KENNY McDowall, who does not have his problems to seek in his role as caretaker manager of Rangers, has had clear-the-air discussions with Ian Black and insists that the often troublesome midfielder has to grow up.
McDowall had a nightmarish first game in charge last Saturday after being thrust into the position and having his backroom team picked for him following Ally McCoist’s resignation when Hibernian thrashed Rangers 4-0.
However, the petulance of Black was a contributory factor when a needless booking for a reckless challenge and his subsequent demeanour forced McDowall into substituting him before half-time to prevent a red card, resulting in Black kicking the dugout in anger. McDowall has some sympathy with the former Hearts and Inverness Caley Thistle player as he does attract more attention from opponents than most and is often the victim rather than the perpetrator.
However, he also feels that Black brings many of his troubles upon himself and, at the age of 29 he has to act more responsibly.
To that end a full and frank discussion took place between the two men and McDowall has left little doubt as to the message he has sent to his fiery player.
McDowall said: “Blackie has been in to see me. We had a discussion which I will keep private. He appreciates what happened – he’s had it his whole career. He brings stuff on himself and I have told him that much. He just has to be a bit more mature.
“Ian is a very good football player and it gets tarnished with all the rubbish that goes along with Ian Black.
“He’s got to concentrate more on the football side of his game and leave the rest to other people.
“At this stage of his career he’s got to realise it doesn’t last forever and you have to make the best of it while you can. He’s at a fantastic club and he has to grab the chance he has.
“Regardless of where we are, we are still the team people want to beat. People still see us as Glasgow Rangers.
“That’s the way it will always be and Ian, at this moment in time, is part of that. He’s got to want to stay part of that.
“Blackie’s the type of boy who has had, not just at Rangers, a bit of a reputation that makes him feel the world’s against him. That’s not the case and he needs to wake up and realise that.”
In 101 Rangers matches, Black has collected 33 yellow cards and been sent off on two occasions which is a derisory disciplinary record.
However, there have also been countless occasions when he gets involved in situations when there is no need.
Controversially he was also found guilty of breaching the SFA’s rules on gambling which involved placing a bet on a Rangers match.
And Black also fell foul of Rangers supporters last season when he thought that they were over-demanding in terms of criticism of the team’s performance.
McDowall hopes that he will see a positive reaction from the combative midfielder when Rangers seek to win for the first time in three games against Dumbarton on Saturday. In real terms the title has gone. The 15-point gap that exists between Hearts and Rangers is surely too much to bridge even if they have still to play each other twice.
Having said that, the final meeting between the two teams is the last day of the season and the prospect is that Rangers will have their faces rubbed in it as Hearts celebrate a Championship success.
McDowall desperately needs experienced players like Black to make an impact for all the right reasons in the second half of the season as they seek to secure a play-off place which gives them the opportunity of returning to the top flight at the earliest opportunity.
He believes that he can as long as Black eliminates the unwanted element of his game.
He said: “One thing you can’t accuse him of is hiding, ever, even when he’s having a bad time or bringing pressure on himself. I could never accuse him of not wanting to take the ball. He’s fantastic for doing that and he wants to do his best. He’s just got to wise up a touch on the silly stuff and concentrate on his football – but he’ll put himself up for it all day.
“If we’re talking purely football here – being honest – we signed him because we liked what he did.
“He’s a good football player. He’s just got to lose the silly stuff that goes along with his football.”