STEVEN Gerrard has revealed there will be a cull of the players he believes lack the character required to cope with the demands of playing for Rangers during the close season – including some of those he brought in himself last summer.

Gerrard has spent the last few days analysing the reasons for his side’s hugely costly and unexpected defeat to Aberdeen in the William Hill Scottish Cup quarter-final replay at Ibrox on Tuesday night.

The Liverpool and England great was quite clear about what is required now when he spoke to the media ahead of the Ladbrokes Premiership match against Kilmarnock in Govan this afternoon – more leaders and more quality.

The lack of fighting spirit exhibited by many of the individuals who capitulated to Derek McInnes’s side clearly alarmed him along with the standard of their play.

However, he stressed he will move swiftly to address both of those concerns at the end of a 2018/19 campaign that once again looks set to end trophyless by making some difficult decisions.

“We’re short in certain areas, important areas,” he said. “We need more leaders. We need more people who can manage games better. And we need more quality. So there’s quite a few big areas of where we are that I need to address moving forward.

“You can’t coach character You can help people become better leaders and you can guide them a bit, but character comes from the heart and when you buy players you can’t see the size of their heart.

“You can ask questions and do the background stuff, but this is a different club to most. You need to have character in abundance, you need bottle, you need to be brave.

“There’s a realism that I don’t have the funds to buy £40m or £50m players. I’ve got to find the best people who are affordable and who can do a better job than the ones who are here. That’s the reality.”

Gerrard defended the work done by Mark Allen, the Rangers director of football, and his recruitment team since he took over last year in the face of some scathing criticism following the Aberdeen defeat.

He stressed that work was already underway to identify and bring in players who can help the Ibrox club challenge for major honours next term.

“My relationship with Mark is super-strong,” he said. “I wouldn’t go on the record with that if it wasn’t and that’s the truth. Mark has been fantastic for me and the football club in my opinion.

“We do the background checks - we do it and the recruitment does it - but the reality is that until you get the person in and he’s here for a short while you can only judge it up front.

“The demands of previous clubs are different and that makes it hard to assess. If we bring people in and we feel as if they can’t handle it then I will be honest and open and take responsibility for that and change them as sharply as we can.

“That might sound harsh, but this is a club where you have to be ruthless in decisions and be honest. If people are not working then then I will change them even if I brought them in myself. I won’t justify a decision - I’ll be honest and open and try to correct it.”

Gerrard added: “The ball is already rolling in terms of plans to change certain parts of the team. We know who we want to be with us to take us forward. We’ve identified people we would like to join us. That ball is well and truly rolling.

“But it was rolling before Tuesday. This is not a reaction to Tuesday. Since the day and the hour the window shut we have been thinking about how we can improve and keep growing.

“You don’t get time. We can’t just react two weeks before a window opens or on the back of one or two performances or a bit of inconsistency. We’ve got an idea and a strategy to go forward. That never stops.

“There won’t be a busy summer like last summer. I don’t think we need the mass changes I felt we did last year. But we need more quality and leadership and players who improve the 11 which will naturally improve the 18.”

Gerrard, whose side have qualified for the Europa League group stages and won their first league game against Celtic in over six years since he joined Rangers, defended the progress which has been made since he started back in June.

However, the 38-year-old, who is in his first managerial role, emphasised that he needs time to turn around the fortunes of a club which is still recovering from years of off-field turmoil.

“It was such a big job with a lot of change and a lot of improvement needed,” he said. “It’s very difficult to do that in eight or nine months.

“We are better, we have improved. We have shown that at certain times and certain stages of the season. But the reality is that I need to improve it more. And I will improve it more. We will get it right. I’m still confident and I haven’t lost any of that belief.

“I’ve taken over a team and a club that’s been going through a lot of pain, that’s been quite toxic. It needs a lot of change on and off the pitch and we’ve done everything we can to try and improve things and sort things in one transfer window. We have then tried to add to it in the second transfer window.

“We need more time, we need a bit more time to continue moving it forward to improve it. In some of the areas I’ve mentioned, I will address it.”

Gerrard confessed he had been deeply affected by the loss to Aberdeen and appealed to his players to show a positive reaction to the result by beating Kilmarnock at Ibrox this afternoon and maintaining the pressure on the Parkhead club.

“I have been down,” he said. “I’ve been flat since the Aberdeen result. I feel as if we’ve let the supporters down collectively. I’ll protect the players from a lot of that if I can, but they need to show the supporters on Saturday that first and foremost they care.”