Rangers 4 East Fife 0: McCulloch helps fires Ibrox men through as new side takes shape
22:08 GMT, 7 August 2012
The Empire Strikes Back On a night of triumphalism and defiance at Ibrox, there was a distinct movie theme as 38,160 Rangers fans — and one stray fox — made an emotional return to their Field Of Dreams after completing The Great Escape from extinction following the club’s slide into liquidation.
‘If we build it, they will come,’ appears to be the motto under new owner Charles Green.
And, on the day that Ally McCoist signed three big-earning stars for the Third Division project he is putting together, the long-suffering fans backed their club in such numbers that kick-off was delayed for fully 20 minutes before this Scottish Communities League Cup first-round rout of Second Division East Fife could get under way.
Flying start: Lee McCulloch settled Rangers' nerves with the opener after quarter of an hour
It was a sensational show of support from a set of fans who have suffered immensely following the calamitous stewardship of former owner Sir David Murray and the corporate vandalism of Craig Whyte, who was described as a ‘chancer’ in the official match programme just 15 months after he hijacked a title party to hoist the SPL flag at this same venue.
The cynic in all of us, however, would suggest that as McCoist, in the Kevin Costner role, rebuilds his Field of Dreams with a team featuring new signings like Francisco Sandaza, Kevin Kyle and Brazilian Edmilson, plus Ian Black and Dean Shiels — all on up to 7,000-per-week — these loyal fans must keep on coming back long after the novelty of life in the lower leagues has worn off.
Otherwise, Green’s business model for the Third Division will be exposed as fresh folly.
For those packed into Ibrox, these are concerns for another day. The kick-off delay saw fans celebrate with a 20-minute singalong to pointed classics including Bob Marley’s Three Little Birds (Don’t Worry About A Thing, Every Little Thing’s Gonna Be All Right) as well as old favourites Penny Arcade and The Best among others.
One up: Lee McCulloch (right) celebrates his opener with Rangers team-mate Andrew Little
On a night of naked tubthumping, however, it was appropriate that 1990s hit Tubthumping (I Get Knocked Down But I Get Up Again) by Chumbawamba was played after two goals from Lee McCulloch, one from debutant Shiels and another from Lee Wallace.
The tone for the evening was set by the banner displayed before kick-off from the Blue Order — the ‘mad squad’ whom McCoist believes to be the current heartbeat of Ibrox — stating that ‘The Fightback Starts Here!’ The Blue Order would later turn their fire on SFA chief executive Stewart Regan with a banner warning: ‘Regan – our rise will be your demise!’, while songs against Celtic in general and Neil Lennon in particular also rang out.
The din that greeted the Rangers team’s pre-match walk into the centre circle only got noisier when Ibrox ambassador Sandy Jardine took to the stadium PA to announce: ‘Welcome back to Ibrox. Home of Rangers then, now and forever. After the most difficult period in the club’s history, Rangers would like to thank their supporters for not walking away. We are the people.’
Doubling up: Dean Shiels chips home Rangers' second of the night
At 8.03pm, the teams finally emerged to play some football and two minutes later this mismatch of a contest was under way.
McCoist left out Maurice Edu and Alejandro Bedoya after both expressed a desire to leave, but fellow USA international Carlos Bocanegra started despite the Rangers boss fearing Captain America may also be for the off.
There were Ibrox debuts for Lewis Macleod and Barrie McKay, as well as the more experienced Black and Shiels, but new signings Sandaza and Kyle were on the bench.
There was no place in the squad for fellow new boy Edmilson, who did not have international clearance to play after spending last season in Brazil with Cruzeiro.
Straight away, Andy Little looked to have got the first goal of the new Ibrox dawn but his point-blank header was saved superbly by Michael Brown in the East Fife goal.
Three and easy: Lee Wallace slams home Rangers' third at Ibrox
Brown’s heroics would become a sub-plot to this contest but he couldn’t prevent McCulloch sliding home the opener on 15 minutes, nor Shiels’ exquisite chipped second 11 minutes before half-time. In between, Brown did stop Dorin Goian and McCulloch ensuring a total first-half obliteration.
There was some light relief for the goalkeeper when a fox emerged from behind his goal to a huge cheer, prompting some wag to suggest the animal had already achieved more for Rangers than goalless ‘Fox in the Box’ former Ibrox striker Francis Jeffers.
The second half brought little respite for East Fife and manager Gordon Durie, who was more used to the oppressor role here as he won six titles in seven years as a Rangers striker between 1993 and 2000. With gate money split 50-50, however, it was a happy enough night for his boss, the New Bayview chairman Sid Collumbine.
The game was out of sight when Wallace cracked in a killer third within two minutes of the restart, 24 hours after being left out of Craig Levein’s Scotland squad to face Australia this month.
McCulloch’s clinical finish made it four before 5,000-per-week new boy Sandaza made his debut, but the former St Johnstone man could not add to the scoring in his 23-minute appearance, nor could Kyle in his 10-minute cameo after replacing former Hearts team-mate Black to rapturous applause.
Off the mark: Dean Shiels celebrates scoring his first goal in a Rangers jersey