Fitness News — September 1, 2010 7:00 — 0 Comments
Lee McCulloch: I’ll shift Rangers through gears of war to hit top speed in trophy fight
Lee McCulloch today told his Rangers team-mates they must raise their game when they return from the international break – or risk losing ground in the SPL title battle.
McCulloch made his first appearance of the season for the SPL champions in their narrow 2-1 win over St Johnstone at Ibrox on Saturday.
But the Gers midfielder, who was today continuing preparations with the national squad ahead of their opening Euro 2012 qualifiers against Lithuania and Liechtenstein, was alarmed at the below-par display against Saints.
Derek McInnes’s side deservedly took the lead in the first half, before a goal from Sasa Papac and a late Kenny Miller strike secured the win.
And McCulloch feels Rangers have to improve to avoid falling behind Celtic at the top of the SPL table – especially with the Parkhead men now solely focused on domestic matters after being sent tumbling out of Europe last week by FC Utrecht.
He said: “We started slowly against St Johnstone and didn’t settle into the game at all well. to be honest, that’s been the story of our season so far.
“In the three league games we have played so far I have thought we haven’t started well enough at all. Once we get going we are fine, but we are starting slowly.
“I thought we were the better team towards the end of the game against St Johnstone and merited our victory in the end, but it was a long time coming.
“We started slowly in all of the games we have played so far this season and unless we sort it out quickly then the chances are we will drop points.”
However, McCulloch was pleased with the fighting spirit Rangers showed after falling a goal behind to St Johnstone midway through the first half.
And he thinks that augurs well for his team, who have recorded three wins out of three so far in the SPL after victories against Kilmarnock and Hibs, for the remainder of the 2010/11 campaign.
McCulloch said: “We really dug in and got the result that we set out for. In the last 20 minutes, in particular, we were outstanding. We showed a lot of character.”
He added: “That sort of determination will be important this season. Sometimes you just need to dig in and grind out results when things aren’t going your way and that is what we did on Saturday.”
The midfielder is also delighted with the form of Miller and hopes his team-mate reaches agreement with Rangers over a new contract soon.
The Scotland hitman took his tally for the season to five in three games against the Saints after latching on to a through ball from the midfielder.
The ex-Wolves, Derby County and Celtic player, whose current deal expires in the summer, has been linked with a move to Barclays Premier League new boys Newcastle United before the transfer window closes tonight.
He has rejected an initial offer from Rangers and there are fears the money men behind the scenes could cash in on him rather than lose him for nothing if a bid is received at some stage today.
McCulloch said: “obviously, we all want Kenny to stay at the club. His goal at the weekend against St Johnstone was absolutely superb.
“he timed his run to perfection and his finish under some pressure was absolutely top drawer. he knows exactly how to make those sort of runs.”
The fact that he was making his first competitive start of the new season after being sidelined since the summer added to McCulloch’s satisfaction after the match.
Now he is hoping to get more games for Rangers under his belt soon – starting with the game against Hamilton at New Douglas Park on Saturday week – and would also love to be involved for his country in the crucial Euro ties.
He explained: “from a personal point of view, it was fantastic for me to get a full 90 minutes in a league game under my belt against St Johnstone at the weekend.
“That is the first game I have really been involved in since the pre-season tour of Australia and I was glad everything went according to plan.
“yes, the performance of the Rangers team perhaps wasn’t what it should be, but from my own perspective it was good just to get a run-out.
“I am sure my fitness and match sharpness will improve with the number of games that I play and I will be working hard to ensure that the team perform better as well.
“It’s great to be back involved in the international set-up again and it would be nice to be involved, even though there is a fair bit of competition for places.”