RANGERS winger Fraser Aird believes that Premiership opponents Kilmarnock will still feel fear when they come to Ibrox tomorrow – even if recent results for Ally McCoist’s men suggest otherwise.
Then again, perhaps the 19-year-old is hoping that will be the case. With the revenue from a cup run absolutely vital for the financially-challenged Glasgow club, anything other than a home win is unthinkable – although a replay would, of course, generate even more income.
The teams meet in the fourth round of the William Hill Scottish Cup in a lunchtime kick-off – but a combination of live TV coverage plus increasing discontent among the home support means that a full house is unlikely.
Aird, though, argues that Kilmarnock, who have lost their last four Premiership matches, will not relish the prospect of facing Rangers.
He said: “I wouldn’t say that Kilmarnock will be intimidated because they’ll have been used to playing Rangers at Ibrox but I think that, in a sense, everyone has a wee bit of fear when they come to play us at home.
“Kilmarnock were doing well at the start of the season but they haven’t been at their best recently. They’re a good side and they’ll feel – just as we do – that they have a chance of winning. It should be a good game.”
However, the idea that opponents tremble at the prospect of facing McCoist’s side in their own back yard does not stack up.
Since rebranding in 2012, following the financial collapse of the old club, Rangers have lost at home to Annan, Peterhead, Queen of the South, Inverness Caley Thistle, Dundee United, Hearts and Hibernian.
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Just two weeks ago they were held to a draw in Govan by part-timers Alloa Athletic, currently third from bottom of the Championship.
Having followed that draw with a defeat by Hearts at Tynecastle, Aird realises that there will be no hiding place if Rangers fail once again against Killie. He said: “Drawing against Alloa and losing to Hearts clearly wasn’t what we wanted but we have another chance to prove ourselves this weekend and I’m positive that we can go out and do just that.
“We haven’t had a squad meeting or anything. The boys know that we need to do better after two bad results.
“That’s what happens in football and we won’t have a better chance to put things right than on Sunday, when we have another big game against Premiership opposition.
“Hopefully, we can put on a good performance and get the result we need. There’s no sense of backs being against the wall – everyone just wants to get out there and prove themselves against a team from the top division.
“When you’ve had a bad result then you can’t wait for the next game so we’re all looking forward to facing Kilmarnock.
“We’ve beaten two Premiership clubs already this season and we’re looking to make that three.”
Manager McCoist has been on the receiving end of abuse from disgruntled Rangers supporters but Aird insists that the players are behind him.
He said: “The manager has to pick a team and they have to go and perform for him. He has a belief in us and, obviously, we believe in him. At the end of the day, we’re all in this together.
“Everyone in this squad gives it their best shot every single week – that’s why we’re at a big club like Rangers.
“He’ll make sure that we’re all up for this big game on Sunday.”
In the wake of the defeat which left them lying nine points behind league leaders Hearts, former player John Brown attacked senior members of McCoist’s squad in captain Lee McCulloch, Kris Boyd and Kenny Miller.
But Aird says Brown was wrong to question their commitment to the cause.
He said: “That’s obviously his view but they go out there and try to do the best they can. Hopefully, they can do that on Sunday and we’ll get the victory.”
Rangers will be without Steven Smith through suspension tomorrow, as a consequence of the first-half dismissal which proved to be the pivotal moment of the match at Tynecastle last weekend.
Aird said: “Steven apologised for his red card in the dressing room at Tynecastle but that’s the sort of thing that happens. You get red cards and you just have to get on with it. It’s not really in Steven’s nature to do something like that – it was just a one-off thing.”
However, Smith’s absence could open the door for Aird’s first start since October, after recovering from a torn thigh muscle.
He said: “I played the full 90 minutes against Dundee United’s Under-20s during the week. That was my first game for five weeks and now I’m looking forward to being in the squad at the weekend. It’s been frustrating. Injuries are the worst thing in football but I’ve worked hard to get back.”
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