Small steps for McCoist's men will turn into a giant leap on last leg for Rangers

RANGERS have encountered a few bumps, and suffered a few bruises, on their road to recovery so far.

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  • Ally McCoist shows off the League One trophy after a comfortable campaign with Gers
    Ally McCoist shows off the League One trophy after a comfortable campaign with Gers
  • Ally McCoist shows off the League One trophy after a comfortable campaign with Gers

But it is the last step, and what will be a giant leap, that could prove the hardest to make as they attempt to get over the final hurdle and complete their journey back to the top at the first time of asking.

Ally McCoist's side may have breezed through Scotland's two lowest leagues as they claimed the Third Division and League One crowns in relative ease, but the job will get significantly harder when they pack away their passports and get back down to business later this summer.

With the squad and resources McCoist has at his disposal, the Light Blues will, of course, be made favourites for the Championship crown.

But in a division that already has Hearts, and could have Hibernian, nothing can be taken for granted.

"There is a difference between League One and the Championship," Dumbarton boss and former Gers defender Ian Murray told SportTimes.

"I noticed a big difference on Sunday between Cowdenbeath and Dunfermline. I could tell the team that had been playing in the Championship and the team that had been playing in League One all season, albeit they are full-time.

"Likewise, I could see the difference when we played Aberdeen in the Scottish Cup so there are big steps up."

While Murray's managerial career is still in its infancy, the impressive 33-year-old recently signed an extension to his Sons contract after a superb two seasons in the dugout, the man he will square up to four times next season has had plenty of ups and downs on the touchline.

Rangers are just one title win away from returning to the league fans believe they should be playing in, and the level McCoist wants to manage at, after a couple of campaigns travelling the length and breadth of the country to visit unfamiliar venues.

The Championship will seem more like the norm on the pitch for Rangers next time out, but Murray knows the pressures and expectations have never changed during the club's fall from grace.

"Ally is very experienced," the Sons boss said. "It is a bizarre situation for him because he has managed and coached in the Premiership and then had to go down to League Two.

"He gets a hard time, but you can only win the league you are in.

"Ally won the Third Division and has won League One while getting to the semi-finals of the Scottish Cup. He did a really good job this season.

"He is not daft, he will know there will be a difference and he needs to add a couple of players.

"If he can, great for him. If he can't then he will have to go with what he has got.

"They played Falkirk in the Scottish Cup and beat them 2-0, although it was two late goals. It is a very tough league, people underestimate how tough it is."

While the destination of the League One title was obvious before a ball was kicked at the start of this season, the outcome, for some, may not be as clear cut this time around.

It is unlikely the race for the Championship will be as close as this seasons as Dundee, Hamilton and Falkirk battled it out until the final minutes of the campaign.

But Murray knows it might not be the same canter over the line for Rangers in what will arguably be Scotland's most exciting and competitive division next term.

"It is hard to tell how it will unfold," he said. "It all depends on the start.

"If Rangers get a bit of momentum early doors you would think that they would go on and dominate the league.

"If they get off to a sticky start and suddenly find themselves a few points behind then it can be hard to get going again.

"This season, Raith were top after 10 games and finished seventh. It shows you how quickly it can turn.

"We didn't get back-to-back wins until January and finished fifth.

"If you get a bit of momentum and consistency going then you can do well. But, on the flip side, if you start poorly it can be hard to recover."

The Championship has always been a notoriously difficult league to escape from with little between the sides on any given afternoon.

With Rangers and Hearts now gearing up for a second-tier campaign, and Hibs potentially 90 minutes away from joining them, the spotlight will shine on the division like never before.

Clubs in League Two and League One have had the financial benefits of the Light Blue legions arriving on their doorstep, but the focus will shift elsewhere once again come the new season.

The Dumbarton manager said: "There will be a different feel to the game and the atmosphere and the players will know that those games are really big.

"We are not used to the cameras, television coverage, interviews through the week. It will all change.

"Ally is right, I have been there, and all the pressure is on Rangers. We can go into those games with a free reign but we will still believe we can win them.

"Aberdeen was a big game for us and we handled that exceptionally well, as we did at Dundee on the last day. They were good markers of what is to come."

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