Steven Davis admits Rangers will have to face persistent questions over their staying power until they can finally silence their doubters with silverware.
Gers have lost just one match all season but their shock Betfred Cup exit at the hands of St Mirren sparked fresh debate over the character of Steven Gerrard’s team.
They have done their best to answer those critics since their 3-2 quarter-final loss, fighting back from a goal down to beat a stubborn Motherwell before sweeping past St Johnstone ahead of Saturday’s gritty win over Hibernian.
But, as his team prepare to return to Paisley to face Jim Goodwin’s side for the second time in a fortnight, just four days before hosting Celtic at Ibrox, Davis is well aware there will be plenty of people ready to make more sweeping assertions about Rangers’ mettle if they slip up again, having come unstruck at about this stage in both of the past two seasons.
And he believes that will continue until the day the club finally get their hands on a first major trophy for a decade.
Speaking on the anniversary of last year’s festive derby win over Celtic, the Northern Ireland skipper was asked what had changed in the 12 months since.
He said: “We’re able to draw on the negative experiences and see whenever we’ve slipped up (and we now know) that you can’t afford to take your eye off the ball whatsoever.
“The quality we have throughout the squad and competition for places, everyone is desperate for the jersey and desperate to play and pushing each other in the right direction.
“It’s a combination of things, but…there’s still a lot of football to be played and a lot of challenges still going to be asked of us.
“And, until we actually have success as a group, then those questions will always be there, so it’s up to us to remain focused and keep pushing each other.”
Gers started this season by going on a 27-game unbeaten run.
But that streak was shattered by Saints when Connor McCarthy struck in injury-time to snatch a place in the semi-finals.
“It was a huge disappointment,” said Davis. “It wasn’t a feeling we’ve had too often this season in the dressing room after.
“The most pleasing thing has been the response after has been good since.
“But Wednesday is a massive game for us, a really important game against a team bang on form and full of confidence.
“We’ll be going to Paisley trying to do our utmost to get the three points.
“Over the course of the season you’re going to be asked different questions and have different challenges put in front of you.
“It’s up to us to try to find the answers to them.
“More often than not we’ve been able to find those answers, but we also understand there’s still a lot of football to be played.
“We’re just taking the age old cliche that the next game is the most important one and making sure we’re prepared. That will be the case against St Mirren too.”