Ian Black Is My Hero

Ian Black is my hero. Born in 1985 in Tranent, a youth player with Blackburn Rovers, 132 appearances for Inverness Caledonian Thistle and 88 appearances for Hearts, and in 2012 he became my hero as he signed for Rangers.

The above paragraph would ring true of every single player who signed for Rangers in the summer or every player who chose to stay with the Club when a ‘get out’ clause was dangled in front of their nose by agents.

This weekend could see yet another milestone in the 141 year history of Rangers; we could win Scotland’s lowest division for the first time. It is absolutely a cause for celebration and the squad involved in this victory are every bit as important in the history of Rangers as the likes of John Greig, Jim Baxter or Davie Cooper.

From relief that we didn’t have to find alternative pursuits every Saturday, to the real emotion of welcoming a Rangers team onto the park at Ibrox on the 7 August 2012 for a 4-0 over East Fife in the first round of the League Cup, this squad are the ones who made it happen, them and no one else.

The football this season has been well debated and, in the main, has been truly awful. The lack of clear leadership in terms of youth development is a cause for concern and the Manager’s inability to motivate and dictate a brand of attractive football is something that needs to be addressed.

However I bring your attention to the squad, from Lee McCulloch to Kevin Kyle, Neil Alexander to Emilson Cribari, from Barry McKay to that man Ian Black again, everyone deserves a special mention in the history read by future generations of Bears.

We were dead and buried, fighting our corner in the last chance saloon. We needed players, end of story. We needed a squad of players to firstly fulfil fixtures and then win the Third Division. You and I know that if Rangers were in the SPL many of the current squad would be nowhere near a Rangers first team or even Ibrox itself. But this squad will deliver the Third Division Championship and ensured the survival of our Club.

Yes they are paid handsomely to do so, and yes I agree youth should be the way forward, but they decided to play in the Third Division and help Rangers back to the top of the Scottish game where they have been for most of their 141 year history.

I am guilty of it myself, it is very easy to have a pop at Ian Black, Cribari or any other player signed in the summer, but take a step back. Think of how they have allowed you to keep pursuing your love and obsession with everything Rangers and how they ensured the survival of the Club. This does not mean in the future I am prepared to accept second best, but from where we were to where we are now this is progress.

We are a Third Division Club and I don’t believe many people have reconciled that fact yet. Yes we have played many teams this season who have played a better style of football than we have, yes we have the highest budget for wages, but has that not, in recent memory, always been the case? It doesn’t make it right but it’s a fact. The last time we had a manager and a squad that played exciting football was under Dick Advocaat almost eleven years ago and that squad was not cheaply assembled. As for the teams in the Third Division who do play a better brand of football, are they sitting 20 points ahead and lost only two games this season?

There have been some bright spots in the youth that have caught the eye this season and rightly the fans have shown more patience with them than players signed as free agents. But would any be regulars in an SPL Rangers team? I doubt it and that demonstrates how essential it was for the manager to sign at least some seasoned pros. I don’t disagree that in the main these signings have been below par but the situation for McCoist hasn’t changed since he was appointed manager. He has never had a free run at the transfer market; remember the embarrassment of trying to sign Grant Holt when Whyte was around? Even now he has assembled a squad with one arm tied behind his back, relying on free agents and an illegal transfer embargo hindering him. I know my head was incapable of thinking about Rangers rationally over the summer, I’m not sure McCoist’s was either.

Does Green not see what we see? Football matters were the last thing on Green’s mind in the early part of the season, a stock flotation was. Raising £22m on the AIM gave the Club valuable working capital that ensured survival. Green and the Board’s attention must now concentrate on football but given we do not know what division we are playing in next season, it must be difficult to do that as well. The squad of 2012 was hastily assembled and charged with winning the Third Division, they have done just that.

This squad was assembled to ensure Rangers survival, competitiveness in the Third Division and a return to winning ways. When the League is eventually won, I will celebrate it as much as any other league title and the players in this squad, no matter how inept they are at playing the game, will have a special place in my heart, and I would hope yours.

To the squad of 2012/13, thank you, oh and Ian Black you are my hero...

Graham McLaren can be followed on Twitter @gazborangers

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