DONALD FINDLAY speaks with raw enthusiasm and no little vigour about the blood-and-thunder arena of the SPFL Championship.

He is an old-fashioned guy and this is an old-fashioned league in which, perhaps holding some kind of appeal to a renowned defence lawyer, no prisoners are taken.

He also makes no secret of his admiration for the Rangers captain Lee McCulloch, as a stand-up, play-anywhere, get-stuck-in throwback in a modern game containing more than its fair share of brats and prima donnas.

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It is the rest of the Ibrox squad he regards as a problem for the embattled Ally McCoist as he evaluates the squad ahead of next season's challenges in a league shaping up to be more competitive than ever.

McCulloch, now established at centre-half after spells in midfield and attack, has been a stalwart for Rangers. The likes of Nadir Ciftci and Ryan Gauld are likely to ask some serious questions about the zip left in his legs after two campaigns out of the fast lane when Dundee United come calling in the Scottish Cup on Saturday, but he still possesses the grit required to gain success at all costs at a lower level.

Findlay seriously questions whether there is anyone else beside him in the dressing room, however, with that same appetite for a fight. It is the reason he believes Rangers would never have been able to win this term's Championship with their present panel of players and why he warns of further trouble ahead for McCoist in a league likely to feature a rejuvenated Hearts and a number of other ambitious clubs.

"The Championship is a genuine league," said Findlay. "It is a genuine competition. The Premiership, meanwhile, is a competition for second place. End of.

"That's no kind of a competition and I think the Championship next season will be the best league we have had in this country for 20-odd years. It is certainly going to be the most competitive with Rangers and Hearts in there and who knows who else? If Dunfermline were to go up, for example, you could have a number of Fife derbies and that would be fantastic. You might even end up with Hearts and Hibs playing in the Championship because Terry [Butcher] is struggling a wee bit at Easter Road right now.

"I think it will be a great league and I don't think Rangers, with this squad, would win it. Put another nine Lee McCullochs into that squad and you'd win it, but they don't have another nine Lee McCullochs.

"That is what you need to win the Championship. A bit of heart, a bit of effort and a will to win.

"You have got to have a work ethic from first to last and you have got to do that game after game after game. You have got to graft and put in a shift. You don't get time to play a lot of fancy football. If you do, that's great, but you are going to have someone snapping at you from the moment you get the ball.

"You can't go out and just stroke it around and all the rest of it. There are guys there who know how to stop you doing that."

Findlay's Cowdenbeath are currently second-bottom of the table and facing a battle to avoid the nail-biting pressure of the play-offs.

Their particular predicament tells its own story, but the admirably candid 63-year-old insists he would have backed his men to beat Rangers to the title had they spent this season one league below.

"Put it this way. If Cowdenbeath had been in League One this season, I would have fancied our chances of winning it," he stated.

"Never mind the presence of Rangers. I would have had no fears about it at all. I'd have fancied us."

Rangers, on paper, have skated their way through Scottish football's two lowest tiers since the club's infamous collapse two years ago. However, anyone watching their matches will tell you that the lion's share of their fixtures remain surprisingly competitive.

You get the feeling they have been a little too competitive at times for their players' tastes. There have been complaints about heavy challenges, the targeting of Ian Black and David Templeton; plastic pitches putting their delicate limbs at risk.

Findlay has no sympathy. An even ruder awakening lies ahead in the Championship. "It's a big boys' game," bellowed Findlay. "It is just great, competitive football.

"I am sure Alistair knows what will be necessary to win something like the Championship.

"If he doesn't, he is going to get found out pretty quickly."