THERE will be something of a party atmosphere inside Ibrox this afternoon as a series of club legends are paraded to help celebrate 140 years of Rangers.
But captain Lee McCulloch has called on his team-mates to keep their focus entirely on beating Stirling Albion, the only club to beat them in the league this season, and trying to open a gap at the top of the Third Division.
McCulloch has seen plenty of celebratory occasions in his five years at Ibrox, but his air of calm and experience have been vital to Ally McCoist’s squad this season as they adapt to life in Scotland’s bottom league. The former Scotland international is relishing the occasion today, and meeting some of the Ibrox legends in attendance, but he knows only a win will stop the afternoon turning sour.
Stirling celebrated a famous victory at Forthbank on 6 October, when the team anchored to the foot of the Third Division scored in the eighth minute through Brian Allison, then kept their illustrious visitors at bay to inflict a humbling defeat on them.
McCulloch is determined there will be no repeat and told Rangers’ website: “It’s obviously a big game for us. It’s a big occasion – celebrating 140 years – and all the legends are going to be back and it will be a full house. Of course, we lost the last time we played them so hopefully we can get the three points and put on a bit of show.
“It’s massive. It will be brilliant having everyone back that contributed over the years and I’m looking forward to seeing them myself.
“It was a sore one when we lost to Stirling Albion earlier this season so we want to make up for that. We have picked up our performances since then and hopefully we can motor on.”
Certainly, after a stuttering start to their Third Division campaign, the Stirling shock can be viewed as a turning point in the league. They have won all four matches since – against Queen’s Park, Clyde, Peterhead and East Stirling – and have finally managed to reach the summit of the table, where they sit a point clear of Elgin City.
Defender Chris Hegarty was in full agreement with his captain that the players’ duty today is to win the match, not get distracted by the 140th anniversary celebrations in front of a capacity crowd.
“All the lads will want to get the right result and I think we owe Stirling one after what happened against them last time,” said Hegarty, who was the first player to sign for the “newco” Rangers in June.
“When we played them a couple of months ago, we never really reached the levels we can and we want to do much better than that.
“They’ll obviously be excited about coming to Ibrox, but it’s a good chance for us to try to get another win under our belts. With the size of crowd that’s going to be there and all the 140 years celebrations, we’ll definitely be up for it. But, with everything else that’s going on, the most important thing is that we just concentrate on the task in hand. This week we’ve been focusing on the game and we’re looking forward to the 90 minutes. We were hurt about losing at Stirling and we want to win this time around.”
Rangers have no fresh injury worries for the match. Kane Hemmings (knee) has continued to train this week but the match at Ibrox may come too soon for the youngster. Emilson Cribari (calf), Ross Perry and Sebastien Faure (both hernia) remain on the sidelines.