Little goes a long way for Rangers

ANDY Little's scoring exploits for Rangers this season have been overshadowed by those of his club captain Lee McCulloch.

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Andy Little will hope to rival Lee McCulloch to be top scorer at Rangers after his hat-trick against Berwick
Andy Little will hope to rival Lee McCulloch to be top scorer at Rangers after his hat-trick against Berwick

The 34-year-old has led by example by operating in defence, midfield and up front and netting 22 times in the process.

His remarkable personal haul of goals for the Gers has made him the second-top scorer in Scotland; only Nicky Clark of Queen of the South with 25 has bagged more.

But the huge importance of Little to Ally McCoist's team in recent months, on and off the park, should by no means be underestimated.

His hat-trick in the 4-2 win over Berwick Rangers at Ibrox on Saturday took his tally for the campaign to 16.

That may still be six shy of the mark McCulloch, who is out with a niggling ankle injury just now, currently occupies.

However, it is worth remembering the Irishman, whose favoured position is up front, has mainly been played wide on the right in a 4-4-1-1 formation.

McCulloch, for all that he has filled in at centre-half when required, has usually been deployed as a lone striker by his manager.

Little did, too, spend a fair chunk of this term on the sidelines after suffering a stress fracture in his foot on international duty in September.

If the 23-year-old continues to perform like he did at the weekend in the remaining games of the season, and avoids further injury, he could well overtake his skipper.

Only a fool would bet against it. Every one of his goals at the weekend was a beauty. Furthermore, his all-round play against dogged adversaries was hugely impressive.

Little opened the scoring early on from a seemingly impossible angle after some fine work by Francisco Sandaza in the Berwick box.

He then volleyed an inswinging David Templeton cross beyond the outstretched Ian McCaldon at the start of the second half.

Templeton emulated that feat later with Sandaza, whose personal quest for a goal continues to frustrate him, once again the provider.

The winger's effort put the home team 3-0 ahead and looked to have secured another three Irn-Bru Third Division points.

The defence switched off in a catastrophic eight- minute spell, though, and substitute Ross Gray and Fraser McLaren netted to give the visitors hope.

It was Little who calmed the frayed nerves of the Rangers support with a composed finish from the edge of the opposition area.

McCulloch has, rightly, been lauded for the commitment he has shown to Rangers throughout their off-field difficulties in the last year.

He was instrumental in the players taking a pay cut to safeguard the future of non-playing staff after the Glasgow club was placed in administration in February.

The ex-Motherwell, Wigan and Scotland player had no hesitation either in pledging his future to the Light Blues when they dropped down to the fourth tier.

But Little – who, unlike his team-mate, has the majority of his career ahead of him –should also be applauded for his selfless actions during a turbulent period.

With his first team and international experience, he could very easily have moved on, as many of his contemporaries did, and played for more money at a higher level.

That he chose to remain, despite great uncertainty over the future, is testimony to both his loyalty to and affection for the Glasgow club.

He is being rewarded for his selfless actions now with a regular run in the Rangers first team and is taking full advantage of that.

Given all he has been through and all he has sacrificed, it will be harsh if Little is forced to return to the bottom division to play all the same clubs again next season.

Hugely controversial plans to introduce a 12-12-18 league structure next season would, if passed by SFL and SPL clubs, render this season meaningless.

That eventuality did not deter any of the Rangers players at the weekend. A minor blip in the second half aside, they were fully focused on beating a team that had held them to a 1-1 draw back in August.

Nor did it dissuade any supporters from turning up as 44,976 filed through the turnstiles on Saturday, ensuring it was best attended game in Britain.

Of course, no vote has yet been taken on league reconstruction. Its affects, if any, will only be seen after it has been given the green light. There is no guarantee it will get the go-ahead either.

But having surged 19 points clear of nearest challengers Queen's Park, who have two games in hand, with the win over Berwick then Rangers' momentum is building nicely.

It would be unfair for our governing bodies to move the goalposts midway through the season.

By all means, push through change. But introducing the proposed set-up at the start of the 2014/15 campaign, when clubs all know what they are playing for, would be a far wiser course of action.

Everyone at Gers, the players, the fans, the coaches and the officials, has suffered quite enough. Who can say with any certainty what repercussions a further indignity, and an avoidable one at that, will have on them.

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