Mark Warburton aware of Lee McCulloch factor as Rangers prepare for Kilmarnock visit

Former Rangers hero Lee McCulloch
Former Rangers hero Lee McCulloch

An old friend returns to Ibrox at lunchtime on Saturday as the opening Scottish Cup tie of the weekend sees Rangers face Kilmarnock.

Former captain Lee McCulloch has been installed as acting manager of Killie following theresignation of Gary Locke in the wake of last weekend’s home League defeat at the hands of Hamilton Academical.

McCulloch will not be alone amongst the visitors’ ranks in terms of ex-Ibrox men – Kris Boyd and Steven Smith should be in the squad travelling to a venue they are all too familiar with.

Mark Warburton may not have been Rangers manager during McCulloch’s eight-year spell at the club he had supported as a boy, but he is certainly aware of the player’s stature at Ibrox, even if his time ended in somewhat controversial circumstances.

“David Weir obviously knows him very well. He’s played over 300 games for the club and scored more than 70 goals, and played almost every position bar goalkeeper it seems,” Warburton said.

“He has had a tremendous playing career and I am full of respect for that.”

Killie produced a fine win in the last round of the cup with a 1-0 win over Tommy Wright’s St. Johnstone at McDiarmid Park – but in the Premiership they are struggling, currently lying in second bottom place in the division, which just happens to be a relegation play-off spot.

Both of Rangers’ most recent new signings – Billy King and Michael O’Halloran – are ineligible, being cup-tied, but arguably of greater concern to Warburton will be the fitness of midfielder Jason Holt, whose goal threat has been missed in recent games.

This will be the Ibrox side’s first encounter with a Premiership side since suffering League Cup elimination at the hands of St. Johnstone last September as the Ibrox boss remembers all too well.

“We were well equipped that night – but we made a couple of mistakes and got punished,” Warburton said.

“There is no great gulf between the divisions in my mind. We won’t underestimate the threat – but we are in good shape.”