IAN Black has begged the Scottish football community to trust him again after apologising to the staff and supporters of Rangers for the immoral betting that led to his suspension.
The Rangers midfielder was banned for ten matches – seven of them suspended – and fined £7,500 for breaking SFA rules on betting at a Hampden disciplinary hearing last week. His list of transgressions included an accumulator bet that banked on Rangers drawing at East Stirlingshire – a 4-2 victory in which he played, and scored.
Black has been roundly criticised for seeking to gain financially from his own team not winning, but he asked for clemency and to be given a “second chance” to prove that he is a clean footballer who tries “100 per cent to win every game”.
“Looking back, I obviously wasn’t thinking at all. It was a small bet of £5 and there was obviously no thought in it,” Black told Rangers TV when asked about the accumulator bet for which he has received most criticism.
“It was a silly bet and I’m paying for it now. You know, I scored the goal to beat that bet – people are saying they can’t trust me and I’m this player they’d have to look in the eye, but people that know me and supporters that watch me every week know that I give 100 per cent in every game.
“Even in training – the boys have come out and openly spoken that they know they can trust me fully. The manager has backed me as well, and the club has backed me so it’s great. Going back to it, there was obviously no thought to the bet at all.”
Black, who previously played for Hearts and Inverness Caledonian Thistle, pled guilty to all charges against him after the SFA gathered evidence of 160 bets on football matches stretching back seven years, encompassing his time at Tynecastle and in the Highlands.
Yesterday, speaking for the first time about the affair, he tried to put his conduct into context by insisting that his betting patterns were not unusual among professional footballers. He would not name any of these supposed transgressors, however, because he said he did not want them to suffer like he had in recent weeks. Black said it was “disappointing” when reporters approached his family home looking for his side of the story when news broke of the investigation against him.
“I broke the rule and deserved the punishment,” said the 28-year-old from Edinburgh. “I shouldn’t have done it but there’s a lot of players out there that are still doing it; I could sit and name players.
“But I’m not going to do that because I’ve been punished for breaking the rule and it would be harsh to see anybody else come down with it, especially with the amount of investigation the SFA went through. They revealed to me every single bet I’ve had since I opened my account six or seven years ago. They had every single one.
“There’s a lot of effort gone in there, and I’d certainly not like to see any other players from Scottish football get done for breaking the rule like I did. When it first came out, I had to deal with a lot, with my family. It was horrible. It got to the point where I had reporters knocking on my door when my daughter’s sitting in the house and I’m trying to keep it away from her.
“She’s at school and you know kids nowadays, sometimes they aren’t too nice. I’m at a big club and it was hard for her, and my other half as well. Having reporters knock on your door when you’re trying to go behind your walls and have the comfort of your family there, it was disappointing.
“You know, I put my hands up. It was a mistake I made and I’m serving my ban and my punishment for it.”
Returning to that theme, Black said he hoped to emerge stronger for his chastening experience. He paid tribute to Rangers manager Ally McCoist and the club’s fans for not turning against him in the wake of his conviction. McCoist said at the weekend that he will have no problem picking Black once his ban is finished.
“It’s affected me off the pitch – people judging me – and I’m going to have to be big enough and come out stronger now that I’ve apologised to everybody. I need to apologise especially to the (Rangers) fans. They’ve backed me – as soon as it’s come out they have backed me,” he said.
“I’ve played a couple of games since it’s come out and they’ve been great, so I’m serving my punishment now and I just hope that I can come back stronger and kick on like how I’ve started.
“I’ve spoken to the boys and the manager and they know how I feel. I just want to go out and give it 100 per cent as soon as I’m available again. The fans and players who have watched me over the years know the kind of player that I am, that I give 100 per cent and I hate to get beaten.
“I’ve come to a big club where you are expected to win and I feel like I fit in because I give 100 per cent every week.”
Admitting he was lucky Rangers hadn’t sacked him, Black added: “You’re breaking the rules so you’ve got to be fortunate enough to keep your job.
“That’s where I thank the board and the players and staff round about me who have stood by me and gave me the chance. It’s a big thank you there. I’ve got a second chance, and for a silly bet that I put on, it’s up to me to come back stronger and repay them as well as the supporters.”