RANGERS captain Lee McCulloch has urged his team-mates to treat today’s relatively meaningless trip to Arbroath as seriously as the forthcoming cup double-header which will define the Ibrox club’s season on the pitch.
While the League One title and promotion to the Championship is already secured, McCulloch insists Rangers are focused on maintaining their unbeaten record in the third tier of Scottish football at Gayfield this afternoon.
He also believes the 90 minutes will have significance for manager Ally McCoist when he comes to pick his teams for the Ramsdens Cup final against Raith Rovers at Easter Road next weekend and then the Scottish Cup semi-final against Dundee United at Ibrox on 12 April.
“All that people seem to be talking about is that Dundee United game,” said McCulloch.
“But we’ve got to remember we’ve got a league game and a cup final before that.
“It’s important for us to keep our momentum going, which isn’t going to be easy. So the Arbroath game is massive from that point of view.
“We want to stay unbeaten in the league. We need to go there and get a result, put in a performance and get ourselves right for the Ramsdens Cup final, which is going to be the biggest game of the season so far. When that’s out of the way, then we’ll look at the Scottish Cup semi-final.
“We’ve got a few boys out injured this weekend, so for anyone who comes in and plays at Arbroath, it’s a chance to stake their claim for a cup final place with Rangers, whether starting or on the bench.
“I don’t think the gaffer will have made his mind up yet what team he is going to go with in the cup final. So it’s a great opportunity for someone to play their way into the team.”
Rangers will be without midfielder Ian Black, injured in last Sunday’s win at Brechin City, but Nicky Law may be available after suffering a back spasm in the same game.
Winger David Templeton, meanwhile, is expected to return to light training next week and could come into contention for the cup ties.
Currently unbeaten in their last 38 games in all competitions, Rangers have announced the short-list for their own Player of the Year award which will be presented at a dinner in the Glasgow Hilton Hotel on 4 May.
McCulloch has been nominated along with Cammy Bell, Lee Wallace, Black, Law and Jon Daly but has no doubt who should receive the accolade.
“Lee Wallace should win it,” said McCulloch. “The way he has defended this year, along with the assists he has provided as an attacking threat, has been outstanding and it’s great to see him progress every season.”