Deflated Steven Gerrard admits he needs time to think over his Rangers future after seeing Hearts dump his side out of the William Hill Scottish Cup at Tynecastle.
The Ibrox boss was crestfallen after witnessing his side falter again on the domestic front just three days on from their stunning display in Braga.
It means the former Liverpool skipper is staring at a second trophyless season since moving to Ibrox unless they can complete that unlikely march from the Europa League last 16 to glory in Gdansk.
Gerrard had hoped Wednesday’s win in Portugal would provide the spark to turn around their flagging season.
But Oliver Bozanic’s Gorgie winner means the Scottish Cup is gone, with the Ladbrokes Premiership title also out of reach after falling 12 points adrift of Celtic.
Gerrard confessed the Gorgie set-back was the lowest point of his 20-month reign.
Senior Ibrox sources insist the Champions League winner is not considering stepping down but when quizzed on his future, the Rangers manager gave an answer that will leave the Ibrox faithful worried he is preparing to walk way.
“I need to think,” he said. “The plan was to have a day off (on Sunday). I need to think hard about where we are at as a group. I need to do some real, serious thinking in the next 24, 48 hours.”
Asked if that would include his own future, he replied: “I just need to think. I need to think. I am feeling pain right now because I want to win here, I am desperate to win here.
“Looking from the side today, I didn’t get the impression that the feeling amongst my players was the same.
“I am not doubting myself. We have given these players everything, me and my staff have given these players absolutely everything for 20 months, held their hand on and off the pitch and improved everything for them.
“But it is tough when every other performance you feel the way you feel. It is tough. I need to analyse myself, for sure. This is the toughest moment I have had since I have come here.
“I think it will be extremely difficult in the short-term (to win trophies) because of where we lie from a league point of view. We all know that we have punched above our weight in Europe so far. This is what I need to analyse in the coming days.
“I’m very disappointed. It’s the lowest I felt since I came into the job by a long way.”
Gerrard left out top-scorer Alfredo Morelos as punishment after he reported back late for training following a trip to Colombia.
But that did not excuse the display of the rest of his team.
Gerrard said: “The performance was nowhere near good enough.
“On Wednesday night I was the proudest man in Europe because to a man my players were outstanding.
“Everything we have worked on for nearly two years I could see it on the sidelines and I was proud as punch. It was an incredible performance.
“But today for 90 minutes I didn’t recognise anything.
“It’s my responsibility for that performance. I feel like I’ve majorly let the fans down today.
“It is not good enough. That is not what I am about. That will come on my shoulders.”
Hearts now march on to the semi-final at Hampden – although they will have to do it without defender John Souttar after he suffered a season-ending Achilles injury.
It is the third time in three years the Scotland centre-back has been ruled out by serious injury.
“It’s not good,” said Jambos boss Daniel Stendel, whose only two wins since taking over have now come against Gers. “The first diagnosis is that he cannot play this season any more. It’s bad.”
Stendel has struggled to turn around Hearts season but now he is backing his Premiership basement boys to go all the way in the cup.
He said: “That was a good example of what we can achieve as a team. It was not only the goalie or the goal scorer.
“We deserved it today. The clean sheet was good, that was pleasing.
“But it gives me hope we can win the biggest competition of the season.”
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