Lee McCulloch has hailed Rangers’ Irn-Bru Third Division title success as his favourite championship win yet.
The skipper already boasted a trio of winners’ medals from the Clydesdale Bank Premier League but says that the weekend’s triumph tops the lot.
The achievement marks the completion of stage one in the rebuilding process after liquidation resulted in the Ibrox club losing their SPL status and being demoted to Scotland’s basement division in the summer.
Rangers were held to a goalless draw at Montrose in the lunchtime kick-off on Saturday but Elgin City’s win over second-placed Queen’s Park later in the day saw them crowned champions, with their nearest challengers no longer able to catch Ally McCoist’s side.
McCulloch told the club’s website: “There was obvious disappointment after the game. It didn’t flow and we didn’t play as well as we can. But to hear on the bus that we were champions was the best feeling in the world.
“I’ve been lucky enough to win three titles before but I think this is my favourite one. I’ve been lucky enough to be captain for this one and it means the world to me and my family.
“We can only play against the teams we’ve been told to play against, but, at the end of it, if you are giving me a winner’s medal I am taking it. It really is a dream come true to captain the team and, hopefully, we can kick on now. This will definitely stay with me for the rest of my life – to captain a Rangers team to win a league means the world to me.”
The goalless stalemate at Links Park was one of a number of disappointing results this season, as Rangers at times found the Third Division a tough league to negotiate. But 34-year-old McCulloch believes the experience can only be good for the youngsters who have been thrust into the top team this term.
He added: “I think it’s a good thing that they take a bit of criticism. I think the low points this season, the hard times, have made the boys stronger for next season. That’s the way I look at it anyway. We’re just happy to be where we are with five games left and the number of points we are ahead. You could say it’s been easy but it’s been far from that. The boys are just a delight and the coaching staff are as well.”
Ongoing debate over league reconstruction means a question mark still hangs over which division Rangers will be playing in next season. If proposals for a 12-12-18 structure are pushed through for the start of next season, they would remain in the bottom tier, albeit the time-frame for a potential return to the top division would remain the same. It is a scenario manager McCoist is strongly opposed to.
McCoist said: “What I would like to happen would be promotion for our club having won the title. The players and the fans absolutely 100 per cent deserve that. It looks as though it will be SFL2, which is absolutely fine because the rules were made at the start of the season. In my opinion, you don’t move the goalposts during the season in terms of promotion and relegation and things like that. We’ve won our championship and I would expect an actual progression which would be promotion into SFL2.”
The Rangers team bus stopped at a pub in Aberuthven, near Gleneagles, on Saturday night to celebrate after Elgin’s victory was confirmed.
McCoist said: “It was hilarious. We stopped off right on the final whistle of the Queen’s Park-Elgin game, when we knew we had won the title.
“As you can imagine, we walked in and some of the lads are still only old enough to drink lemonades.
“But when we got into the pub, there were two punters at the bar and they quickly shouted to the owner of the place to remind him of his strict rules about having no football colours!
“With 20 Rangers players standing there in their tracksuits, it was very funny and we stopped there for half an hour or so for the boys to have a celebratory drink which was well earned.”
McCoist added: “We’ve been the best side in the league. The fact we’re sitting 22 points ahead would indicate we are thoroughly-deserving champions. There’s no doubt about that.”