How do you remember the big man?

Rangers 2 – 1 Hearts, Saturday 15th December 2007

How is Lee McCulloch remembered by Rangers fans? He played just over 300 games and scored 70 goals. He played everywhere apart from in goals and at right back, but if you asked him to do either I’m pretty sure he’d say, “no bother” and just get on with it.

I watched a recent Si Ferry, Open Goal interview with McCulloch and being honest it totally changed my opinion of him (highly recommended by the way). I previously thought he was a wee bit egotistical, arrogant and had a touch of the Kenny Miller’s about him. The whole “I can do it” attitude without the trust in his team mates.

We all knew he was a lifelong Rangers fan when he signed in the summer of 2007 for £2.25m. It was a lot of money for a 29-year-old who, as a forward and in his own admission, was never blessed with pace. Walter Smith knew what he was doing though. He filled the Rangers squad with hard working players and a core of Rangers fans.

McCulloch had been bought to add a physical presence and flexibility to the Rangers line up. He offered an outlet for the defence when it was under pressure and added a threat in attacking set pieces. It also helps defensively when your left midfielder is as good in the air as McCulloch.

McCulloch scored two goals in this game. His first was a shot that the keeper should save and his second was a deflection from an Alan Hutton shot. Right place at the right time with a bit of luck thrown in. Pretty much his Rangers career in a single match.

McCulloch is incredibly humble, modest and very self-deprecating when talking about his career. He counted himself lucky to be at Rangers, even luckier to be captain. He even threatened to go on strike at Wigan if the club didn’t let him go such was his desire to join the club he loved.

I’ll remember him for a few things mainly. That header v Lyon away. Textbook McCulloch, if he had a start on a defender there was only one winner. The 2009 CIS Cup Final v St Mirren. He played everywhere, not in a Kenny Miller running about kind of way either. With Rangers reduced to 10, then 9 men, he was used in no less than four positions throughout the game. And finally, he has to be remembered for staying with the club post administration. He played well as a striker in the first two seasons, scoring nearly 50 goals. He didn’t need to stay, he could’ve made more money elsewhere but he loved the club and didn’t want to let it down.

His on-field performances began to wane when he was tasked with organising a makeshift back four and play a position, week in-week out that he hadn’t done for the previous 20 years of his career. He was never a centre-half. He could get away with it next to a David Weir or Carlos Cuellar to keep him right but certainly not a Bilel Mohsni!

At the time, I thought he was wrong to continue playing, especially as a centre-half but when you hear him speak about the club you begin to understand that he felt he had to. It wasn’t for the shortage of effort or the lack of desire, he just wasn’t a centre-half. All he wanted was to do his best. If he’d been kept as an impact player, coming off the bench as a centre-forward his last couple of years might be remembered more fondly. I almost feel sorry for him.

Everyone is entitled to their opinions, it’s part of what makes football the sport we love. For me, Lee McCulloch should always be welcomed back with open arms and if he wants a job at the club in the coaching set-up, I for one would be happy to see him return. Big Jig, one of us, the fan who lived out his dream.