Walter Smith believes Rangers are ready to finish what they've started and are relishing the challenge of going the distance and winning the Premiership title.

But the Ibrox legend is convinced Steven Gerrard will have drilled into his team that they have a FIVE point lead over Celtic - not the gap of 11 that the league table shows.

Gerrard’s men suffered a spectacular second half of last season collapse to gift Celtic a 13-point championship lead by mid-March and, ultimately, Nine In A Row.

Old Firm derby victories at the turn of the year in both of Gerrard’s campaigns in charge have proved to be false dawns as far as a title momentum is concerned.

With Celtic’s Holy Grail of ’The Ten’ on the line, Rangers have set a ferocious early pace - and Smith senses they mean business this time.

The former Gers boss has been hugely impressed to watch Gerrard steer Gers to an 11-point advantage after only 15 fixtures.

Neil Lennon’s men have two games in hand. But Smith feels Rangers now look capable of sticking to the task and claiming a first top flight championship since he and Ally McCoist won three-in-a-row in 2011.

Smith said: "Results are good, everything is going well. If you look at them now, there’s a more confident air to the team.

"But the biggest thing in football, which is very much the challenge from a Rangers perspective, is the challenge to keep that going all the way.

"That challenge still faces them - especially up against a club as successful as Celtic have been in recent years.

"And Steven will accept that because he has experienced that at a really high level as a player, so he knows better than anyone.

"But the players at Rangers look now as though they are ready for the challenge this season - and that’s the main thing. One of the things they have to face up to is what happened to them previously.

"Once they face that and come out the other side, they’ve got a chance of winning."

Rangers certainly weren’t spooked by last Sunday’s opportunity, confidently brushing aside Aberdeen 4-0 at Ibrox 24 hours after Celtic left more points behind at Easter Road.

They’ve conceded goals to only Hibernian (twice) and Motherwell in racking up 13 wins and two draws.

But Smith is convinced Gerrard and his staff won’t be fooled by the wide gap back to second place right now.

For Rangers must respect Celtic and their previous experience of picking up the results that matter en route to major trophies.

Smith explained: "It’s easy for everyone to turn round and say that Celtic are 11 points behind.

"But I have no doubt that Steven will consider that they are FIVE points in front.

"That’s not an insult to any of the other teams in Scotland. That’s just reality that, over the years, Celtic have a record of winning ‘X’ number of games and winning championships.

"Celtic have handled the pressure over those years and Rangers would have to say that that’s the case.

"So I would look upon it myself, from a managerial point of view, as five. I would say: 'Right, we’ve done really well, we’ve got ourselves five points in front and we need to keep going.'

"And that’s the way, I’m sure, they will look at it. So your team continue to do what they’ve been doing to get you there.

"You will ignore whether it’s 11 points, five points or whatever, will face the challenge of trying to win every game. The signs are there that they’re doing that."