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'It would be three trophies and that, to me, is a treble'

LEE McCULLOCH takes the same approach to answering questions about his team's prospects this season as Kevin Pietersen, the recently deselected England cricketer, does to batting.

Lee McCulloch salutes the Rangers fans after his side take another step towards a potential 'treble'. Picture: SNS
Lee McCulloch salutes the Rangers fans after his side take another step towards a potential 'treble'. Picture: SNS

The Rangers captain starts off determined to take it nice and easy, playing everything with a straight bat, and offering up nothing that could be considered ill-judged.

Then he is enticed in with a question about the authenticity of any treble Rangers might win this season and he finally cuts loose, ditching the "one game at a time" platitudes to speak freely about just what it would mean should Rangers go all the way and lift the Scottish Cup. First came the question of just where any clean sweep would rank in comparison to previous domestic trebles in the club's history.

Alex Rae, the one-time Ibrox midfielder, had offered his opinion that winning a treble comprising a third-tier title, the Ramsdens Cup and the Scottish Cup should not be considered as significant as the more traditional, rarely achieved set of top-flight title, League Cup and Scottish Cup. McCulloch did his best to laugh it off, listing Rae as an old friend, but felt it would be an impressive achievement regardless. "Well, it would be three trophies and that, to me, is a treble," he said. "Why not? It's not our fault that we're not in the Premiership.

"I'll be shouting about it, whatever we can win. People can talk and we've already been written off for the Scottish Cup - it's been said we're not in the top five to win it. That's just part and parcel of playing at Rangers. You take it on the chin and try to prove people wrong and that's what we're doing."

Winning the Scottish Cup would have seemed like a fairly optimistic ambition for Rangers at the start of this season, especially given the way they were comprehensively defeated by Dundee United in the same competition last season. The exit of several Premiership sides, most notably Celtic, a kind draw, and the fact that both semi-finals this year will be played at Ibrox, however, now makes it a very real prospect indeed. McCulloch could not have been any more polite and respectful to Albion Rovers, Rangers' opponents at Ibrox in the quarter-finals, but eventually there came an acknowledgement that there was a more than decent chance of the season concluding with him lifting the trophy at Celtic Park. "It would mean the world to me if we were lucky enough to win the Scottish Cup," he added. "We're two games away from the final - two home ties. I've won it a few times before but to do it as captain would be a fantastic feeling.

"It would make it more special given that we are in the third tier at the moment. It would be amazing. We have a good chance. We are two home games away from a final but two hard home games I'd imagine.

"I don't think we're favourites. Aberdeen are already in a cup final, as we are, and I think their league form would make them favourites. We just need to keep doing what we are doing. If we can string a cup run together, great. If not, our main priority at the start of the season was the league and it will remain that way."

Rangers could, in theory, win the Scottish Cup without playing a single top-tier team along the way but McCulloch would relish the chance of a match-up with Inverness Caledonian Thistle, St Johnstone, Dundee United or Aberdeen.

"Last season we beat Motherwell and then we were beaten by Inverness and Dundee United. But I think we're better equipped this season. That doesn't mean to say we'll go and wipe the floor with them. But it would be good to get a gauge, just to see where we are."

McCulloch's preference to pad up to some questions comes from a feeling that his words have been misinterpreted in the past. He does, however, stand by his previous statement that there is not that big a gap between the lower end of the Premiership and the other three divisions.

"I said the gap isn't as big in the SPL [Premiership] as it is in the so-called lower divisions and I still stand by that but it got twisted a wee bit by a few people. What I was meaning was potentially the bottom six in the SPL to some of the teams in the lower leagues, I honestly don't see as big a gap as what people think.

"Maybe I didn't explain that well enough or whatever but I think the results are there and the standard is there for everyone to see."

McCulloch elected not to take the chance to address off-field matters such as the players' recent decision not to take a proposed pay cut. "It wasn't unsettling," he said. "We just focus on the football in the dressing room and try to win games and, to be fair, the boys have done that."

Rangers quarter-season tickets are now on sale from the Rangers Ticket Centre, online at www.rangers.co.uk or by calling 0871 702 1972.

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