Rangers clinch League One title as Lee McCulloch scores hat-trick against Airdrie

Celebrations at Ibrox as 41,343 see club promoted to within a division of the top-flight

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The Independent Football

Skipper Lee McCulloch thanked the Rangers fans for their continual support after his first-half hat-trick in the 3-0 win over Airdrie at Ibrox clinched the Scottish League One title.

The 35-year-old defender scored a brace from the penalty spot before netting a third from open play as the Light Blues strode 26 points ahead of second-placed Dunfermline with eight games remaining.

The Govan club's ascent back to the top has been backed to the hilt by the rank and file of the club's support base with the official crowd of 41,343 seeing a comfortable win for Ally McCoist's side.

Rangers, who started at the bottom of Scottish league football after lapsing into administration and then liquidation in 2012, will play in the Championship next season, one title win away from the Scottish Premiership, and the former Motherwell and Wigan player spoke for all of the Light Blues squad when recognising the help of the supporters.

"From the dressing room's point of view, I would like to thank all the fans," he said.

"It is important to let the fans know their support has been appreciated this season.

"They have had to put up with a lot as well and so it is good to give them something to shout about.

"I am delighted to have done it with eight games to go.

"It is 28 games, drawn two and won 26, that's a fantastic record and we want to keep it going."

McCulloch was also pleased for McCoist who came in for heavy criticism after Rangers drew 1-1 with Albion Rovers in their William Hill Scottish Cup quarter-final clash at Ibrox on Sunday.

He said: "It is great win for the manager, to repay the faith he has shown in some of the boys, by getting his second league title.

"He has had to deal with things that some managers have never dealt with, even those who have been in their jobs for 20-25 years."

The jokes were flying in the media room afterwards as manager Ally McCoist lavished praise on McCulloch.

The former Rangers striker said: "I actually scored a quicker hat-trick in Vladikavkaz in a Champions League match than the time Lee scored in tonight.

"But I wasn't playing centre-half to be fair. I think the last person to do it here was Paul Gascoigne on the day we won the title against Aberdeen - although I draw the line at saying they were similar players.

"But it's an unbelievable achievement.

"McCulloch epitomises the spirit that has been required within the club at the beginning of the journey back.

"I'm absolutely thrilled for him. For a captain to score a hat-trick from centre-half on a title-winning day is real Roy or the Rovers stuff."