THE late, great Walter Smith may have been the most successful Rangers manager of the modern era and might be revered by supporters of the Ibrox club today for his many achievements.

Yet, the Scot was always acutely aware that his past triumphs would count for nothing if form dipped, results dried up and silverware was not forthcoming.

He stated repeatedly during the two trophy-laden spells that he spent in charge of his boyhood idols that he was only ever two games away from a crisis.

So it is no exaggeration to say that Giovanni van Bronckhorst is, just five weeks into the 2022/23 season, now fighting for his very survival.

The humiliating loss to Celtic at Parkhead in the cinch Premiership on Saturday and the heavy defeat to Ajax in a Champions League fixture in the Johan Cruyff Arena on Wednesday have put him under intense pressure.

It is harsh in the extreme given that he led his side through to the Europa League final in Seville only five short months ago.

The impressive 1-0 triumph over PSV Eindhoven in the Netherlands a fortnight ago that secured a return to Europe’s premier club competition after a 12 year absence has been quickly forgotten. 

That Ianis Hagi, Filip Helander, Tom Lawrence, Kemar Roofe and John Souttar are unavailable and Ben Davies and Alfredo Morelos are not fully fit has also been ignored.

But as have seen this week – Chelsea parted company with Thomas Tuchel and Domenico Tedesco was jettisoned by RB Leipzig after disappointing midweek results - it is the reality of football management at the highest level in the modern game.

If Rangers lose to Aberdeen in the league at Pittodrie tomorrow and fall eight points behind their rampant city rivals in the table, the disaffection in the stands will escalate and the club board will be urged to act.

Those who occupy the directors’ box need to shoulder as much of the blame for the dire displays which James Tavernier and his team mates have produced at home and abroad in the past six days as Van Bronckhorst.

The next set of financial results are, because of the extended European run last term and sale of Nathan Patterson to Everton for £12m in January, likely to make for far more pleasant reading for supporters.

But could more funds still not have been made available to strengthen the squad? Reaching the Champions League group stages is set to bank the Glasgow giants in the region of £40m. They also made a cool £30m from offloading Joe Aribo to Southampton and Calvin Bassey to Ajax in July.

Just shy of £11m has been parted with bringing in seven new recruits this summer. But was that really enough? Celtic lavished nearly £20m on nine new faces. And they were already dripping in talent. 

Not a penny was spent in the transfer market by Rangers after qualification was secured. Why not? It was glaringly obvious that they were desperately short both in defence and in attack on deadline day. The size of the wage bill has certainly to be considered. But would it really have broken the bank to draft in another centre half and striker?

Was, though, cash made available to Van Bronckhorst? The Dutchman stated last Friday that he was content with the options he had in every position and had not felt the need to do any further business. Was that a fatal error of judgement on his part? It has certainly looked like it since. 

James Sands, the United States internationalist whose preferred berth is in midfield, has acquitted himself admirably alongside Connor Goldson in the heart of the defence in the absence of Davies, Helander and Souttar. But he lacks a physical presence as well as vital experience in the specialist position.

Sands looked hopelessly out of his depth when Edson Alvarez headed home the opening goal in early on in Amsterdam and thereafter. That said, he was not alone. The entire team is badly malfunctioning just now. The responsibility for that lies with the man in the dugout.

Rangers fans can accept defeat if their team shows heart and players perform to the best of their abilities. But they have done neither in their last two games. The way they were caught out by the quick thinking of their opponents at the weekend incensed their despairing followers. As did their carelessness and lack of organisation in midweek.

Van Bronckhorst stated after the final whistle on Wednesday night that it requires hundreds of millions of pounds to compete in the Champions League. Perhaps it does. It is not, however, asking too much to have a side that shows a little fighting spirit. 

The decision to replace Allan McGregor with Jon McLaughlin at the start of the season was applauded by many fans due to the latter’s prowess with the ball at his feet. But the former is a superior shot stopper and has a proven ability to rise to the big occasion. Would he have done better against Celtic and Ajax? He has certainly excelled in the past.

Van Bronckhorst has recovered from such damaging results in the past and can do so again. His past accomplishments should buy him much-needed time. Getting a few bodies back will help his cause no end.

But does he possess the necessary quality to win things domestically and progress on the continent with a fully fit squad?

Scott Arfield, Steven Davis and McGregor and getting on. Borna Barisic, Goldson and Tavernier need to improve defensively. Fashion Sakala and Scott Wright have only shone sporadically. Malik Tillman has lacked the consistency of his fellow new boys Antonio Colak and Lawrence. Rabbi Matondo has failed to fulfil the promise he showed in pre-season. Alfredo Morelos remains an enigma. And what exactly has happened to Ryan Kent?

There is much, then, for Giovanni van Bronckhorst to address. But he must do so quickly. Rangers take on the Napoli side that thrashed Champions League finalists Liverpool 4-1 in their next Group F outing on Tuesday night. If they play as poorly as they did against Ajax things could get ugly.