It was easy to dismiss the stories earlier in the season that linked Lee McCulloch with a move to Charlton. Based on the fact that he hadn’t featured in the first eleven for a few games, they never really rang true not least because his absence was due to injury. In any case, if we were doing badly, Charlton’s position was ten times worse Stories linking him with the team that he supported as a boy, are harder to ignore.

The news today is that Rangers have made a £750k bid for the striker come wide man and whilst the money involved is Latics-esque in it’s comedy value, indications are that their interest will continue and that there is a real prospect of Lee submitting a transfer request before the week is out.

Walter Smith’s appointment to the Ibrox hot seat caused quite a stir north of the border. His search to build a team that can compete against their Old Firm rivals next season may cause upset in other quarters too.

Rangers’ plight at the moment is very similar to that of the Scotland team prior to Smith’s arrival. With the team suffering the effects of a foreign coach who had seemingly struggled to motivate the players the new man will be hoping to instil some of the same passion and pride that saw him turn around the fortunes of the national side.

It is probably too late to pull anything around this season, but the manager and fans will be looking to arrest the slide. There’ll be much rebuilding to do in the summer, but there’s still a job to do now. Rangers may be well of the pace of their Old Firm rivals, but they will not want to go down without a fight and he needs the players to help him do that. McCulloch has never been found wanting in a Latics shirt as far as commitment and pride go. Add in the facts that he is a Rangers supporter and knows the manager through the international set up and you can see why Smith is interested.

Whatever your thoughts on McCulloch as a player it is hard to question his role within the squad, Latics have usually performed better with him in the team and at times have been downright awful without him. Like the old family dog that doesn’t do the same tricks as next doors puppy, it is hard to imagine life without him. It looks like we should start facing up to that possibility.

Can Latics manage the fight that inevitably lies ahead without Lee? The truth may may lie in what transfer activity lies ahead, however there will be strong suspicions that, either way, the answer will be no.

Now you may have noticed some disparaging comments about McCulloch’s abilities as a footballer on this site, but the one thing that has never been questioned is importance to the club. Rightly or wrongly he’s developed into a key part of the team and the cornerstone of Jewell’s tactics. Last season’s look behind the scenes painted him as a key player off the pitch

Lee’s departure would be another blow to a team that built its success on continuity and momentum. It could prove to be a knockout.

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