Steven Gerrard could have seen this season through at Rangers, winning the title and maybe a cup or two.

The league triumph alone - bringing with it a Champions League windfall of at least £30m and crucially wiping out any financial difficulties - would have cemented his status as an Ibrox legend.

In four seasons, he would have strengthened the club on and off the park, restoring its place in Scottish football after a decade of mismanagement, and left it in rude health for his successor.

At the end of the campaign, a queue of huge clubs would be fighting for his services.

And there wouldn’t have been a single Bear who wished him anything other than the best in his next job.

His send-off at a packed Ibrox would probably have been one of the famous ground’s most poignant occasions. A farewell to a favourite son. Forever loved and respected.

That’s what should have happened.

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Instead, the timing of his departure for Aston Villa has shown a dreadful lack of judgement. It can only be seen as nothing less than a low blow to everyone at Rangers – the board, fans, players.

To leave during a season when the club so badly needs the title - and with just one trophy to his name, albeit the 55 that stopped Celtic’s ’10’ - means that his Ibrox legacy is tainted on, and now, off the park.

It didn’t have to be this way. The decision to leave at this time is one I’m sure he’ll regret later in life. The love and loyalty he got from Gers fans has not been returned. He recently said: “I’ve got two teams in my heart now - Rangers and Liverpool.”

Words that will haunt him.

For the sake of just another six months in Glasgow, he has needlessly blown his hero status at Rangers.

In the immediate aftermath of the departure, supporters are feeling a mixture of disbelief, anger, sadness, despair. While feelings towards him may be raw, there’s also the worry that he’ll be a tough act to follow.

He worked hard behind the scenes to modernise every aspect of the club. Although his first first two seasons brought no domestic trophies there were significant wins against Celtic and impressive European runs to show that progress was being made.

Of course, people say that big jobs don’t come along often so he had to take the Villa offer. But that’s nonsense. In football at the top level, managers are sacked every couple of weeks, it seems.

When you have Gerrard’s pedigree and profile, there will always be opportunities. The game’s elite level has billionaires galore eager to throw wads of cash at outstanding candidates like him.

After all, the calibre of this remarkable man is exceptional. In a stellar career, from 1998 to 2016, he played 748 club games plus 114 for his country.

In 2009, Zinedine Zidane and Pele insisted the Liverpool and England skipper was the best footballer in the world. That’s the sort of experience and pedigree that most managers can only dream about.

On the pitch, his skills were abundant – long and short passing, lung-bursting box-to-box runs, ferocious tackling, lethal finishing. A one-man game-changer oozing leadership, drive, vision, courage.

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Not every player becomes a successful coach but if sports psychologists could program a computer to come up with the perfect modern day manager it would probably spit out a Gerrard clone.

He doesn’t do easy. He’s grafted since he was a boy on a tough Liverpool estate to become a global superstar. His DNA won’t let him chill. A born winner, he’s never failed at anything.

Will he succeed at Aston Villa? Almost certainly. He’s got the work ethic, ambition, talent and charisma that guarantees a gilded future. Rangers’ loss will be Villa’s gain.

But he’s shown that he’s fallible and capable of self-combusting. Instead of learning from the mistake Brendan Rodgers made when he suddenly left Celtic in the lurch for Leicester, he’s done the same. A manager moving to a new job is not an issue but there’s a time to leave and a way to do it.

By going now, he’s turned down the wonderful chance he had to bag another title and put Rangers on a sound financial footing, the club that took a gamble in giving him his first step in management.

Time may moderate the hurt fans feel but nothing can alter the grim reality that history will show he turned his back on the club at a time when his leadership was most needed.

For some Bears, that will be unforgivable.