Nicky Law could be forgiven for expressing some surprise at having been included among the four nominations for Cheque Centre PFA Scotland League 1 player of the year.
The Rangers midfielder yesterday sought to underline how taxing this season has been while trying to perform under siege from critics telling him he has been, well, not very good.
The 26-year-old, who has scored nine goals in 32 appearances, is looking forward to the end-of-season break. Despite some underwhelming performances by Ally McCoist’s side, they lifted the League 1 title in March. Law was joined by team-mates Jon Daly and Lee Wallace, as well as Michael Moffat of Ayr United, in the list of third-tier nominees revealed yesterday. Both of the Ibrox summer signings have had to cope with the enormous
pressure of playing at a club like Rangers, when sometimes simply winning is not considered to be enough.
“I’ve missed about two games this season so I could do with a break physically and I’m looking forward to getting away from it mentally – it’s tough constantly being told you’re s*** for six months!” said Law.
“Nobody would want to go to work and be told how s*** you are so the thought of six weeks off is nice. I’m going to Egypt for ten nights and Italy for two weeks with my family. I hope there are no Rangers fans there to tell me we’re s***!
“It takes getting used to, playing for Rangers,” he added. “With the press and the scrutiny with where Rangers are there’s even more spotlight on the club and it’s been difficult. Being told how rubbish you are for six months despite not losing a league game is strange.
“We know the form and how we’ve played since Christmas hasn’t been good enough. We’ve huffed and puffed and got over the line in games despite not playing well, which is different from the early part of the campaign when we were on our game, scoring freely and winning handsomely. We’ve dropped and when we’ve needed it for cup games it was hard to get that performance back.”
Law admitted the recent cup setbacks against Raith Rovers and Dundee United had put a “dampener” on the season. Although Rangers are unbeaten in the league, they have again fallen short in domestic cup challenges, losing to United in the
Scottish Cup semi-final on Saturday and Raith Rovers in the final of the Ramsdens Cup six days earlier. They also lost to Forfar Athletic in the League Cup earlier in the season.
“It’s been a strange season. We felt our league form had been good and to lose the two cup games in the space of a week has put a big dampener on it.
“We targeted the league and Ramsdens Cup as the two we really wanted to win with the Scottish Cup run a bonus, so to lose the Ramsdens final was a huge blow and we’ve rightly taken a lot of stick. The Dundee United game was disappointing because we felt we gave a good account of ourselves, more than in the cup final, and mistakes at both end of the pitch really cost us.”
Law believes he and his teammates will benefit from playing higher-quality opposition every week next season.
“We feel ready to go up against Hearts,” he said. “We’ve got a squad of what we feel are top-flight standard and have proved they can play at that level. Even if the manager didn’t add we feel like we can compete at the top end and the aim will be to win the league.
“We’re confident in our abilities,” he added. “Hearts will be in it and you’d fancy them to challenge and if any of the other five in the Premiership dropped down then they would make it even more competitive. It will be an exciting league. We’ve played Championship sides this season and you notice the difference in the standard.”
However, Law appreciated being voted one of League 1’s outstanding players this season by his peers. “It’s the top award you can get because it’s the players you’re up against every week who vote,” he said. “It’s an honour to be in the top four.”
He acknowledged the support of others in the Rangers first-team, thanking Lee McCulloch and fellow nominee Wallace for their help as he sought to acclimatise to playing at a “tough place”.
“As a new player, Lee McCulloch is someone we look to who has been there and done it,” added Law. “He’s the only one who has been there through it all and won all the major competitions. He’s a fantastic leader and, when we’ve had our downs, he’s the one you can look to. He’s always helping the young boys. Ibrox can be a tough place to play. One mistake and you hear 40,000 people when they’re shouting at you.
“Lee Wallace has also been a standout and everyone knows he’s far too good for that level. He’s dragged us out of the mud at times and for us to have a left-back who is your biggest threat on the pitch is unusual. Those two have been crucial and helped myself and I probably speak for a lot of the others too.”
Anthony Andreu (Hamilton)
Kane Hemmings (Cowdenbeath)
Rory Loy (Falkirk)
Peter MacDonald (Dundee)
Jon Daly (Rangers)
Nicky Law (Rangers)
Michael Moffat (Ayr United)
Lee Wallace (Rangers)
Lee Currie (Berwick)
Rory McAllister (Peterhead)
Kenny MacKay (Annan Ath)
Andy Rodgers (Peterhead)