RANGERS manager Ally McCoist last night praised Ian Black’s response to a week spent in the headlines after being charged by the SFA for 160 offences of gambling on football matches.
Black produced an impressive performance as Rangers crushed Airdrieonians 6-0 at the Excelsior Stadium to make it three wins out of three at the start of their League One campaign.
The former Inverness and Hearts midfielder was afforded vociferous acclaim throughout from the Rangers’ fans, allaying any suggestion they might turn on him because of specific claims he bet against the club he was playing for on three occasions.
“I don’t think anyone really thought it would get to him,” said McCoist. “Because he is one of these players who just attracts attention anyway, the way he plays and the way he is treated at grounds all around the country. But he has had a good pre-season this year. We feel he has started the season really, really well. Ian’s performance tonight certainly didn’t surprise me.
“I was delighted with the fans’ reaction to him and I thought that would be the case. I thought the Rangers fans, as they do, would support one of their own. The support he got from them tonight wasn’t surprising, but it was fantastic.”
On a satisfying night for McCoist, Jon Daly opened his scoring account for the Ibrox club with a double. Lewis MacLeod, Andy Little, Robbie Crawford and Nicky Law completed the rout.
“I was delighted for Jon,” added McCoist. “I especially loved his first goal – he put everything into the net, not just the ball! It was an old-fashioned Nat Lofthouse job from a yard out at the back post.
“Jon got his two goals tonight and it was just reward for the way he has been playing. We’ve always felt the goals would come and that’s been the case. I hope he can go on and add to that tally now.
“I thought our second half performance especially was terrific. In the first half, Airdrie came out the traps really well for 15 minutes or so.
“The first half was a really keenly contested affair and the first goal is always important. We defended reasonably well without being great. Airdrie had a couple of half chances without forcing a save and then we got that all important first goal from Lewis MacLeod.
“Andy Little got a second before half-time and I said to the boys to make sure they matched Airdrie’s spirit in the second half. I thought we were very, very good in the second half. The quality of the finishing was really pleasing. It was a great reaction in the second half. I said to the boys after Stranraer last Saturday, when we were 3-0 up at half-time but didn’t add to it, that the best way they could show opponents respect was to keep going in the second half of games, play as well as they can and get as many goals as they can. Tonight they did that.”
Rangers face two more fixtures, Tuesday night’s Ramsdens Cup tie at home to Berwick and then the League One visit of East Fife next Saturday, before their player registration embargo is lifted and they can select all of their close season signings.
“We feel we have strengthened the squad really well,” reflected McCoist. “Come 1 September, when we have real competition for places, we feel we should have a better level of consistency and performance. We obviously want stability throughout the club. We feel we are making slight improvements on the playing side. That’s not going to happen overnight, it’s going to be gradual.
“Hopefully we can have a little bit of stability off the park too. The fans deserve that and the directors appreciate that. I’m very hopeful that in the next few months we can achieve a bit of stability on and off the park.”
Airdrieonians manager Jimmy Boyle was left angry and disappointed by the manner his team were swept aside in the second half.
“It just wasn’t good enough,” said Boyle. “We started the game well and should have made more of a couple of chances we created. But I’m not happy with the second half at all. It was a lesson for us and we have to be able to do better than that.”