RANGERS will take another step into the unknown when they stride into the SPFL Championship next month.

But Barrie McKay has already had a taster of what life will be like for Ally McCoist's side in the second tier.

The opening fixture against Hearts at Ibrox will kick-off the next stage of the Gers' journey back to the top and while they will feel more at home against the Jambos and capital rivals Hibernian, it is still not the level the club want to be competing at.

As the Light Blues were romping their way to the League One title last term, McKay had a far different battle on his hands, a loan spell at Morton proving valuable despite the Cappielow club suffering relegation.

The Championship will be even more competitive this time out and the winger hopes his Ton spell will stand him, and Rangers, in good stead.

"It's a really hard league," he said. "Basically every team could beat each other. It's all about your form on the day really.

"I think there are a lot of teams that want to get the ball down and play but there are a lot of physical players in there, too. It's a bit mixed.

"I've played against the youth teams of these clubs and they drill passing football into them at a young age. So when the boys go into the first team, it's in their nature to slot in and play the way the first team do.

"I think it will be a tough league for Rangers with the likes of Hearts and Hibs. Even without them in it, it would still be difficult.

"You can't jump to conclusions by thinking 'this team will win the league' just because they are a big name.

"Anything can happen. You just need to give yourself the best chance and make sure all your players are fit and focused when it starts.

"Every game will be tough - as the past two seasons have been as well. But we're in the Championship now and there are Premiership teams dropping down so it will be even harder.

"It's another new challenge for us."

McKay may have benefited from a prolonged run of first-team football but he is still likely to find himself down the Ibrox pecking order next season.

He is using sessions put on by Revolution Sports Management at the K-Park to give himself the edge this summer. And the 19-year-old knows he must hit the ground running when boss McCoist starts putting his squad through their paces.

McKay said: "I was in at Murray Park on Tuesday but I plan to train at East Kilbride later this week. Rangers are back in next week.

"I just want to get a bit more fitness in - a mini pre-season before I go back to my real one next Wednesday.

"I know people would say we work hard enough during the season but I want to give myself every advantage possible. If you take a couple of days off, it takes you a bit before you get back in.

"I just want to give myself the best chance possible of making an impact.

"I had a short break but I've been keeping myself ticking over and now I want to do a little bit extra."

With 18 Championship games for Morton and an extended pre-season under his belt, McKay should be in decent shape ahead of the visit of Hearts on August 9.

It was against the Jambos that McKay played his final game of the campaign as he returned from Greenock to help the Light Blues Under-20s to Youth Cup success.

And he admits he enjoyed life in the Championship - despite the season ending on a sour note as the Ton crashed to a 10-2 defeat to Hamilton Accies.

McKay said: "It was good for me that I was playing games in a league that Rangers are going to be playing in next season.

"The main thing was to go out and get games and that's what happened.

"I got great experience of the league and players who I will hopefully play against next season.

"The more games you play the more experienced you are going to be. Obviously the way it ended wasn't the best, though.

"I played in the Youth Cup after [the 10-2 game] and it kind of took the taste away. But at the same time, you are never going to be happy about getting beaten by that margin.

"Our performance wasn't nearly good enough that day. At the same time you need to try and get it out of your head and move on or else it will hinder your performances in the future.

"You can't really ever forget about the result that day. It will always be in the back of my mind but you need to try and move on."