31 March 2013

Significant Title, Significant Captain

by Andy McGowan | Contributor

In March 2012 the prospect of Rangers never winning another title had become a real possibility. Craig Whyte had done a runner, Duff and Phelps had set about upsetting everyone from supporters to players to potential saviours and our playing and coaching staff were doing their level best to hold it all together and on a fraction of their wages at that. 

Fast forward a year and we are celebrating our first title on the road back to the top of Scottish football, or to the top of English football if you believe our chief executive. It’s been a difficult season, the route to the title has been more like a trek through the jungle than the stroll in the park we all expected and even on the day we were crowned champions things didn’t get any easier.

We played out another poor 0-0 draw away to Montrose and the title party was yet again delayed but this time it was only for a few hours, thanks to our old friends Elgin City. In the hours that followed we heard from our manager and a few of our players and staff via Twitter and none seemed prouder than our captain Lee McCulloch, who took the time to give the fans a quick thank you on Twitter: “Means so much to captain the famous Glasgow Rangers team to another title, been ups and downs but we got there! This is my favourite one yet! Fans are the best.”

We owe a great deal to all of the players and staff who took a pay cut last season, all of them and the ones who stayed we will be eternally grateful to, each and every one of them is a Rangers legend in my book and none more so than our captain. When the playing staff had to sacrifice their wages to save jobs Lee McCulloch was one of the first to stand up and agree to do so, even offering to play for free at one stage and was instrumental in making the cuts happen across the board.

While other players were secretly arranging moves to England and beyond McCulloch was openly pledging his future to Rangers - Oldco or New. There are most likely only a handful of players in football today who could match the loyalty Jig has shown us.

In six seasons with the club he has played as a winger, a striker, a holding midfielder and a defender and if we asked him to play in goal I’ve no doubt he’d ask for a pair of gloves without hesitation. He hasn’t always been the fan favourite, but he is now.

In his 200-odd appearances he’s given us some great moments - from the bullet header in the incredible 3-0 win in Lyon, to the goal of the season at Ibrox against Aberdeen, and to THAT goal at Parkhead in the 2009/2010 season in which for my money Jig was the best defensive midfielder in Scotland.

And when it came time to start all over again? Lee McCulloch scores the extra-time winner in a 2-1 win away to Brechin City, who else was it really going to be? Having signed a new deal that keeps him with us until 2015, the likelihood is that Jig will be one of only a handful of players who has won every single honour, major and minor that Scotland has to offer.

So when the time comes to step up and collect the 3rd Division title it’s only natural that Jig will be the one stepping up first. He’s been stepping up first for Rangers his whole career at Ibrox and there’s no captain in world football I can think of who deserves to lift a trophy more than our captain this season.

The 3rd Division title hasn’t been the most exciting or the most prestigious, it won’t add to our 54 Premier League titles and it won’t be a season we look back on with a great deal of joy, but it is certainly one of the most important and significant titles in the club’s history, as Peter Ewart put to us.

In many ways this makes it even more fitting that Jig will be the one to collect it. In years to come when fans debate their best XI or talk about the Coopers, Laudrups and Gazzas of the world, Lee McCulloch probably won’t feature much in the conversation.

He is nonetheless one of the most important and significant Rangers captains of all time. He was good enough to take the time to thank us so if I may be so bold I’d like to thank our captain on behalf of the Rangers support for everything he’s done for us over the years and especially in the last 12 months. 

To paraphrase Alex Caldwell (@alexcaldy93) Lee McCulloch - I'd let you shag my wife if I had one big man #Legend.