Cast your mind back to the summer of 2011. Craig Whyte has just purchased Glasgow Rangers for £1. Some people would say that was a steal. Others wouldn't like to comment. Rangers are putting in ‘derisory' offers for a host of SPL players. Almost every offer is being knocked back by the selling clubs, and the media are criticising the Club for such ridiculously low offers. Hearts have just put a £3 million price tag their left-back Lee Wallace's head. There's alleged interest from Wolverhampton Wanderers. Then it happens. Whyte's biggest fear. One of the clubs has actually accepted one of these ridiculous offers. 24-year-old Wallace has been signed for £1.5million. Whyte has maybe just thought to himself, "Shite. I'm going to have to actually spend some money."
When Lee Wallace signed for Rangers on 21st July 2011, he was walking into a dressing room filled with international footballers. Players like Stephen Naismith, Allan McGregor, David Weir and Steven Davis. And also Mo Edu. A team brimming with class and confidence, who'd shortly before won their third league title in a row. No doubt, the young full-back was looking forward to winning titles and competing for the last 16 of the Champions League. Just five days later he was looking at being knocked out the Champions League qualifiers by Malmo FF. Over the course of the season a Wallace found himself a regular, playing 33 games, as Sasa Papac was pushed up into midfield. He looked comfortable, playing beside USMNT Captain Carlos Bocanegra, but it was a difficult season. Though the left-back managed to score a vital and defiant goal against Celtic during Season 2011/12, it was a year of huge disappointment as the club found itself forced into administration.
While the majority of Rangers first team squad left the Club during the following summer, it was with great surprise for the fans that Wallace agreed to TUPE his contract over to the new operating company. Pledging himself to the lower tiers of Scottish football, he signed a five-year contract in September 2012, after being made Vice Captain of the Club. Wallace was arguably the biggest positive of our time down the lower leagues, as well as being somewhat disappointing. Here was a player with an ability far greater than those he was competing against, and yet his form suffered hugely during this time. The fans knew he was capable of a much higher level than he would show on the pitch. For many games he would go missing, or would seem to be doing the bare minimum - neither playing well or particularly badly. However, it's hard to judge him too harshly during this time when you consider the constant air of negativity hanging over the Club, never mind the tactics that Ally McCoist deployed. No player shone during this time, and other impressive SPL quality players came in to the team and soon found their form desert them.
There's been a genuine rejuvenation to not only Wallace's performances, but also his attitude, since Mark Warburton became manager last summer. Being made captain has certainly given confidence to a winner who always seemed too quiet to successfully lead the team. From his first press conference after being appointed captain, you could see he had completely bought into the Warburton mindset, and his performances have once again shown a full-back who is willing to bomb forward and grab a few goals for himself. While the nature of this team is somewhat kamikaze, there's no denying how entertaining the football has been this season, even if we have conceded some sloppy goals.
As it stands now it seems likely Rangers will gain automatic promotion to the SPFL in the next few months, and there's no character more deserving to lead the club in the top flight than Wallace. A man who gave up not only a potentially lucrative signing on fee if he had headed down south during that disappointing summer, but also the opportunity to become a Scotland regular. Wallace will be 29 years old by the time the next season begins, and his journey through the lower leagues have cost him the chance to truly shine at a high level within the game. While I do have some slight concerns over his defensive abilities, particularly at SPFL level after years playing against part-time and amateur teams, he will surely always be remembered as a Rangers legend; standing by the Club during some of our darkest days, and hopefully being the captain to lead us to 55.
Walter Smith once said of becoming a Ranger, "Do not enter unless you are ready to put yourself second - and that should be the only time second is good enough for you." Nobody embodies that more than Lee Wallace.