Returning ex-Rangers trio will get ‘great reception’

Miller will face off against three of his former team-mates in the next round of the Scottish Cup. Picture: SNS

Miller will face off against three of his former team-mates in the next round of the Scottish Cup. Picture: SNS

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Rangers striker Kenny Miller does not reckon chairman Dave King’s criticism of former team-mates Lee McCulloch, Kris Boyd and Stevie Smith will fire the Kilmarnock trio up when they return to Ibrox in the William Hill Scottish Cup next month.

Ex-Gers skipper McCulloch, striker Boyd and defender Smith were among 11 players axed by the Light Blues after last year’s promotion bid ended in humiliation.

A warm welcome would be thoroughly deserved.

Kenny Miller

The Glasgow giants were thrashed 6-1 on aggregate by Motherwell in the play-off final, leading King to claim the team had “failed miserably”.

Those remarks upset Boyd after he was joined at Rugby Park by Smith and McCulloch, with the striker claiming the South Africa-based businessman was “jumping on the bandwagon” in order to sell season tickets.

But Miller believes the row will be forgotten about by the time the last-16 tie comes around on February 6 or 7.

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He said: “I’m really looking forward to seeing a few old faces. I’m sure the lads will be the same. It’s a chance for them to come back to Ibrox and put one over their old team.

“I don’t think (what was said by King) will fire them up. The lads are experienced enough to know what football is like. Things are said but can be misinterpreted.

“Obviously the lads were great servants to the club over their time here and will be welcomed back, hopefully.”

McCulloch collected three top-flight league winners’ medals during his eight seasons at Ibrox, while Boyd broke Henrik Larsson’s Scottish Premier League goals record during his first stint in light blue.

But he failed to hit the same kind of lethal form after returning last summer. Both he and McCulloch, along with a number of other players, found themselves under fire from the Gers faithful as their side limped into the end-of-season play-offs following a third-place Ladbrokes Championship finish.

But Miller said: “I think the lads will get a great reception when they run out at Ibrox next month.

“Lee was the captain here, Kris is the SPL’s all-time top scorer and broke the record while he was playing here. Stevie Smith was here a young boy and came through the ranks, so I’m sure that will all be remembered when they come back. A warm welcome would be thoroughly deserved.”

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Last season’s 3-0 cup win over the Rugby Park men was a rare highlight for Rangers, but the club have been overhauled since then.

New boss Mark Warburton has transformed the squad and they now lead this season’s promotion race by three points after the Englishman implemented a cavalier style of play.

One of the few blots on his Rangers record so far, however, is the 3-1 League Cup defeat to St Johnstone back in September and Miller believes the Light Blues have scores to settle as they prepare to face up to top-flight opposition once more.

“It’s a home tie and a chance to progress to the next round, which is what we wanted,” he said. “Hopefully we can go into it with some good form. The last three games we’ve been decent and if we can keep building on that in the run up to the game we’ll be able to take some momentum in with us.

“We’re a different team from last season when we played Killie last. It’s different players and a different management team so I don’t think that game will have too much bearing on this next one.

“Of course we want to put that defeat to St Johnstone right. A lot of people said it was a barometer of Rangers and whether we will be able to make the step back up.

“On the night I actually felt we played pretty well but were found wanting on a couple of counter attacks and left ourselves with an uphill struggle. But the last three games we’ve been working on ways to stop that sort of thing and it’s worked well.

“We have come a long way since then. The team is stronger, we’ve found ways to counter the deficiencies that we had at that point and we’re still scoring goals. We’ve scored 15 in our last three games, so we’re in a good place going into this game.”

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