Summer 2015 and the summary of a miserable three years was to watch the exodus of failures leaving Ibrox by the backdoor.
The Kyle Huttons, Ian Blacks and Richard Fosters all epitomised the litany of failures Rangers had suffered for too long, and who had effectively disgraced the proud blue shirt in the process.
This was the dross, the bottom of the barrel tripe Rangers fans had tolerated violating the hallowed turf for longer than they had deserved, and it was with pleasure supporters watched them leave at long last after a truly abysmal capitulation at the hands of an utterly pathetic Motherwell.
Today – manager Mark Warburton has led his newly-built side onto the precipice of the Premiership. He has not just passed the test of Rangers’ leadership, he has absolutely strolled the exam with A+ distinction and a double digits’ gap at the top of the Championship.
The contrast is almost unfathomable.
How did he do it?
The first act was to presumably consent to the release of the 12 out-of-contractors last year; there is zero chance Mark Warburton, knowing he would be taking the reins a few weeks later, would have had no input over the departures of half the squad.
The second was to give everyone left a blank slate – a threadbare and motley crew remained, and the new manager had no prejudices or preferences. A new start, a fresh chance.
The third was the cleverest – Mark Warburton used every trick in his Magic Hat to scour the English championship and lower leagues for rejected gems, young loans and the occasional Bosman. He spent well below £1,000,000 in bringing in the Martyn Waghorns, Rob Kiernans and James Taverniers, and gave trials to the likes of Andy Halliday and the absolutely outstanding Jason Holt.
Warbs’ was like a hoover, sucking up all the dismissed talent and forgotten young players down south, guys who were not getting the chances there, and cultivated them in one place: Ibrox.
Together he brought together a group of hungry players who felt they had everything to prove – Martyn Waghorn’s career had stalled, following that famous £3M move to Leicester – that fee was defining how lost the striker appeared to be, and when Warburton wanted him at one of Britain’s biggest clubs, the powerhouse was aching to impress and eager to say yes.
And what we see today is a team built in his image – as Greg Roots’ entry yesterday explored, Warbs studied Barcelona in depth in particular; he took that model, and brought the same ethics and formation into his own management.
Brentford benefitted first, and now it is Rangers – a small, pacy, dynamic clutch of players who work like dogs for each other and have no lack of skill.
They have blown away most who stood before them. Yes, there have been dips – they are humans, not robots, and at times some of the play was a bit flat; but compared to previous managers it has been a breath of fresh air.
And add to that 4-3-3 Warbs obsessively insists on the hunger the players have to prove they are not finished and are worthy? You have a Rangers team which has sailed near-effortlessly to the Premiership.
Warburton achieved this with a minute budget and little time to properly plan and work with the players; just imagine what he can achieve with more time and financial clout in his corner.