There are countless tales of players who look back upon their time in the game and wonder if perhaps they had applied themselves a little more what they might have achieved. That could never be said of Lee McCulloch however, who put the maximum he could into his career and was well rewarded for it.
A product of the Motherwell youth set up, like several youngsters of the day he was farmed out to junior football, in Lee’s case at Cumbernauld juniors.
Very early in his senior career Lee almost grabbed the headlines as ‘Well faced MyPa-47 in the UEFA Cup. With seconds remaining and the tie locked at 3-3 on aggregate, Lee’s net-bound shot somehow clipped a post and rolled behind with ‘Well going out on away goals.
He netted his first Motherwell goals in a 6-2 win over Hibs in January 1998 but it was only under Billy Davies did he cement his place as a first pick. Benefiting from playing alongside quality strikers such as Owen Coyle, John Spencer and Don Goodman, McCulloch was showing immense promise and soon became a wanted man.
In March 2001 he joined Wigan for a reported £700.000, then the Latics record signing. Lee helped the Lancashire side progress from the third tier in English football to a 10th place finish in the Premiership with a League Cup Final appearance along the way.
It was with Wigan that Lee earned the first of his 18 Scotland caps and he was involved in some famous wins, not least the 1-0 victory over France in Paris where he linked up fellow ‘Well youth graduates Stephen Pearson and match winner James McFadden.
After six seasons in England, McCulloch joined Rangers for £2.25m in 2007. By the time he returned north, Lee had moved deeper playing in midfield, and over time he would become a regular in the centre of defence. Prior to Rangers financial difficulties, he would win three top flight titles, three League Cups and two Scottish Cups with the Ibrox side.
Choosing to remain at Ibrox, ironically it was only his home-town club Motherwell who prevented him captaining Rangers from the Third Division to the top flight when ‘Well won the SPFL Premiership play-off in 2015.
Lee moved on to Kilmarnock in the summer of 2015 in a player-assistant manager capacity. Having been number two to both Gary Locke and Lee Clark. McCulloch is now in his second spell as caretaker manager of the Ayrshire side.