Aird ready to reach for stars with space at Rangers

FRASER Aird today predicted Rangers will turn on the style in the SPFL Championship next season - when they square up to full-time opponents.

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Fraser Aird looks on as Rangers skipper Lee McCulloch holds aloft the SPFL League One trophy
Fraser Aird looks on as Rangers skipper Lee McCulloch holds aloft the SPFL League One trophy

Aird and his Gers team- mates romped to the League One title in emphatic fashion during the 2013/14 campaign without losing a single game.

Ally McCoist's side won 33 and drew just three - against Stranraer and Stenhousemuir at home and Dunfermline away - of their matches in the third tier.

But the Light Blues drew little praise, including from their own supporters, for the way they played as they completed the second stage of "The Journey".

In the second half of the season especially, Rangers were criticised for constantly playing long balls upfield to lone striker Jon Daly and grinding out results. Yet Aird, who was one of the brightest of the Ibrox club's players in the last few months, feels their part-time rivals were partially responsible for that.

Other teams were often guilty of "parking the bus" and placing an emphasis firmly on defending and not conceding any goals - including in their home games. And the 19-year-old winger is optimistic that will not be the case to the same extent when Rangers step up to play in the Championship next term.

The Gers will mainly take on full-time clubs - including relegated Premiership outfit Hearts - in what promises to be an absolutely fascinating division.

Aird said: "What we have found against the teams in the lower division is that eventually, as the season goes on, they are just going to focus on defending.

"They end up just putting 11 men behind the ball. It has been down to us to go out and find a way to break teams down and get results. By and large, we have done that.

"But when you play better teams that is not so much the case. They give you more time on the ball. Hopefully that will allow our better players to shine."

He added: "I think the fans will see more football from Rangers next season as a result. We have to try to adapt to playing against teams who are going to try and play football against us too.

"But it is definitely the case that when you are playing against better teams you play better yourselves. That is just a fact. I think we are looking forward to it.

"I am certainly looking forward to having a bit more space to work with. We will also be playing in better stadiums and on better surfaces.

"We won't be going to as many small grounds as we have in League One this season and the Third Division last season and that may help us to perform better, too."

Rangers locked horns with Championship clubs on three occasions this season - against Queen of the South and Raith Rovers in the Ramsdens Cup and Falkirk in the William Hill Scottish Cup. They were beaten late in extra-time by Raith in the Ramsdens Cup final at Easter Road back in April in what was one of the worst results in their history.

However, the Gers fared well against Queens, who they beat 3-0 away, and Falkirk, who were defeated 2-0 on the road, in their other outings against second-tier clubs.

Aird, who did superbly in the Scottish Cup semi-final defeat to Dundee United at Ibrox last month, feels taking on a better level of opposition brings out the best in his side.

And he is optimistic that, no matter which players leave and which players join the Glasgow giants in the weeks ahead, there will be a stark improvement in the new campaign.

He said: "We have played against a few Championship clubs this season. We have played Queen of the South, Falkirk and Raith Rovers. So we know what to expect.

"There are obviously going to be a lot more full-time teams. We know it will be tough. But we will be ready for them and ready to make the step up.

"All the players will go away and enjoy the off-season this summer. I am sure we will all come back in pre-season ready to up our games to a new level. We will have to do that if we want to achieve what we did this season.

"It was tougher playing in League One than it was playing in the Third Division. So it will obviously be a lot tougher in the Championship than it was in League One.

"It has been a long hard season and a lot of the boys, myself included, have been involved in a lot of games. Having a few weeks off will definitely do us the world of good."

Aird continued: "I am sure that we will all come back refreshed and firing on all cylinders and in good shape to do in the Championship what we did in League One.

"At the end of the day we have to go out and beat what is in front of us in the Championship. We will have to concentrate on winning all of our games.

"Hearts are already going to be in the division and there could be a few more big name clubs with Hibs and Dunfermline in the play-offs. But we are all looking forward to it."

Football

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