Aird: Rangers' fatal attraction can kill off league's boot boys

FRASER Aird has vowed Rangers will still try to play attractive football - despite the physical approach of some of their SPFL League One rivals.

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Fraser Aird celebrates his goal against Dunfermline Athletic in December as Rangers extended their league lead over the Pars
Fraser Aird celebrates his goal against Dunfermline Athletic in December as Rangers extended their league lead over the Pars

Aird and his Light Blues team-mates came through three bruising encounters away from home against Dunfermline, Airdrie and Stenhousemuir over the last week.

The match against Airdrie at the Excelsior Stadium last Thursday, in particular, took a heavy toll on the players.

Teenage midfielder Lewis Macleod limped off towards the end of the 90 minutes after being subjected to some meaty challenges from the home side.

He failed to recover from his calf injury and sat out the hard-fought 2-0 triumph over Stenhousemuir at Ochilview at the weekend.

Meanwhile, Ian Black and Bilel Mohsni also picked up suspensions after reacting badly to the treatment they received from their part-time rivals Airdrie.

But teenage winger Aird, who has done superbly since being called up to the first team this season, stressed he has been undeterred by the tactics of their third-tier opponents.

And the Canadian-born starlet is determined to produce entertaining fare for the Rangers fans no matter how difficult it proves.

"We are not surprised when the teams we are playing come out and take a physical approach to games," he said.

"The manager always has us well warned beforehand when there is a chance that the team we are playing will try to kick us up in the air.

"We are confident that we can match any team physically if we have to and I think we have done that quite successfully.

"But we like to get the ball down and pass whenever we can and will always try to do that.

"You can exhaust the team you are playing against by doing that and then kill them off."

Aird has added much-needed width, pace and penetration to his side's play since being called up by boss Ally McCoist at the end of November.

The Murray Park graduate was handed his first start of the 2013/14 campaign in the game against Arbroath at Gayfield.

Since then he has not looked back - he has featured in seven games and has scored against Ayr at home and Dunfermline away.

The 18-year-old is hoping he has done enough to convince McCoist to keep him in the first team for the title run-in.

Aird said: "The manager must have thought I have something to offer the team as he has played me quite a bit, either as a substitute or from the start, in the last few weeks.

"It has obviously been great to be involved. Scoring a couple of goals has been really good as well. It has given me tremendous confidence.

"But I know I need to maintain my performance levels in order to stay in the team. I can't allow my standards to slip. If I do that I know I will find myself out of the team.

"I have been quite happy with how I have played at times, but I will definitely be looking to keep that going and improve if I can in the second half of the season.

"I work hard every day in training. I think that if I carry on doing that and try to take my chance whenever I get the nod in games then I won't go far wrong."

McCoist was unhappy his side had to play three games on the road in the space of six days and was not shy in criticising the SPFL for that heavy schedule.

But the run of games on the road did not prevent his side - who had dropped their first points of the season against Stranraer on Boxing Day - picking up maximum points.

Their nine-point haul has meant they have forged 17 points clear of nearest challengers Dunfermline at the top of the League One table.

It is now just a question of when the Glasgow giants will complete the second stage of "The Journey" and take the step up to the Championship.

With enthusiastic youngsters like Aird trying to hold on to their places in the first team, though, there is little chance of results suffering.

He said: "Nobody at the club is taking anything for granted. Nobody will be sitting back and relaxing in any of the games between now and the end of the season.

"We know you have to win every game you play in whether it is home or away when you are a player at this club. The reaction to the draw with Stranraer told a story.

"We will not be looking any further ahead than the next game. It is an old cliche, but we will just take every game as it comes.

"We played well against Dunfermnline and did well to grind out results against Airdrie and Stenhousmuir.

"We have got East Fife at Ibrox this weekend and will be doing our utmost to pick up three more points in that game and in every game between now and the end of the season.

"We know only too well that you have to respect the teams you play against at this level.

"There are a lot of good sides in this division. If your standards drop you will be punished for it."

Aird added: "To be honest, it is brilliant for a lad of my age to be involved in the first team at a club like Rangers. I enjoy every game I get the chance to play in and always give my all.

"For me, this is the biggest and best club in Scotland. Everything about it, from the training ground, to the players, to the fans, is brilliant. There is nowhere I would rather be.

"I played a lot in the first team last year as we won the Third Division and it was hard not being part of things at the start of this season.

"But I knew it would be more difficult because of the quality and experience that came in during the summer.

"I am more than happy to get my head down and keep working hard to prove myself."

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