have often shown enough resolve to muster a performance and heading into the game there was a feeling this probably would be the case.

But despite showing flickers of promise, with some standout performances, the Rangers squad transpired to shoot themselves in the foot, hand Celtic their Scottish Cup chance and leave the club’s world-beating trophy record hanging by a thread. It’s already all but surrendered the club’s previously record-breaking treble haul.

This squad, and the outgoing Rangers directorate, have got blood on their hands.

Rangers squad tie Celtic ribbons on Scottish Cup

The story of the club’s 1-0 Scottish Cup defeat to Celtic is in many ways a microcosm of the last few seasons at Rangers.

With the trust put in the hands of players and leaders who have – but for a few flickers – let us down repeatedly over the last five years, we once again underestimated the ruthlessness of a Celtic team who’ve spent heavily and box clever.

There is not too much between the two teams, and that was evident at Hampden, but what gap there is is now enough to see one side lift three trophies, and destroy the legacies of another.

Fine margins will be the difference in the Old Firm going forward, and by proxy the Scottish game, as the financial gap between the top two and the rest grows and the five substitution rule stands to blow all other challengers out of the water.

It is on Rangers to stand up and be counted in the face of Celtic’s well-drilled, well-managed resources and once again the club’s players were found wanting.

Just as we handed Celtic the chance to quickly reaffirm their Scottish footballing dominance by sleeping in the transfer market and watching them unload their pockets, we also handed them the Scottish Cup on a plate.

Daizen Maeda had to be quick on to the ball as we slept expecting a whistle, and Jota had to be smart to nick in and head the eventual winner, but my God there is no other goal which could be as symbolic of a season, regime and squad which may have well wrapped cute little green and white bowties around every trophy in Scotland.

Talk about making it easy for them.

Celtic to snatch long-held Rangers world treble record

This a Rangers team who, whilst quite clearly close to Celtic in terms of XI v XI, do not have the cutting edge, quality, or concentration to compete. The likes of Cameron Carter Vickers, Jota and Kyogo Furuhashi are the difference between the two teams. They’re also over £20m worth of Parkhead investment.

In contrast, Ryan Kent and Alfredo Morelos should’ve been out the door years ago, their attacking record v Celtic a continuing embarrassment, yet into the hands of these two wantaway has-beens were our fortunes put.

We also had Fashion Sakala (dear God), Rabbi Matondo (seriously) and Ianis Hagi (who!?) from the bench. How naive we were. It’s clear Michael Beale will need to cut the cord with the no-hopers or he’ll be binned by Christmas.

Celtic will now hold the record for world football’s most trebles, making it a world-record eight against the Ibrox club’s seven, and when they return to Hampden they’ll make it 115 trophies against our 117.

Whilst there’s no way to tell if this wouldn’t have been the case anyway, Rangers’ suicidal mismanagement on and off the park has not only gift-wrapped Celtic their Scottish footballing dominance, but it could be about to surrender a key part of the club’s legacy too.

Are we still feeling optimistic, Rangers fans?

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