If a final can come to feel a little routine for Rangers, the competitive values of Walter Smith will rebuke any sense of complacency. Since he returned to Ibrox in January 2007, Smith has led the club to five consecutive cup finals at Hampden, but the occasion will never seem mundane to a man so driven by the faith that it is results, the victories accumulated over time, that provide the truest measure of success.
Rangers will be appearing in their 33rd League Cup final today in Glasgow, where they face St Mirren, and they have lost only seven of them. With a 13-point gap ahead of Celtic in the Premier League, before yesterday, and a replay against Dundee United in the Scottish Cup quarter-finals to come, a domestic treble remains well within reach. Smith, in his second spell in charge of the club, will consider such an aim an imperative.
"If anything, the desire gets greater as you go on," he says. "When you take over at first as manager you always know that to keep your job you have to keep winning. But the desire to win trophies is still there – I mean, one of the reasons I left the Scotland job to come back to Rangers was to get back into the situation when you can win things again."
St Mirren will not be intimidated. This will be their fifth encounter with Rangers since the turn of the year (they took them to a replay in the Scottish Cup) and they have never been overwhelmed. There is a doggedness to Gus MacPherson's Buddies, something hard and obstinate, and they will continue in a 3-5-2 formation that can seem a little quaint to contemporary eyes but provides a staunch defence.
The Paisley side last won a major competition in 1987, when they lifted the Scottish Cup, and there is a nostalgia to their return to such prominence. They work to a limited budget, but they will seek to restrain Rangers and hope that good fortune allows for a moment of intrepidness.
"We're no different from the rest of Scottish football," MacPherson says. "We are debt free but there are still other bills and financial restrictions within the club. We just have to work with what we've got."
"I don't think you can question the players' effort or commitment, which is something we have to get the most out of," he added.Reuse content