Philippe Clement has to make Rangers players believable again amid fans’ doubts and Brendan’s bait – Keith Jackson

It's difficult to decipher exactly what went on at Ibrox on Sunday amid all the ferocious chaos of Rangers’ win over Kilmarnock.

Was this VAR-riddled victory over 10 men nothing more than a token gesture before, ultimately, the league title is conceded behind enemy lines at Celtic Park? Because there were moments when it did feel a bit like it. Or, instead, was this spirited four goal comeback actually a sign that they’re not ready to roll over for their rivals just yet? Because there were moments when it might have been that too.

The true answer will only reveal itself when the dust has settled across the city on Saturday afternoon but, for the time being, the head scratching will have to continue unabated because it’s impossible to know with any certainty if Philippe Clement’s players deserve to be taken as serious contenders. Or not. Those doubts have been hanging over them ever since they wobbled so spectacularly at the most inappropriate of moments, when the opportunity was there for them to hit the front and open up a gap in this season’s dash to the line.

And on Sunday, as they battled back from the brink of another catastrophic capitulation, even their own fans didn’t appear to be completely convinced.

They started heading for the subway in dribs and drabs with more than 10 minutes still on the clock and at a time when their team needed to be pushed and forcibly encouraged into dredging up one last superhuman effort in the hope of running up a more emphatic winning margin.

If they truly believe in the ability or the desire of this team to drag itself back to the top of the Premiership pile in the nick of time, then they wouldn’t have been trying to beat the traffic.

On the contrary, they would have been hanging around and urging them forward in the pursuit of the goals which will be required to take them there. Because, even if Clement can find a way of defeating the champions on their own pitch, then the two of them will stagger on into the final week of the campaign separated only by goal difference.

As things stand, a five goal swing will be required so if Rangers had been a bit more ruthless against a physically exhausted Kilmarnock side then they might have sent out a resounding message to the neighbours ahead of their imminent visit. But it’s almost as if some of these supporters - having seen this movie way too often over the last decade or so - have already decided that they know how this one ends too.

Some of them may already be dreading what comes next rather than relishing the prospect in excited anticipation. And that sums up the predicament Clement faces over the space of the next few days.

Somehow, he has to make this group of players believable again. And, perhaps even more crucially, capable of converting whatever chances do come their way in the heat of a title defining battle. Celtic, on the other hand, proved again at Parkhead on Saturday that they do possess the kind of clinicians required to score goals which change the momentum of certain matches.

When Hearts were throwing down a fairly robust challenge, they had the attacking quality in the final third to pick Steven Naismith’s side off at the other end. By contrast, when Rangers find themselves in moments of desperate need, they have Cyriel Dessers.

The big Nigerian gives his all but very often that’s simply not good enough and the howls of frustration would have been ringing in his ears all the way home yesterday afternoon after dropping a collection of trademark clangers all over Kilmarnock’s penalty box.

Yes, Rangers scored four goals in the end but that’s not much of a return from a match throughout which they racked up almost 40 shots. And even the usually unflappable Clement looked a little concerned by it all when he should have been satisfying himself with a job well done.

The Belgian also appeared to take the bait when he referred to a comment made by his opposite number 24 hours earlier in the immediate aftermath of Celtic’s 3-0 win over Hearts.

Clement appears to believe Brendan Rodgers was being disrespectful by saying his side intends to ‘have a bit of fun’ when Rangers arrive at their stadium for a potential season defining derby.

Rodgers, for his part, appears to be very calculatedly reaching out to the hardcore elements within his club’s support - the ones who never really wanted him back at the helm in the first place - and bringing them back on board for the final stretch.

As he’ll tell you himself, there’s a rule of thumb to the art of good storytelling.

It usually requires a compelling start, a strong middle and a satisfying ending and, funnily enough, that’s precisely what the Celtic boss delivered over 90 minutes on Saturday as his side moved back to within touching distance of claiming yet another league crown. It’s not over yet, of course. But it’s getting close. And, having made such a big deal of the business of his players writing their own narrative at a point in the campaign when they were repeatedly hurting themselves, it’s little wonder Rodgers now feels bullish and maybe even vindicated.

‘For those I need to convince, I’ll see you here in May,’. That was how his own Celtic story - or at least the sequel - began back in June last year when Rodgers was unveiled as Ange Postecoglou’s successor, amid a significant amount of shoulder shrugging.

But they were there giving the manager their full backing at the weekend and they’ll be back in their thousands again in five days’ time, fully expecting to celebrate a 12th title in 13 years.

With emotions now crashing through the roof, the mood music around both of these clubs could still turn dramatically depending on the outcome of the final Old Firm showdown of the season.

But, for the time being at least, the belief and the momentum appears to have settled over Glasgow’s east end and It will take some shifting with just three more games remaining. There’s an overwhelming sense now Rangers will be surprising themselves if they do find a way of making it happen.