Not one of the 9,974 fans who turned up to Fir Park on Sunday for the Scottish Premiership clash between Motherwell and Rangers really knew what to expect.
Pedro Caixinha’s side had become this great enigma over the summer, spending big in the transfer market, but also crashing out of Europa League qualification to part-time opposition from Luxembourg in the process. Finally, some answers were provided in Lanarkshire.
Rangers started their league campaign on the front foot, claiming a 2-1 win. The performance turned in by the Ibrox outfit was much more accomplished than anyone expected, especially at this stage of the season.
There were some standout performers. Josh Windass looked to have been given a new lease of life on the left side of the Rangers team, coming close to scoring a couple of Goal of the Season contenders in the opening 20 minutes.
Summer signing Bruno Alves also provided a bedrock for the Gers to build upon, living up to his billing.
But it was another new signing who grabbed the headlines, with Graham Dorrans bagging a brace on his competitive Rangers debut.
Indeed, the former Norwich City and West Brom man was the beating heart of his side’s performance against Motherwell. Everything flowed through him. He was the dynamo through which their play in the final third passed through.
“I am really happy for him,” Caixinha told reporters after the game, praising the performance of the midfielder. “At 29 years old he is playing for his lifetime club. He is really a Rangers supporter and is really passionate about the club, so I'm really happy that his debut could give us the two goals that lead us to take three points back home.”
It was clear to see just how much Dorrans is relishing playing for his boyhood club. There was an energy and vigour to his place that contributed to Rangers putting on one of their best displays over the past year or so.
The signs around Caixinha are, for the first time under his charge, positive and much of that is down to the influence of the Scotland international.
At a time when there are questions over the goalscoring potential of summer signing Eduardo Herrera, with veteran Kenny Miller another year older, the potency of Dorrans from the centre of midfield could prove to be crucial. He could be Rangers’ very own Frank Lampard, bringing back the role of goalscoring central midfielder which has fallen out of vogue in recent times.
But it’s not just from a tactical perspective that Dorrans will prove to be a crucial player for Rangers this season.
Sure, he will ensure that the Ibrox side hold on to the ball better, with only 10 midfielders in last season’s English Championship more prudent with the ball. Yes, his tally of over 50 career goals to date from midfielder suggests he will be a goal threat. His importance goes beyond that, though.
For too long, Rangers have been a faceless outfit, suffering a void of characters in the Ibrox dressing room. Dorrans isn’t the most forceful of personalities off the pitch, but on the pitch he will become the face of Caixinha’s team. That much was obvious in his display at Fir Park at the weekend.
It was obvious in the way he, twice, grabbed and pointed to the badge on his chest, celebrating scoring in front of the travelling Rangers support. It was in the way he dictated the pace and tempo of those around him.
It was in the way he dragged his team through a difficult Scottish Premiership opener.
The challenge for Caixinha is to find a handful of other figures in his dressing room to help Dorrans out. Alves could be one such person, with the Portuguese international cutting a commanding figure at the back against Motherwell.
Miller is another on-the-field leader, but can Rangers really count on him to play week in, week out at the age of 37?
If the former Santos Laguna coach can find a way to do that, he might just stand a chance of closing the gap on Celtic at the top of the Scottish game. “Winning was the only goal coming here and the boys did it so I need to be happy with that,” Caixinha said after the win on Sunday. “Now we have just 37 more finals.
“It's about winning. We need to focus on the result. Sometimes we need to be humble and understand what the game needs for us to get the result and that's what we did. I'm focusing on the key areas we need to improve.” With the signing of Dorrans, Rangers have already improved on at least one key area.