Dave King has counted them all in and counted them all back out again over the last three decades. The latest man to arrive at Ibrox is the first in that time that he has not had the chance to shake hands with and look into his eyes. Even from afar, King has a sense of who Philippe Clement is as a man and what he is like as a manager.

When the Belgian was first linked with the position following the sacking of Michael Beale in October, King was not the only supporter who had to do a bit of digging. He liked what he saw back then. Several months on, he is even more convinced that Rangers have the right man in the dugout, as well as the right people in the boardroom.

King first became a director at Ibrox in 2000 as the Castlemilk-born businessman invested £20million in his boyhood club during Sir David Murray’s tenure. In the seasons since, and more recently as the savour of Rangers following the boardroom war in 2015, he has worked with, hired or fired a list of managers that have delivered sustained successes or overseen costly failures. It is stating the obvious to say which category Clement must fall into during his Rangers career.

A former title winner with Genk and Club Brugge, Clement inherited a squad that didn’t look fit – either for purpose or for action – and a side that seemed to have little chance of catching Celtic, never mind surpassing them this season. His impact has been remarkable. The League Cup and European progression were secured in quick succession and the deficit across the Old Firm divide was whittled away. Rangers now have their sights set on title 56 and the Scottish Cup.

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Clement insisted that he didn’t have a magic wand and that he wasn’t Harry Potter, yet he has pulled more than one rabbit out of the hat in recent months to transform Rangers’ fortunes and has cast a spell that has captivated supporters. King can now enjoy, or perhaps endure, the twists and turns as a supporter rather than as chairman. Like his fellow fans, he is enthused by the recent past and hopeful for the future.

“Clement has come in and created a culture and attitudinal change within the squad without really having the benefit of the new signings,” King told the Rangers Review. “I think that is exciting for me, as a supporter, to look at what he has been able to achieve with essentially the same resources that we ended last season with. I am looking for him to - if he kicks on this year, and there is still a lot to be played for - get some of the guys back from injuries and then look to see what he can do with rotation of the squad. With the board structure and the operating structure in place, including the football side, as a supporter, I am much more confident going forward.”

That confidence has been built on the foundations of what King has witnessed and what he has heard in recent months. The former chairman was a vocal critic of the board under Douglas Park’s stewardship but has given his backing to the work that John Bennett and James Bisgrove, the chief executive officer, are undertaking off the pitch as Clement puts his own plans in place on it.

The three title wins in Belgium convinced Bennett and Bisgrove that Clement was the man and the manager to not only bring the Premiership silverware back to Ibrox but to keep it there. The prospect of a treble was barely even a dream in the aftermath of Beale’s sacking but it is now a possibility for a side that have bought into the Clement ‘story’ at a rate that even he has been impressed with. Managers who sweep the board in Scotland have their own unique place in Rangers’ history. They will also attract attention from elsewhere.

“I really think we have got a platform now and I just hope we are able to keep the manager,” King said. “If you look at it right now and the international market for managers, I am watching it a lot with the Liverpool situation, and I say ‘Where is the quality of manager?’ Liverpool are looking for a manager, I think [Manchester] Utd will be looking for a manager, we have got Barcelona looking for a manager, Bayern looking for a manager. You look out there and ask ‘Where are these managers?’ I would think that our present manager, particularly given that [Ange] Postecoglou has done so well with Spurs as well, I think we are going to have to work hard to hold onto him because there is a dearth of really good managers out there.”

The last boss that King appointed at Ibrox was the man who delivered their last league flag. In May 2018, King knew Rangers needed someone with the gravitas, the standards and the ambition of Steven Gerrard. It was a risk, but the reward of a 55th title ensured that it paid off for all parties.

Gerrard stands as the outlier in managerial terms since regime change nine years ago. Stuart McCall answered a call of duty but was then overlooked for Mark Warburton. The less said about Graeme Murty’s spells, and the disaster of the Pedro Caixinha era, the better. Other members of the board had taken the lead on those appointments before the top table that King sat at the head of signed them off and backed them emotionally and financially. The pursuit and appointment of Gerrard was very much a King project and that is why he took the Liverpool legend’s exit to heart after relationships between the dugout and the boardroom soured to the extent that Gerrard departed for Aston Villa just months after landing the title.

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King was in Seville as a supporter to see Gerrard’s successor, Giovanni van Bronckhorst, come within a penalty kick of greatness. From his business and holiday homes in South Africa, he watched on as Gerrard’s former coach was heavily backed in the transfer market but failed to deliver on his many words. Clement is a very different operator in every regard. The results and the performances speak for themselves so far and the signs are as promising as they have been for some time at Ibrox.

“I am very excited about him,” King said of the boss who will look to take another step towards the title with his first Old Firm victory over Celtic on Sunday. “He is the first manager for the last 25, 30 years who I have never personally met. Even going back to David Murray’s days, I knew the managers. It does help to have a certain sense of them as a person. You can see their personal characteristics, who they are as a man, what they are like outside of the football environment. I haven’t had that opportunity because I haven’t met the new manager yet. But I just look at the way the club is going about their business, not just what is said. There are certain soundbites that every player gives you and every manager gives you.

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"Look at what is happening on the park. There is a discernible shape, there is a camaraderie, there is something about how he has got the guys working that makes it obvious that it is a factor that he has introduced, that he has instilled. You can see that visibly on the park. Even when things are not going well, there is a united purpose in the team even though the quality hasn’t improved, because some of our signings haven’t been giving us game time, the guys who were there have got a cohesiveness. That has to have come from the manager because it changed quickly. That is why I am confident now with him in charge.”

Clement sat alongside Bisgrove in the Blue Room and set out his stall, offering every member of the squad a clean slate and giving supporters an insight into his background and his beliefs. He stated he wanted to win every prize on offer this season. Few of those who took their seats a couple of days later for his first match in charge would have believed such an ambition was possible.

Given all that Rangers have been through this season, it arguably shouldn’t be on the cards and it speaks volumes about the job that has been done that Rangers find themselves in this position heading into the third Old Firm fixture of the term. Clement’s midfield was decimated through a defining run in December and his attacking arsenal has been without some of his most potent weapons in more recent times. Somehow, the 50-year-old has cajoled and carried his side into contention and the manner in which he has done so only serves to underline King’s positivity for what Clement can do if he is dealt a fairer hand.

“We have been terrible, terrible, for the last number of years, the last three, four, five years in not getting game time out of players,” King said. “We are dealing with limited resources, we know that you are trying to play catch up and you need to get as much out of your resources as you possibly can. We haven’t. We have put money in and the amount of wages going on guys that have not been giving us game time has been huge. It has happened again this season.

“We need two things. First, we need to figure out what is causing the downtime because it is a physical thing. Are we bringing in players who are not fit and they never get fit? I would imagine the structures are looking at that to improve that. Of course, I am hoping there is a rotational capability within the squad this summer that he does manage to get away the guys who have tied up wages and not really added on the park.”

The second point comes down to finance. Some £20million was invested to deliver on Beale’s wish list last summer and that had an impact on Clement’s January business. Fabio Silva and Mohamed Diomande were added and have made an immediate impression, but Oscar Cortes succumbed to the Ibrox injury curse after just seven appearances.

A Premiership win would guarantee a Champions League payday for Rangers. Whatever money is there and whatever money is spent, every pound that goes out the door must be repaid by those that come in through it.

“I’m hoping he also gets a net new investment,” King continued. “I don’t know what the position regarding net new investment will be, but I think if he gets both, no matter what happens in the rest of the season, I will be going into the new season feeling good for the first time since 55. Let’s hope nothing over the next few weeks derails that thought process. In my case, it won’t. You can get wobbles. It would be great if things kick on from where we are but even if they don’t, I still feel that there is a solid base there to go forward for the next year or two.”

When Gerrard delivered that historic title win three seasons ago, there was a belief that Rangers would go bigger and go again. It should have been a success that ended one era and started another, but solitary Scottish Cup and League Cup wins are all Rangers have to show for their efforts since. Whenever the next league flag is hoisted, it cannot be a case of one-and-done for Rangers.

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This would be a title won in the most unlikely of circumstances if Clement can mastermind a final push to get Rangers through the tape. He has repeatedly called the race a marathon rather than a sprint. Rangers are already well into their stride under Clement.

“My view overall is one of being more positive about it,” King said. “I just like what is going on. I really like the manager. I must say I didn’t know much about him. Watching his performances, watching his media, I get the impression that he is respectful, he is cautious, he understands what he has got do and he comes across well. What he is doing on the pitch, it seems to me we are heading in the right direction. If we can somehow get over the line this year, and there is no reason why we can’t from here, and actually win the league, then I really pray and hope that we use it as a proper springboard to kick on, which we should have done after 55. That really was a massive mistake and a missed opportunity.”

One man who knows that well, and who suffered as a result, is James Tavernier. His record-breaking, inspiring, individual efforts over the course of his Rangers career have not been rewarded with the prizes that they deserved. More plaudits have, though, recently been bestowed on the captain after he became the highest scoring defender in the history of the British game.

A place in the Hall of Fame was earned last season as he took his place - alongside Allan McGregor and Steven Davis - amongst the finest names to ever have pulled on the famous blue jersey. If Clement’s side can go all the way, the man that will lift the trophy will certainly deserve the medal to add to his collection. 

“I also hope that supporters don’t lose sight of the tremendous efforts that many players have made on the great road trip that has taken us back to the top of Scottish and European football, King said. “There is a tendency to focus on great teams and great players of the past, but no player gets to choose the team that he plays in. For my part, I am a huge admirer of James Tavernier. He has been with the club since we were in the Championship. He displayed his goal-scoring ability early on with goals against the likes of Peterhead and Alloa. He then went on to captain Rangers to win 55, both domestic cups, and to lose a European final by the narrowest of margins. He did this while scoring crucial goals, providing incredible assists, and generally keeping the team going forward at critical moments in some very tough encounters in Europe. To my mind, he is an all-time Rangers great, and I am surprised that we have been able to keep him at the club. I watch a lot of EPL games, and he would start in many of the teams.”