Lee Wallace: Rangers must return to pre-2012 level
Amid chief executive Graham Wallace’s shock business review, which revealed last Friday that the troubled Ibrox club had “mismanaged” about £70 million in less than two years, was a wish list which included being the best team in Scotland by 2016/17.
Wallace, 26, joined the Light Blues from Hearts in July 2011, but a year later found himself one of the few top players remaining in Govan as Steven Naismith, Steven Davis and Steven Whittaker led an exodus of players, who left after the club became insolvent and after they had surrendered the title to traditional rivals Celtic in the wake of a 10-point deduction for entering administration.
Rangers re-emerged at the bottom tier of Scottish football with an almost unrecognisable squad, but two successive title wins have taken them into the Championship next season, one step away from top flight where a strong Celtic will be waiting.
When asked if boardroom expectations were realistic, Wallace, named PFA Scotland League One player of the year at an awards ceremony in Glasgow on Sunday night, said: “I think you have to have the ambition, but that is when we will need the help in. We are going to need a few more bodies to be able to do that.
“You have to remember the standards that we had in the team when I first came, the quality of player that we had.
“Obviously we missed out then (winning the league) because of the deduction and because everything had started with administration.
“So you have to look back to the Rangers of that era and you obviously have to look to try to get to that as closely as possible.
“But you certainly have to target the next three, four, five years to try to go and compete and that’s what I want to be part of.”
The Scotland international believes Rangers have enough quality in the short term to get through the Championship at the first attempt, using the Gers’ battling display in their 3-1 William Scottish Cup semi-final defeat by Premiership Dundee United at Ibrox last month in mitigation.
“Although we got beat in the game against Dundee United, I thought we deserved to win,” he said. “I was in the stand that day, but we competed and for periods of the game it was as well as we have played, other than the mistakes and goals we gave away.
“It is going to be a highly-competitive league. We already know Hearts are going to be in it and there are a number of good teams already in it and there could be another Premiership side to drop down and that will be sorted in the next couple of weeks.
“But it is a league that we are going to be more than ready for. Stage two is complete in terms of we have got the last two (league title wins) out of the road and I think we will move on quite quickly and get back to the Premiership soon.
“But will need a bit of help, we will need a few guys in to kicks us on because we need to look to the next two, three, four years and being able to compete when we get back in the Premiership.”
Wallace, though, is aware that many Rangers fans, while backing the club in huge numbers, have not been happy with their side’s performances over the last couple of seasons, despite runaway title wins.
“Rangers fans are Rangers standard and they want standards met on the pitch and we are no different,” he said.
“We want to replicate the standards of teams of the past and as I said, the quality maybe isn’t the same but we will get that in years to come.
“But criticism is part and parcel of football, part of your job and you get on with it.
“The Rangers fans in the past two years have been phenomenal in the sense of the numbers we are getting every week at Ibrox and the away grounds and the fans have had a huge punishment as well.
“So the sooner we get back to the top flight, it will be deserved for them because they have stood by us terrifically.”