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Aug 9, 2014

McDowall urges caution

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Kenny McDowall has urged those who believe Rangers' return to the top flight next season is a foregone conclusion to exercise caution.

The Ibrox club has come through two divisions with ease since being consigned to the bottom tier of Scottish football after their descent into administration and liquidation.

However, the Light Blues' assistant manager is aware that the Championship is set to be the most competitive in the land after Hibernian were relegated alongside their Edinburgh rivals Hearts, and the Govan club promoted as League One champions.

Ahead of the visit of the Jambos on Sunday, McDowall said: "Obviously we are one (league) away but it is easy to say that, we know that there is a bit of work to be done this season.

"We don't think it is a certainty, we are not saying that.

"I would like to think we are favourites but you never know.

"We know we have to work hard this season, probably harder than we have had to work before.

"It is an exciting league, obviously Hearts and Hibs coming down certainly makes it more exciting but it is going to be tough and you can't forget the other teams in the league.

"All the games will be tough.

"But we are well up for, we have a good squad if players who are up for it so bring Sunday on."

While off-field issues and controversies continue to bedevil the Ibrox club - former chief executive Charles Green re-emerged on Friday claiming to be able to raise money for the club - but McDowall, is focused solely on the football and he believes the visit of Hearts is as tough an opening day fixture as Rangers could have been handed.

"It is a great game for everybody," he said.

"We are excited about the prospect of the new season and this is a great game to open the season with, so we look forward to it."

Skipper Lee McCulloch will unfurl the First Division flag on a day that the Govan Stand will be renamed The Sandy Jardine Stand in honour of the former Rangers and Hearts player, latterly working behind the scenes at Ibrox, who died in April after a long battle with cancer.

McDowall said: "It is very fitting that we are playing Hearts. It will be a great day for the supporters and Sandy's family."

Hearts are without right-back Callum Paterson and summer signing Soufian El Hassnaoui for their Scottish Championship opener at Ibrox.

Paterson is out until October following knee surgery while Moroccan striker El Hassnaoui is still building up his fitness after groin a groin operation.

Jamie Walker is suspended along with Scott Robinson, who starts a three-match ban, but former Hamilton forward James Keatings has returned to training following a hamstring strain.

Head coach Robbie Neilson said: "Every time we came in at the start of the season, no matter who it was in the league - Rangers or Celtic - we always had the ambition to try and win the league.

"You go as hard as you can and you go at it. As a coach, I'm trying to instil that into the players as well. You must have ambitions that, for every game, you must try and win."

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