Invincibility won't save us from Rangers fans' flak

RANGERS have gathered points at a relentless rate as they have cruised to the League One title this term.

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Stevie Smith and his children get to grips with the League One trophy
Stevie Smith and his children get to grips with the League One trophy

But they still have one to make - and the wider public one to grasp - before they bring the curtain down on the campaign this afternoon.

More often that not this season, it has been substance over style for Rangers as they have battled their way to wins rather than playing a free-flowing brand of attacking football.

The idea that they should sweep teams in the third tier aside by five or six goals every week was never going to be realistic, and one which was disrespectful to their opponents.

There have been times when it has been tough going for Ally McCoist's side, but the end result is all that matters for fans at this stage of The Journey.

'The manager has told us so many times that it's about personal motivation, self-motivation. You've got to go out there and do it," Light Blues defender Stevie Smith said.

"There is no hiding from the fact that, at times, it is difficult. But we're paid to do a job.

"And we play for the biggest club in the country. If we don't perform to a certain level, we're going to get criticised.

"You've seen Celtic struggle in cup games this season against teams from lower leagues.

"We've got that every single week. It's a cliché, but these games are a cup final for the teams we face. It's true.

"I watched Arsenal against Newcastle the other night - and Newcastle parked 10 or 11 men behind the ball.

"It's hard when teams do that, no matter the level. Obviously it's a different standard of player, but it's very difficult to break down.

"Some weeks we've just had to get teams to 60 minutes, wait from them to tire and get the goal, then everything becomes easier.

"Every team is desperate to beat us - but that was the same when we were in the Premiership. Every team sees it as a massive game and they make it difficult for you,

"But we're paid to find a way to break that down. For the majority of the season, we've done that. It might not have been pretty but we've managed to do it, got enough points and we could go the whole season undefeated."

With the title wrapped up several weeks ago, it has been the lure of a place in the history books that has kept Rangers driven and inspired recently.

Dunfermline are the only team that now stand in their way from completing an unbeaten third tier campaign.

But Smith knows it is a feat that, like their second consecutive championship, won't earn widespread acclaim.

He said: "It's something that we're looking forward to doing, ending the season undefeated.

"At the start of the season, our aim was to get out of the division. We didn't imagine we'd go through the whole season undefeated.

"It was probably expected of us, but it's not as easy as that. If we do it, it's not something we're going to shout from the rooftops about. Still, it's a decent achievement.

"We are expected to win four, five or six nothing every week. But football is not as simple as that."

Despite dropping just four points so far this season, it is criticism rather than praise that has been ringing in the ears of McCoist and his squad.

Rangers may be operating in an unfamiliar environment but the demands remain.

Smith said: "I don't think [the levels of criticism] have changed. At this football club, it's never going to change.

"When I was younger, I listened to it a lot more. Since I've come back, I just try to blank it out. That's the best thing to do.

"When you're younger you want to read newspapers, people tell you what has been said on forums and stuff. It's only natural to take notice.

"The older you get, the more experienced you get, you learn to shut it all out."

Football

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