This is not a week Steven Whittaker will likely forget in a hurry. Making your international debut is meant to be the pinnacle of any player's career but Whittaker could be forgiven for harbouring mixed emotions after earning his first cap as a substitute in Scotland's 4-0 thrashing at the hands of Norway.

Sent on in an unfamiliar position after 78 minutes and with George Burley's side already trailing by three goals, what should have been the glorious realisation of a lifelong dream instead turned into something of a nightmare. Little surprise then Whittaker was happy to return to more familiar environs as Rangers prepare to begin the defence of their title.

"As soon as I got back from Norway I was looking forward to the start of the season with Rangers," he admitted. "It's still in the back of the mind, though, the defeat the other night. I didn't picture me making my Scotland debut at centre-half, that's for sure.

"Circumstances changed that and I was just delighted to have any game for Scotland though I just want to play in the position that I play.

"The manager knew I wasn't a centre-half, but he asked me to go on and play the position as well as I could. The positive I can take from the night is that it's my first cap and I'm looking to build on that. Hopefully I'll get another chance at some point in my career to show what I can do.

"I was obviously delighted to get my first cap but with the result and the circumstances it's not a game you'll want to look back on. Maybe it got blown out of proportion a bit but we still believe we've got two home games and we can get positive results from those and see where we end up."

Rangers return to competitive action today for the first time since May 30, with Whittaker believing the extended summer break has revitalised a squad with no reinforcements.

"It's been a lot more relaxed this pre-season. We got a bit more time off in the summer and we've been a bit more relaxed coming back, with more time to get fit and some good games down at the Emirates and in Germany. Everything has gone along nicely during pre-season and I'm sure we'll be firing on all cylinders come Saturday.

"At Rangers you're used to seeing new faces but the players in the squad won't be looking at not having new players as a negative. We've shown last year that the same squad can win a double so we believe we can win trophies again this year. We need to go out there and show we can retain the title and put in good performances.

"I started to show last season what I can do and didn't want the season to end. I was playing well and we were winning most weeks. Hopefully I can start well and do that from the start of the season."

Meanwhile, David Weir, the Rangers captain, says that leading the team out for the unfurling of the championship flag today will be the proudest moment of his long career.

The veteran defender, who was made captain when Barry Ferguson was stripped of the title, said: "I was delighted to take the captaincy on when Walter Smith asked me to and it is a real honour to lead Rangers out on the first day of the new season as SPL champions.

"There have been a lot of highs in my two years plus at Rangers, like playing in the UEFA Cup final and winning the Scottish Cup and the SPL, but this is a moment I have been looking forward to all summer. I'm sure there will be a special roar when we run out the tunnel at Ibrox today and leading the team out will be an experience that will rank right up there with anything I have achieved in my career.

"But there is a big season ahead and it is vital that we start the season with three points. When you get the chance to open the season at Ibrox you must make the most of that. We had a good record at Ibrox last season and we must make sure that we maintain these standards."