AS HE prepares to lead Rangers out in front of a near sell-out crowd at Ibrox tonight, Lee Wallace has admitted the side deserved to be deserted by their supporters last season.
The new Scottish Championship campaign kicks off against St Mirren amid a renewed sense of optimism around Rangers following the appointment of Mark Warburton as manager.
Back-to-back cup tie wins over Hibs and Peterhead have been achieved with a far from flawless but notably progressive style of play which is in stark contrast to the often pedestrian and predictable displays served up in their failed bid for a return to the top flight at the first time of asking.
Wallace himself often cut a desolate figure during a period when his decision to remain with Rangers throughout their post-insolvency woes appeared to have irreperably regressed his career.
But the 28-year-old has clearly recovered his zest for the task of trying to restore Rangers to their former status and believes their fans will see it achieved in a manner as entertaining as it is effective.
“Last Sunday against Peterhead the fans gave one of the loudest roars I’ve ever heard at Ibrox after about 80 minutes of the game when we were creating chance after chance,” said Wallace.
“They were appreciating what they were watching and that is a return they deserve. They have been starved of any real, proper football. We just didn’t get any consistency last year. So it is about us rewarding them now.
“The new manager is huge on that, making sure we send the fans away happy, talking about us and looking forward to coming to see us again.
“I got goosebumps when they gave that roar last week. Those moments will help us, will give us ten per cent extra in our legs late in the game. We are now talking about a full house against St Mirren, something we haven’t had in a long time. I got a small taste of it in the SPL in my first season with the club and also in a couple of Champions League qualifiers that year. So it will be great to hopefully get back to that this season. I have always remained positive and have always stood by my decision to stay at Rangers. I kept a positive mindset, although there were bad times of course, and believed that we will see the club back.
“That has been reinforced with how we have gone about our business this pre-season. I feel ever so strongly that it will happen this time around as long as we keep working hard, listening to [assistant manager]David Weir, learning from the manager, learning from the new style of play, imposing ourselves, bringing our strengths to the table. I do feel really confident this year without being arrogant.
“I will try to stay away from the disappointments of last season as much as I can and be positive. As soon as the news broke about the manager and Davie coming in, the excitement started. It has been a good transition, smoother than a lot of folk might have guessed, but there is obviously still time with how we are going to play this season. There have been two games so far this season and we are doing fine, but there is a lot of hard work ahead and a lot of quality still to come from us.
“It’s just about reinforcing this mindset that we are Rangers now. With the the greatest of respect to the other teams in the Championship, because we know it will be difficult, it’s about imposing our strengths, imposing our tempo and showing we are Rangers and we will play at Rangers’ intensity. That’s the mindset that is being drilled into us. I’m happy with that approach. We’ll show the opposition respect, but we want to send the message out that we are a whole new team this year.”
Wallace has yet to discover if he will retain the club captaincy on a permanent basis this season but is relaxed about the situation.
“I’ve been honoured enough that I have worn the armband in these early games and I’ve had it in seasons gone by when Lee McCulloch was suspended or injured,” he said.
“Those discussions can wait until the manager or Davie Weir sees fit. There are a number of candidates, experienced, big characters in that dressing room who could do the job too, so we’ll just need to wait.
“I’ll certainly be giving it my all, as I would do if I didn’t have the armband anyway. We all need to show professionalism, drive, positivity and show the hunger about where we should be playing our football.”
l Lee Wallace was speaking at the announcement of Alzheimer Scotland as the new national charity partner of the Rangers Charity Foundation for season 2015-16, in support of the 24 Hour Dementia Helpline (0808 808 3000), Dementia Friends and the Football Memories Project.