LEE McCulloch will do something no Rangers captain has ever done before this weekend. Understandably, he hopes none will ever do it again.
Which is not to say that McCulloch will not savour every moment at Ibrox when he collects the Third Division trophy after his team’s final match of the season against Berwick Rangers.
Indeed, he insists he is not simply paying lip service to Rangers’ current circumstances when he says winning the title in Scottish football’s fourth tier will mean more to him than any of the eight major honours he has collected since joining the club back in 2007.
“I obviously hope no Rangers captain ever does it again, lift the Third Division trophy,” says McCulloch. “It’s phenomenal to go down in Rangers history for whatever reason, but to help get the club back up is what it’s about. That’s the first part done and now we want to win the Second Division next year which is the next step of getting back to where we belong.
“This will be my favourite title win as a Rangers player. No-one seems to believe me when I say that, but it is. I’ve never been the captain, lifting a trophy. So to come through what has been a tough season, together with the management, with that armband on, has been my favourite.
“Only five or six players turned up for pre-season training, we didn’t get a licence to play until the day before the first game at Brechin, we didn’t have any pre-season fixtures. So to lift a trophy at the end of it all is a reward for that. It will be good to get a wee bit of relief and forget all the negatives there have been.
“When you are going to school and supporting a club, you wonder what it would be like to play for them. Then you get that chance and also the chance to captain them. It is dream-come-true stuff. It’s something I’ll never forget and come Saturday, when I lift the trophy, it is something my kids will get sick hearing me talk about when I’m old, sitting in front of the fire smoking my pipe!”
McCulloch was speaking at the launch of his autobiography, published at the end of a turbulent first season outwith the top flight of Scottish football following Rangers’ financial collapse.
The former Motherwell and Wigan Athletic player was one of the first to commit himself to the club despite their demotion to the Third Division, detailing in the book how he even turned down a two-year contract in the United Arab Emirates worth £750,000 last summer in order to remain with Rangers.
“I did have other offers but I didn’t see myself going anywhere else,” he added. “I’ve won three SPL titles, two Scottish Cups and three League Cups at Rangers and I saw staying here as a chance to give the fans and the club something back.
“Because in the first part of my Rangers career, for about six months or a year, I dipped in form and found it a wee bit hard. I managed to come through that, so when this all happened it was good to be able to give something back.”
While there will be celebrations at Ibrox on Saturday, McCulloch knows that he and his team-mates continue to play against a backdrop of uncertainty off the field following Charles Green’s resignation as chief executive and the ongoing inquiry into his alleged links with former owner and chairman Craig Whyte.
McCulloch is keen for clarity and closure on the issues which still cast a cloud over Rangers. “I don’t think anyone knows yet where we are, with the investigation going on,” said McCulloch.
“It’s best not saying anything until that is finished with. It would be unfair for me to give an opinion on anyone or anything until that’s finished. Hopefully it can get concluded soon, so the players, fans and management can know the truth and then, this time, move on.”
McCulloch will celebrate his 35th birthday this month and hopes to continue as a Rangers player for at least the remaining two years of his contract. It remains to be seen whether at 37, which he will be if the club complete their currently projected path back to the top flight, he can extend it further.
He will take inspiration on that front from one of his predecessors as Rangers captain, his close friend David Weir who led the Ibrox team until he was 41. Weir has contributed the foreword to McCulloch’s book.
“It was great that he did that,” added McCulloch. “I asked not to see it before the book was published, then when I got a copy yesterday and read what he had written, I nearly started bubbling! Big Davie was a great leader and is a great guy.
“I don’t know if I could play for as long as he did. I’m certainly not looking that far ahead. All I’m concerned about is trying to get a game next season.
“Hopefully there will be a lot of new players coming in to help the squad. There could even be 11 new players coming in, so we could all be fighting for our place. Who knows, I might not even be playing next year.
“I’ve got two years left on my contract after this one. I want to finish my career here. What a club it is, I can’t foresee myself playing anywhere else. But a week is a long time in football, never mind two years. So we’ll see who the manager brings in and what happens. I just want to keep playing. As long as I can do that, I’ll be happy.”
• Simp-Lee The Best, My Autobiography, by Lee McCulloch – Black and White Publishing, £17.99, hardback.