So near, yet so far. The story of the season is the story of several seasons for Rangers. Once again, the ribbons on the silverware are green and white. Once again, those on the blue side of the city are left to ponder what might have been and question just where it all went wrong.

Phillipe Clement has described this season as the end of a cycle. To put it in stronger terms, it must be the end of several Ibrox careers. Many within this group of players have had their time and had their chances. Now, they must move on and give another core a crack at the title.

This summer will be one where the narrative centres on a regroup and a rebuild. There have already been discussions over the manager putting his own stamp on things and on a squad that must see their levels rise in every regard from mental to physical, from technical to tactical. It all sounds so summer 2023. Or perhaps summer 2022, or summer 2018.

A weary support that rightly demands better can be forgiven for feeling like they have heard it all before. Talk is cheap and failure is expensive. Clement still has credit in the bank but there is nothing like an Old Firm defeat to whittle away those reserves and the final meeting of the season with Celtic carries significance beyond who holds the trophy.

“In one game, everything is possible,” Clement said when asked what gives him the belief his side lift the Scottish Cup following the draw with Hearts on Saturday. “And in the three games I’ve had against them, we got a draw and lost the other two 2-1 at Celtic Park when we played a big part of those games with 10 men. Every time, it was really tight. I know my players will go full in this last game to give the fans something special. That’s why I believe we can win it.”

All eyes are now on Hampden. A cup double would represent success, of sorts, for Clement but any season that ends without the league flag being hoisted must be condemned as a failure. Clement is not completely complicit in that, of course, given the situation that he inherited but the blame game sees fingers pointed in all directions when Rangers do not achieve their ambitions. So much hard work and good work was done but Clement’s side shot themselves in the foot as their form collapsed.

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The final 90 minutes of the Premiership campaign were rather fitting for Rangers. It was the good, the bad and the ugly. Ultimately, there were more dropped points, more questions than answers. Few lessons were learned.

The gap of seven that Clement walked into back in October will be inscribed as eight in the record books and a tally of 85 is the lowest that Rangers have, the Covid campaign aside, recorded in five seasons. The last title that total would have been good enough to win came in season 2017/18 when Celtic finished 12 points clear of the 70 that Rangers registered back in third place. Too often, Rangers have come up short.

Some supporters would have written off their chances of a title challenge on the first weekend after seeing Michael Beale’s side beaten at Rugby Park. When Beale was sacked, the notion of a treble bid was fanciful. Over time, Clement restored confidence within his players and belief in the support, speaking of the synergy between both as Rangers progressed in the Europa League, lifted the League Cup and, remarkably, found themselves in pole position in the Premiership. Fans were not just daring to dream, Clement's side had the feelgood factor and favourites tag as Hearts were swept aside at Ibrox and Kilmarnock beaten with a show of resolve.

Then the wheels came off. The defeat to Motherwell that should have been a freak result was actually the beginning of the end. The Old Firm at Ibrox was a missed opportunity, the defeat in Dingwall an unfathomable shambles that cannot be forgiven. When Clement’s side were held at Dens Park, the momentum had gone. At Parkhead, they had their chances. Rangers have been unable to beat Celtic over 90 minutes this season and that undermined their hopes of coming out on top over 38 matches.

The end-of-season collapse is, of course, nothing new. The extended winning run ahead of the derby in December offered optimism, as did the one that was ended by Motherwell in March. Yet both sequences were those of challengers rather than champions and Rangers didn't have the quality or character when it mattered most. Those ten days in April summed up the group. In the last ten fixtures, Rangers collected just 15 points. Celtic scored eight goals more and conceded two fewer than Rangers overall, with the record of seven defeats to three proving decisive. It was another tale of what might have been.

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Many of the issues that have been prevalent over the term were evident again at Tynecastle. Cyriel Dessers, the main option at No.9, missed his fair share of chances, while Clement’s side conceded quickfire goals once again. Given the shortcomings and the injury jinx, it was an achievement from Clement to even get Rangers into position to challenge but the fears that Rangers just wouldn't have enough were always in the back of the mind. Events in Gorgie encapsulated that as another win slipped away. There was a reaction in the second half and after falling behind and that only raises further questions about this side, especially after Clement was so forthright in his messaging following the midweek victory at home to Dundee.

“A few weeks ago we were the team who were conceding the least goals, not with a full squad, but with more defenders than we’ve got today,” Clement said. “And we scored a lot of goals. In a lot of games, we were efficient. So it’s too easy to say that everything is black and white. There is much more grey. And a lot of grey goes to white if you look at how many points the team took before now, despite all these injuries.”

That situation cannot be used as an excuse, but it has to be considered as a mitigating factor. The close season gives Clement an opportunity to address so many areas of weakness and the robustness and reliability of the squad is a clear priority for the Belgian and the Ibrox board. This term again emphasises the point that it is not what you spend, but how you spend it. Quite simply, Rangers have not got value for money and their football and financial fortunes, always interlinked, will not change if more correct decisions are not made.

The work that is required at Ibrox is not the tinkering of previous terms. It is a back-to-the-drawing-board, rip-it-up-and-start-again approach that is needed. Despite some concerns over Clement that have crept in over recent weeks, it will be the Belgian that oversees the overhaul.

He will not be given the combination of the safe and a blank chequebook like Beale was this time last term. Similarly, Nils Koppen will not have carte blanche in the manner that Ross Wilson did. A more collaborative approach will share the responsibility but the football and financial burdens will be carried by those within their respective areas of expertise.

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Rangers require a remodelling on the scale of 2018. A new core of the squad must be recruited, and a new spine of the team put in place. Like Gerrard did, Clement must lay the foundations for successive seasons. He will not get until his third term to deliver on his words and actions, however.

Clement has hinted at some of the changes – in terms of players, people and processes – that will happen over the summer. If he fails, Rangers will fail. Supporters need no reminding about how events will unfold if that is the case and the board cannot afford, for their own sakes as well as the direction of the club, to be making another dugout change before Christmas.

The first stage of rectifying problems is to identify them. Many of those that have plagued Rangers have been costly for some time and should not be hard to pinpoint. Others have shown they can be hard to remedy, though. As one cycle ends, another must be broken at Ibrox.