For the first time Steven Gerrard came close to admitting what the rest of the Scottish game has suspected to be true since the turn of the year.

That there really will be no stopping Rangers. Not this time.

The crowning moment could be as close as five days away so long as his team can fire out another six points from games against Livingston tonight and St Mirren on Saturday.

That would leave Celtic just one more slip-up away from the end of a decade at dominance by the time they run out at Tannadice on Sunday.

Up until now Gerrard has refused to get ahead of himself. Having felt the ground shift from beneath his feet at a vital moment once before, the former Liverpool man allows himself to take nothing for granted.

And yet even he can’t ignore the blindingly obvious any longer, no matter how hard he tries to resist it.

Steven Gerrard
Steven Gerrard

“We have to stay focused and stay concentrated because nothing is done or achieved. We want to get over the line as quick as we can and the only way to do that is to respect Livingston,” was how he put it yesterday as he finalised preparations for a trip to west Lothian’s Spaghetti-had.

With the Lions still licking their wounds after Sunday’s cup final heart-break at Hampden, Gerrard will proceed across the M8 with the usual caution and immaculate professionalism.

And yet there is no denying, the whiff of blood is now filling his nostrils.

He went on: “March presents the opportunity to get over the line in terms of the league. We want to go and grab that as quick as we can. We don’t want to wait. We don’t want to stumble. We want to go and win this league and that starts tomorrow at Livingston.”

This then is the moment for Gerrard and Rangers to go in for the kill.

And the manager is urging his men to attack the big moment with all the same ruthlessness they have relied upon since the hunt began back in August.

He said: “It’s right to say we have some wonderful opportunities in front of us in terms of what March is going to present. We want to go and grab it and capitalise on it. And the only way to do that is to find performances and that’s what we need to focus on.

“Because of how last season finished and how the previous ones have gone - every month has been extremely important. Everyone thinks March is going to be the pivotal month but we had to start the season ever so strong, then we had to build on that.

“Then everyone was telling me we had to make sure we had a real positive Christmas period because of the amount of games. Then, all of a sudden, January was the key month because we had Aberdeen away, Hibs away and the Old Firm. So it was almost like January was the biggest month of all months.

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“Then we came through January and all of a sudden February was important. And now we’re in March.

“So every month has been important but we’ve completed them all because we’ve been consistent, we’ve been hungry and we’ve got the right results.”

Another opportunity to gorge on the success of this season will soon follow with two games against Slavia Prague now between Rangers and a place in the Europa League quarter-finals. It’s no wonder then that Gerrard cannot help but lick his lips at what may still may be to come.

He said: “In terms of the Europa League, we’ll be patient and wait for that come around but, again, we are really excited for them two games and we believe we have a decent chance to improve on last season’s journey if we can find the level of performances that we’ve just had against Antwerp.

“But we know Slavia will be a bigger challenge because they are in the last 16 as well and to get to that level you have to be a good team.

Slavia Prague celebrate beating Leicester

“I can’t pay the players any more credit because from day one they’ve all been in the zone, they’ve been focused, they’ve all sacrificed a lot and their application has been spot on. The level of training and the intensity of training has come out in the games and that’s certainly helped us to get to this point.

“I don’t see any nerves. I don’t see anyone feeling tense in training. And if you look at our last performances they’ve been at a really high level and I want to see that from now until the end of the season.

“This is a fantastic time to be at Rangers. The excitement levels are high, we’ve got so much on the horizon to be excited about. But nothing has been achieved as of yet so we’ve got to go and grab it. The only way to do that is to find performances that are good enough.

“We’ve got to try to enjoy it, we’ve got to try to savour it, but we’ve got to go and achieve it. It’s close - it’s getting closer - and you can feel it.

“I want the players to enjoy this and be excited by it but at the same time keep the focus and concentration they’ve had since the first day of the season. If we do then I’m sure we can go and achieve it.

“But we need to try to enjoy it because that’s what we’re all here for - to be part of a big club and to try to achieve success - so I want the players to really enjoy this moment.”

And yet, as the sense of anticipation builds, it is tinged with regret. Gerrard did not plan for this crescendo to come about in silence and behind closed doors.

He said: “I feel for the supporters because they are not here to share this and enjoy it in terms of being close up and being with us.

“We’ve tried to make them proud since the first day of the season and the players have done an incredible job. But once this is done, trust me, there will be no one happier and prouder than myself because I don’t think we’ll realise the size of the achievement until it’s done.”