THE look of relief on Neil Lennon’s face at the end of the Betfred League Cup Final on Sunday spoke volumes. He knew his men had been lucky to escape a mauling thanks to Fraser Forster’s brilliance and Alfredo Morelos forgetting how to score.

As I predicted last week, a no show from Morelos would see Celtic win, but I admit that it was a very close run thing and Morelos was unlucky a couple of times. Still, it’s the oldest cliche in football that you need to score goals to win games, and Morelos has done it plenty of times for Rangers – just not on Sunday.

Steven Gerrard has clearly wrought great improvement at Rangers and he will surely win a trophy soon. I don’t think it will be this season’s Premiership, but the Scottish Cup must be in his sights – that’s if he stays at Ibrox, because his feats in making Rangers highly competitive again have not been missed by clubs down south.

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The fact is that Rangers and Celtic are out in front again and the duopoly is threatening to keep a strong control of the top rank here in Scotland and hopefully make serious progress in Europe.

In terms of resources, the Old Firm are so far out in front that it looks like they will dominate Scottish football for years just as they always used to do.

Realistically the only clubs that could challenge them soon are Aberdeen, Hibs and Hearts, simply because they are the three clubs with just enough resources to at least have a chance of upsetting the big two.

We’ll have to leave the case of Aberdeen aside for the present because no one can be sure about how things will pan out at Pittodrie with the replacement of chairman Stewart Milne by David Cormack.

Which leaves us with the two Edinburgh clubs. It was Hibs who were the last club outside the Old Firm to win a trophy before Celtic went on their ten-in-a-row run, beating Rangers in that memorable final in May, 2016, a little over two months after they lost to Ross County in the Scottish League Cup final. It was seven years ago that Hearts mauled Hibs in the Scottish Cup Final and since then they have been in one final – Jambos will need no reminding that St Mirren beat them in the League Cup final of 2013. Both Edinburgh clubs have on occasion flattered to deceive in the Premiership, but both have also spent far too long in the bottom half of the Premiership and of course Hibs were relegated to the Championship.

So why am I sounding an optimistic note about Hibs and Hearts? Why do I think that, unless Cormack pours millions into Aberdeen, they represent the best chance of giving the Old Firm a challenge?

Two names – Jack Ross of Hibs and Daniel Stendel of Hearts. The two new managers will, I believe, breathe new life into their clubs and I am happy to predict that Tynecastle and Easter Road will be happier places soon.

Stendel worked wonders with Barnsley who are still seeking compensation from Hearts – they say Stendel’s contract was still in place so here’s some free legal advice for the Tykes: you sacked him, end of.

The German makes an impact wherever he goes, and he is known to be a personable type who will work with the players to get the best out of them. If he can get Hearts’ blend of experience and youth to work as well as he did at Barnsley, I think Hearts will soon get up the table and be ready to compete again.

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Jack Ross is also a personable individual and hard worker. I think Sunderland owner Stewart Donald made a mistake in sacking him without giving Ross the chance to turn things round.

Ross showed he was a good manager at St Mirren, and if he is given the Board’s backing, he could get Hibs going.