Challenging times for Ian at school of hard knocks in Div3

RANGERS legend Tam Forsyth earned a reputation as one of the toughest tacklers in the Scottish game during his 15-year career.

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Ian Black has been on the receiving end of a few tough tackles this term
Ian Black has been on the receiving end of a few tough tackles this term

His no-nonsense approach won him legions of fans at Motherwell and Ibrox and he was rewarded with more than 20 caps for Scotland. However, his uncompromising defensive resolve came at a price.

Jaws admits his hardman tag often went against him in the heat of battle and that is why he has sympathy for current Ibrox star Ian Black after the midfielder hit out at the treatment he has received in the Irn-Bru Third Division this season.

Black has been on the end of several crude challenges so far, few of which have been given the punishment the former Hearts star believes they merited.

He was again in the wars on Saturday as Ally McCoist's side beat East Stirlingshire 6-2, a game which saw Shire's Philipp Zufle receive a straight red for a horror challenge on striker Kevin Kyle.

Black claimed refs would have ordered him off if he had committed some of the sins he has endured so far, with the midfielder perhaps due credit for not retaliating and lashing out after some heavy-handed treatment.

The Scotland international is no stranger to an on-field tussle and former Ibrox hero Forsyth reckons the 27-year-old's own never-say-die spirit could be working against him on the field.

He said: "Ian has got to screw the head and just go for the ball, as he always does.

"Referees know guys that have a reputation, I had a big reputation as well.

"I am not saying that I should never have been booked, but you do feel you get picked on because you have earned a name for yourself. It did go against me.

"I won't name names but there were times if another player had done it, they would have got a warning but because it was me, I got a booking.

"That reputation stuck with me and I had to walk on eggshells at times.

"I couldn't play now because of the way the game has changed over the years."

Black's claims that Rangers' Third Division rivals were dishing out unfair treatment to the Light Blues stars were dismissed by Shire ace Paul Quinn, with Clyde boss Jim Duffy also previously hitting out at the former Inverness Caley Thistle man for his cries for protection from officials.

THE midfielder has built his game around a combative approach, with his bite in the middle of the park crucial for McCoist's young and inexperienced side.

The Gers boss has been keen to get the message through to his players that they will have to fight and scrap for every point in their bid for the title and Forsyth insists Black can be a positive presence if he can continue to conduct himself in the right manner.

"Ian is a professional and he knows what he can and can't do," he said. "But it will be frustrating for him when he feels he is being targeted unfairly.

"It is totally different to when I played. Ian will know that he will have to be careful, especially if he does pick up a booking because he can't be going into 50-50s and not winning the ball because he will get punished.

"There may even be times where the manager will have to take him off to protect him. In the Third Division, all the teams are out to beat Rangers. It was the same when I played.

"That is why it is tough when you play for them and even more so for the younger players that are in the squad just now.

"If you go through people now, you don't stand a chance. The game is changing because of that. You have to tackle differently.

"Even if you slide in cleanly or catch him on the follow through, you are penalised. You might not hurt the guy but the consequences are there."

Forsyth added: "It is difficult to know when you can go in and when you can't go in so you have to be smarter and not just lunge at people.

"You have got to watch how you are tackling now, the game is totally different since I was playing. You have really got to watch now, I don't think I could play these days to be honest because you can't tackle like you used to.

"Tackling was always a part of the game and that was something I was strong at."

Saturday's Ochilview win saw the Gers maintain their two-point gap over Elgin at the top of the table.

They travel to Borough Briggs this weekend aiming to put breathing space between themselves and their title rivals, and Forsyth is confident his old team are on the up.

He said: "It has not been easy for Ally and I feel for him. He has lost a lot of players and he is playing a lot of youngsters who have still to gain that crucial experience in the game.

"That takes time, but the club doesn't have time, they have got to win the league.

"They have struggled away from home but they got a good result on Saturday and hopefully that continues."

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