Lee Wallace is using the bitter memory of May’s Scottish Cup defeat by Hibs as well as the more recent 5-1 loss against Celtic as motivation before this weekend’s Old Firm BetFred League Cup semi-final.
The Ibrox skipper admits both experiences were painful. They combine to form an unpalatable hell broth of emotions. The defender isn’t looking to taste such bitter defeat again even if the manner of them was so different.
One was sickening because it came in the dying moments of a Scottish Cup final; the other was horrifying for the way things unraveled so badly long before the final whistle.
“It was disappointing the last time we came here,” said Wallace, noting his surroundings – the media room at Hampden Park. “That was the chance to get that first piece of major silverware in a number of years.
“But we will use that final as motivation. We were disappointing on the day but full credit to Hibs. They fully deserved their victory on the day. We got away, dusted ourselves down and rested and got into pre-season. But we will be using that moment as motivation and we will be looking to get Rangers silverware in the cabinet.
“It’s a big part of why I came to this football club and I have not managed to do it here,” added Wallace who joined the club in 2011. “It’s very much a big ambition of mine and I’ve still time to do that.
“We can get to a cup final if we win on Sunday if all goes to plan and the aim is to bring that true Rangers silverware back to our support who have been ever so loyal in the last number of years. As players we are desperate to deliver that to the fans.”
He is especially keen to offer the supporters some payback given that last month’s comprehensive defeat by their rivals is such a recent memory. Another win at Hampden, where Rangers beat Celtic on penalties in last season’s Scottish Cup semi-final, would help compensate for such a dismaying afternoon. “It was definitely one of the worst experiences of my football life,” he said. “It is all about learning for us. Going into this game we are more excited and more positive.
“The last time we went into the Old Firm game on the back of two points dropped at Kilmarnock,” he added. “This time we have kept four clean sheets in the last five and are on the back of two good results. The momentum is there and even the game we didn’t win I think it was clear to see we were back on the right track in terms of performance. Wallace accepts Celtic are even better than they were the last time the teams met. But then so are Rangers, he points out.
“There’s no doubt they have improved,” he said. “While they are our rivals they have improved 100 per cent. We know that. The manager has brought in new players and they’ve done what they’ve done. It’s clear their signings have done well and they are flying high at the top of the table.
“We respect the fact they have improved but we have the utmost confidence that we can hurt any team.
“If we get our players on our game and our style right, like you saw in that semi-final and in spells at Inverness, then we can hurt them. Irrespective of how well they have done against Manchester City, we know we can hurt them if we get our game right.”
While Rangers’ last taste of Hampden was the 3-2 Scottish Cup final defeat by Hibs, Wallace is happy to return to the stadium. For one thing, the neutral venue means a 50/50 split in tickets.
The ground will not be as hostile as Parkhead proved a few weeks ago, when Rangers could not come up with an answer to Celtic’s speedy front players.
“It’s always great to be here at the national stadium,” he said. “But wherever the fixture is going to be played it will be a really good one.
“It’s more of a technical, tactical battle now under our two managers than the Old Firm games of old where it was tough tackles and fighting. I’m not saying we aren’t prepared to do that if that’s what it takes to win, within the rules of the game.
“But it’s going to be a real technical, tactical game and hopefully it will be a great one for the neutrals.”
l Rangers and Celtic go head-to-head in the second Betfred Cup semi-final at Hampden Park on Sunday 23 October (2:15pm kick-off).