DJ: Stage Two is complete for Rangers

I WAS delighted to see Rangers secure the SPFL League One title in the emphatic fashion produced by their 3-0 win over Airdrieonians at Ibrox.

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Rangers' Nicky Clark, Nicky Law and their team-mates applaud the fans at the end of game after clinching the League One title after a 3-0 victory over Airdrie at Ibrox on Wednesday night
Rangers' Nicky Clark, Nicky Law and their team-mates applaud the fans at the end of game after clinching the League One title after a 3-0 victory over Airdrie at Ibrox on Wednesday night

There was, perhaps, a fitting irony that all their goals were scored by Lee McCulloch, one of only two survivors from the team that played in the SPL two years back.

I know how much these three goals will have meant to big Jig. He has been a huge player at the club in his role as captain, and it was great that he played the key part in clinching the title.

The record books will now show that in becoming the first champions of this domestic season, Rangers did so with eight games to spare and by opening up a resounding 26-point gap between themselves and their nearest challengers, Dunfermline.

What was vital about the game with Airdrie was that Rangers not only won but did so in the correct manner.

After the disappointment of the cup tie with Albion Rovers, they owed the fans a big performance and certainly in the first half they produced it.

In fact, they played like a side who had taken a kick up the backside from their manager and that pleased me no end.

I felt that, especially early on, there was a tempo and urgency to their play that had been missing against Rovers.

At times they have played some great football along the way and there have been a share of comprehensive victories by heavy margins of four, six or even eight goals, but there have also been some disappointing performances and there are reasons behind these.

When a side reaches a position, as Rangers did quite a while back, where they have secured the league championship in all but mathematical fashion, mentally it is hard to keep your foot to the floor.

As we have seen with Celtic, who are certainties to retain the top-tier championship, that is the case whatever league you are in.

But I think you also have to take into account the fact that after some of the sides in League One had taken a sore one from Rangers, in recent weeks, there has been a change in terms of how they have approached their games with the Ibrox club.

It has been apparent that the rest of League One have decided the last thing they are going to do is open up and have a go.

Instead, they have adopted a much more pragmatic approach in order to make life difficult for Ally McCoist's men and spare their own blushes.

I think that just how hard things have become in recent weeks was embodied by the amount of emotion that was on shown at Ibrox at the end of Wednesday night.

The level of relief was clear to see and I think a lot of reasons are behind that.

The sheer level of expectancy that is placed on any Rangers side can be tough to handle but there is no doubt that in their journey back up the Scottish football pyramid it has been even greater to shoulder.

But now that the league championship is in the bag, Ally McCoist has the chance to rest people like McCulloch and take a look at the fringe members of his squad and assess if they are going to be up to life in the Championship next season.

Obviously there is still a lot to play for in that Rangers still have a Scottish Cup quarter-final replay with Albion Rovers to negotiate and a Ramsdens Cup final ahead of them.

But I think Ally will make utilising the full depth of his squad a priority because the Championship is looking like a very tasty league next time around.

BUT IT has been another rollercoaster season for the manager and again, just like he did from the year spent in the basement, Ally will have learned a great deal from it.

With the Ibrox men very much alive in the two cups I have mentioned, there is the potential for this season to become a very memorable one but the priority was always to win the League One title and to do so by a clear and decisive margin.

Ally and his coaching staff can take no small satisfaction from achieving that.

Going forward, the remainder of the season will tell him what changes he needs to make on the playing front, but it will be events elsewhere that will ultimately decide if he can make them.

Despite that uncertainty, Ally will continue to manage the club, as he has done from day one, with unswerving loyalty and honesty.


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