HE may just have been in charge of Rangers for a grand total of 17 games. And he might only have been confirmed as manager of the Ibrox club until the end of the season last week. But Graeme Murty will still find he is a victim of his own success in the role when his side takes to the field to face Celtic at Parkhead this afternoon.

A meeting with Brendan Rodgers’s team away in the Ladbrokes Premiership back in March was the last of the six fixtures which he presided over during his first stint as interim head coach. It proved to be one which he did rather well in.

Having been thrashed 5-1 on their first trip across the city in September when Mark Warburton was still in the dugout, his men were widely tipped to be on the receiving end of another hefty and humiliating defeat. If anything, they enjoyed the better of the encounter.

Loading article content

Read more: Craig Gordon: If Celtic play as we can then we will beat Rangers

It took a late Clint Hill goal to cancel out a first-half Stuart Armstrong strike and earn the visitors a point. The home team also had a penalty claim waved away by referee Bobby Madden in injury-time when Leigh Griffiths went to ground following a challenge by Hill as he bore down on goal.

Yet, few in the 58,545-strong crowd that day could argue that a draw was an unfair final outcome given how well the underdogs had performed during the course of 90 fraught minutes.

The rousing performance and surprising result nine months ago have given many of a Rangers persuasion a glimmer of hope that Murty can perform similar heroics against all the odds and pull off another upset this time around despite his inexperience and the superior strength of their adversaries.

Their expectations, though, are unreasonable. If anything, their side are in an even worse state this time around as a result of a bad managerial appointment in Pedro Caixinha, an ill-advised and lavish summer recruitment drive and a lengthy injury list.

The former Scotland internationalist could call on Hill, Kenny Miller, Martyn Waghorn and Lee Wallace, all senior professionals who had played at a high level during their careers and were undeterred by the hostile environment they were entering, before.

Read more: Wes Foderingham believes attack could be the best form of defence against Celtic​

Bruno Alves, the 94-times capped Portuguese centre half, has since arrived and should be involved against Celtic for the first time. But Hill and Waghorn have departed while Miller and Wallace are injured along with Graham Dorrans, a summer signing who could have been counted on to rise to the challenge. If Ryan Jack, who has been outstanding in central midfield this season, fails to pass a late fitness test he is in serious trouble.

Who will Murty turn to? Daniel Canedias? Dalcio? Eduardo Herrera? Niko Kranjcar? Aaron Nemane? Carlos Pena? The options available to him are hardly awe-inspiring. Just avoiding a going over by Scott Brown, Moussa Dembele, James Forrest and Scott Sinclair will be an accomplishment of sorts given the paucity of talent at his disposal.

It would be harsh on Murty, a decent and likeable bloke who has once again answered the call of the Rangers board in their hour of need and embraced the considerable challenge facing him with both arms, given the predicament he has inherited, but an embarrassing reverse could reflect badly on him and harm his chances of securing the position on a full-time basis.

Stuart McCall did his very best in demanding circumstances after taking over from Kenny McDowall towards the end of the 2014/15 season. But a heavy play-off defeat to Motherwell ended his chances of taking over permanently. Warburton was brought in instead. Could the same thing happen to the current incumbent? It is possible.

Celtic have certainly not always operated at the same high level as they did in their treble-winning season in recent months. Dembele and Sinclair have been unable to reproduce the same scintillating form.

Read more: Scott Brown always knows what to say in the Celtic huddle before every Rangers game

Their record 69 game unbeaten domestic run was brought to an end a fortnight ago when they crashed to a 4-0 defeat to Hearts at Tynecastle. But they have responded to that result well since with comfortable wins over Partick Thistle, Aberdeen and Dundee. They should still have more than enough about them to notch up another win over their old adversaries.

A win today will edge Celtic a step nearer to their seventh successive Ladbrokes Premiership crown and may, depending on how Aberdeen fare against Hearts at Pittodrie later on, mean they have the double figure lead their manager Rodgers had targeted by the winter break. They are not lacking incentive.

Since Rangers were placed into administration, put into liquidation, forced to reform and entered the fourth tier of Scottish football in 2012 they have met Celtic on nine occasions. Their record in those encounters makes for decidedly unimpressive reading.

They have lost seven, drawn one and won just one. Even the game they came out on top in – the William Hill Scottish Cup semi-final in April last year – finished level after extra-time. It took a penalty shoot-out for them to prevail.

Rangers have scored just six goals in that time - and it is worth noting that three of those have been supplied by Miller, who will, of course, be missing – while Celtic have netted on no fewer than 22 occasions. Out of a possible 15 points they have picked up just one while their opponents have taken 13.

Murty is just a man, not a magician. He may be able to improve matters during the January transfer window by offloading those who have not been contributing and bringing some new faces in, even just on loan. Having director of football Mark Allen in position will certainly help his cause considerably.

But he will deserve a gong in the New Year’s honours list if his team can get a result this afternoon.