LEE McCULLOCH is confident a solid pre-season campaign can lead to Championship glory for Rangers this term.
The Ibrox captain was reunited with his team-mates at the Gers' Murray Park base yesterday as Ally McCoist's side returned to action after their summer break.
While the likes of Chris Hegarty and Andrew Little were absent after being released at the end of the season, McCoist's squad has been bolstered by the arrivals of Darren McGregor and Kenny Miller so far this summer.
More new faces could yet join the Gers before they start their Ramsdens Cup campaign and look to get their bid for Championship glory off to the perfect start against Hearts on August 9 at Ibrox.
After a productive pre-season schedule last summer, Rangers flew out of the blocks and stormed into an unassailable lead in League One.
And McCulloch is eager to repeat the trick this time around as the Light Blues get ready for some hard graft in the coming days and weeks.
"We'll be looking to win the league and we want to start well so it's important we get things right over the next few weeks.
"Two years ago, it showed in some parts that we hadn't had a good pre-season but last year we were much better because of the preparation we had done in the summer.
"We were a lot stronger the second time around and we will be looking to be as convincing on this occasion as well.
"We've got good games to look forward to and we are optimistic they'll set us up for what we want to be a fantastic season."
After being put through their paces at Murray Park yesterday, Rangers are gearing up for their trip to the Highlands as they prepare for friendly clashes with Buckie Thistle and Brora next week.
A tour of Canada and the USA will see them train in the sunshine and play another four bounce games before their toughest test of the summer arrives when they face English Championship side Derby County seven days before the big kick-off.
It should be the most thorough summer schedule of any Scottish second tier side in the coming weeks and McCulloch is confident it will stand them in good stead when the competitive action gets underway.
"We know what to expect when we go up to Brora after having a good week up there 12 months ago and that will be great for us again," the Light Blues skipper told rangers.co.uk
"It will be hard work there and when we go over to North America. We'll be pushed hard from day one which is a good thing.
"Playing in America and Canada is something we are looking forward to. It will be good for team bonding and we'll get a good test there."