'Money or trophies' for Kris Boyd

WHETHER it comes to assessing his own status or the merits of others, Rangers midfielder Lee McCulloch, who will face Hamilton Accies in today's Active Nation Scottish Cup tie at New Douglas Park, is nothing if not frank.

The 31-year-old has no illusions when it comes to his place in the pantheon of Ibrox greats: he knows he isn't in it.

Lee is content to describe himself as a journeyman but, while he rates team-mate Kris Boyd highly, he is just as aware of the striker's limitations. Essentially, he understands that Boyd is not good enough to interest the clubs likely to be among the honours down south.

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McCulloch, who has tasted (and enjoyed) life in the bottom half of the Premier League with Wigan Athletic, now believes that the 26-year-old must choose between earning astronomic sums with also-rans in England or picking up silverware at Ibrox. While recognising that even Heather Mills McCartney would not turn up her nose at the 1 million annual salary currently on offer from Rangers, McCulloch is aware that Boyd could earn much more in England.

"I honestly don't know what he's thinking but I just hope that he stays," he said. "He proves every year that he's the best in Scotland when it comes to scoring goals and I don't know if he'll ever find another club as good as Rangers.

"It probably comes down to that: money or trophies. Every player wants to win things so it depends where he might go but if he stays here he's going to be worshipped by the fans and he'll be challenging to win things every season.

"For me, keeping Kris should be our top priority. He's been one of our best players this season and everyone in the dressing room is keeping their fingers crossed that we can come to some sort of deal. However, it's up to whoever is acting on the club's behalf to give Kris the deal he's wanting."

And therein lies the problem. While Sir David Murray remains Rangers' majority shareholder, he has had the running of the club taken out of his hands and the opaque nature of the decision-making process at Ibrox means that McCulloch's version of the stark choice Boyd must make is most likely the most accurate depiction of events.

In normal circumstances, a club will make an initial offer to a player coming out of contract as a basis for negotiation, after which discussions involving bluff and compromise will result in a conclusion, successful or otherwise.

Rangers' financial problems, though, mean that it is most certainly not business as usual at Ibrox.

Boyd is the only player on the staff whose contract expires at the end of this campaign who has been made an offer and no-one can currently say with confidence that the deal on the table for him is not of the take-it-or-leave-it variety.

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"The big five in the Premier League make the rest of the clubs in it look small but it's the best league in the world and the revenue available to everyone who's in it means that clubs like ourselves can't compete," said McCulloch.

Boyd's immediate future may be shrouded in uncertainty, then, but McCulloch has at least managed to salvage his own Rangers career which even he admits looked dead in the water a year ago.

"It's been up and down for me since I signed three years ago," he said. "That's just life at the Old Firm, especially if you happen to be Scottish. As a Scot I think you hurt a bit more after defeats. Maybe that's unfair on the foreign boys to say that but I think when you've grown up knowing what the club's all about then maybe it does mean a bit more to you.

"Sometimes we try too hard and don't do ourselves any justice. My way of dealing with that is not to allow myself to get too high or too low: I just keep grinding away and hope that the team wins.

"A year ago I probably thought it was unlikely that I'd still be here. I didn't play consistently well last season: I was a bit-part player in a few different positions."

In his four seasons at Ibrox McCulloch has "filled in" up front and at the heart of the defence as well as being deployed in central and wide midfield roles but he has yet to make a role his own. He once considered his versatility a curse but believes now that Rangers' financial problems have transformed it into a blessing.

"It's the only positive I can take from our situation," he said. "Maybe I've been too versatile for my own good in the past and I've certainly never had a set position during my time here and if everyone had always been fit I might not have been in the team. Now, though, because our squad is smaller, the fact I can be moved about is a positive for the gaffer and for me as well. I don't have loads of flair in my play: I'm just a hard worker who tries to do his best."

As they go into today's match Rangers are the only club in Scotland who can win the domestic treble. It's a feat they haven't managed since Alex McLeish's side in 2002-3.

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The club has captured all three trophies on seven occasions but McCulloch is convinced that for the current team to emulate that after being unable to sign a player for three successive transfer windows would easily be the equal of any of their predecessors. "It would be a huge achievement," he said. "At the start of this season, because our Champions League form wasn't so good, we were suddenly the worst team that's ever played in Scotland. But we still have the chance to make this a very successful season and that's a great incentive for us."