Rangers must take chance to atone, says McCulloch

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The Independent Online

Lee McCulloch admits the pressure is now on for Rangers to produce the goods in the Scottish Premier League following their shock European exit at the hands of Lithuanian minnows FBK Kaunas.

The midfielder has told his team-mates that now is the time to stand up and be counted as they prepare for Saturday's curtain-raiser at Falkirk.

McCulloch believes the work-rate, character and desire which took Rangers all the way to the Uefa Cup final has been missing since the squad reported back for pre-season. But he believes the 2-1 defeat to Kaunas in Tuesday night's Champions League qualifier will act as a wake-up call to the players.

"The only positive is that the season hasn't started yet," said McCulloch. "We said from the start that we wanted the league and we have a bit of pressure on us now to win it. Celtic have a bit of momentum and there are other teams who will be much stronger but it all starts on Saturday. Things will come together.

"We have no European football now now so everyone has to focus on the league and that starts on Saturday," he added.

McCulloch accused his team-mates of beginning to believe their own hype following last season's efforts, insisting a poor attitude played a major part in their downfall in Kaunas. And he is now bracing himself for the fall-out which will inevitably accompany the shock defeat.

"Probably most of it will be deserved but we need to get it out of our heads," he said. "I don't think we would have lost that game last season. We were a harder team to beat last year."

Some of the blame will be laid at Walter Smith's door, but McCulloch insists the players must hold their hands up instead and admit that they simply were not good enough.

"The manager just picks his team," the player said. "The bulk of the team who were out there was the team who played last season anyway so there are no excuses."

l Rotherham were yesterday deducted 17 points by the Football League for the start of the new season after failing to exit administration via the necessary Company Voluntary Agreement. However, the League Two club have been given permission to play their home matches at the Don Valley Stadium in Sheffield provided a £750,000 bond is lodged with the League and they guarantee their return to Rotherham within four years.

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