Celtic’s recruitment of Brendan Rodgers may not be enough to stop a resurgent Rangers side returning to the throne of Scottish football in their first season back in the Premiership, according to Lee Wallace.
The Ibrox captain is convinced that, despite Rangers’ four-year absence from the top flight, manager Mark Warburton has assembled a squad which is already good enough to dominate the league.
He also believes that their fierce Old Firm rivals have seen Rangers gradually gain in strength and now fear the challenge which they will pose to their title
Wallace, who arrived with the squad in Charleston, South Carolina last night for a ten-day training camp, said: “The fact they’ve brought in a manager of that calibre is due out of respect to what we’ve done.
“They’ve had a look at the semi-final result last season, what we did throughout the season and how we’ve been moving forward as a club and the steps we’re making.
“We’re going to make sure that we’re highly competitive next season. We know we’re not just there to make the numbers up. We’re going to respect the league. A big part of how we move forward is, of course, being respectful to the opposition.
“But the bottom line is we’re not going to change how we play. We had the critics, we had the questions through the course of last season, that we wouldn’t be able to adopt that style of play as we move up.
“We’re well aware of what we need to do to get better moving into next season.
“The calibre of player we’ve brought in will help that and will also help us become highly competitive next season.”
“We’re going to respect our opponents. It’s great that we’ve got ourselves back in the top flight, back to where we should be playing our football. I’m glad we can stop talking about where we should be — now we are and we can go and be competitive.
“It’s a case now of getting back to what Rangers should be winning, targeting what Rangers have done in the past. Historically, they’ve been a dominant force in Scottish football. So it’s about us making sure that we give all we can so we can get back to winning top Rangers silverware.”
Five years ago Lee Wallace was rubbing shoulders with Davie Weir, Nikica Jelavic, Steve Davis, Steven Naismith and Allan McGregor, joining a team that had clinched three consecutive titles.
The Ibrox captain believes the team that Mark Warburton is building might just go on to prove to be better than the class of 2011 with stars like Joey Barton, Niko Kranjcar and Clint Hill to complement young guns like Jordan Rossiter and Josh Windass.
Wallace, who has signed a new contract until 2019, can’t wait for the new campaign to begin as he beds in with his new team-mates in the sticky heat of South Carolina, where Rangers will be based for the next ten days. He said: “There was a lot of money involved with the calibre of player we had back in 2011 – top players, top internationals that were the SPL champions at the time. There were some big characters, strong characters that have since gone on to do bigger and better things in the English Premier League and the Championship.
“It is completely different what is going on here. We are a team and a group of players that have to get ourselves together and move forward.
“The lads coming in are having to get used to a new way of working and there is no reason why we can’t aspire to go on and do the things that those players did in their careers.
“We have got young lads that are capable of going on to the highest level and, as a team, we aspire to get back to, for instance, my debut in the Champions League.
“As a group of players, staff and as a club there is no reason why we can’t look at the team that I came into and to aspire to get where they were and become champions. That is certainly our target.”
Rangers will begin a three-times daily training schedule today with a match against USL side Charleston Battery on 6 July and Wallace feels Warburton is doing a fine rebuilding job.
He added: “It’s impressive. It’s a really good blend – a balance that we probably needed to help take us to the next level.”