IAN Black today praised the role his regular midfield partner Nicky Law has played in his Rangers revival this season.
Much was expected of Black when he signed for the Ibrox club after they dropped down to the bottom division back in the summer of 2012.
The controversial, experienced, tough-tackling player was, Light Blues supporters thought, just the sort of man that manager Ally McCoist needed.
He would, it was widely hoped, complement the young lads who McCoist would have to put his faith in for that Third Division assault.
But the former Inverness Caledonian Thistle and Hearts midfielder had, not to put too fine a point on it, a shocker during his first season.
After winning his first cap for Scotland in a friendly against Australia at the start of the 2012/13 campaign, he performed erratically.
Gone was the abrasive and intelligent individual who had won himself so many admirers during his spells in Inverness and Edinburgh.
In his place was someone who often looked off the pace against part-time opponents and regularly failed to stamp his authority on matches.
Black also got caught up unnecessarily in off-the-ball incidents against physical opponents; he was booked on no fewer than 13 occasions and ordered off twice.
Yet, there was a very good reason for the difficulties the 28-year-old endured - he had not enjoyed a full pre-season before joining Rangers.
And getting a full summer of training under his belt this term in the Highlands, in England and in Germany, has been responsible for a stark transformation.
So, too, has the arrival of English star Law on a free transfer from Motherwell during the close season. The duo have been paired together in the centre of midfield on more than 20 occasions this term by manager McCoist - with some highly impressive results.
Black has certainly enjoyed developing a relationship with Law and believes his presence has helped him rediscover his best form.
Indeed, many Rangers fans feel his display in the 4-0 win over Dunfermline in the William Hill Scottish Cup at Ibrox earlier on this month was his best since he moved to Glasgow.
He said: "Nicky and I have built up a good understanding this season. We are different kinds of players. He is far more attacking than me.
"He knows that I will drop back and cover him if he wants to go upfield. We have played together in most of the games and I think it has worked well.
"Nicky scored once again against Ayr on Saturday and has now scored over 10 times this season. It is a good return for somebody in our position and I am sure he will get a few more."
BLACK added: "I am really enjoying my football again this season. I have never regretted moving to a club like Rangers. But it is certainly good to be playing well on a weekly basis.
"You are under a fair amount of pressure at a club of this size no matter how well you are doing. You have to learn how to deal with that and I think I have adapted.
"My personal form has been better this season. I know that I didn't play at the level that I am capable of last campaign. But not getting a pre-season was the reason for that.
"I came in late on and struggled as a result. This time round I have managed to get a full pre-season and I think I have been more consistent as a result of that.
"Having said that, there is still room for improvement. I am always looking to get better and will be working hard in training to make sure that happens in the games we have coming up.
"We have a great deal to look forward to this season. We are closing in on the League One title and are still involved in two cups. It is a good time to be at Rangers."
Black won the Scottish Cup just before he left Hearts two years ago; he starred in a 5-1 drubbing of their capital rivals Hibs at Hampden.
The midfielder has a chance to replicate that success this season as Rangers have made it through to the quarter-finals and will play Albion Rovers at Ibrox next month.
If they prevail against part-time opponents in that fixture they will have a home tie in the semi-final as Hampden is being redeveloped ahead of the Commonwealth Games.
With McCoist's men also leading SPFL League One by 23 points and safely in the Ramsdens Cup final - they take on Raith Rovers at Easter Road in April - they can land a treble this season.
Black, who has not been adversely affected by the SFA ban he was hit with for gambling offences back in September, feels Rangers are capable of landing several of their targets.
He said: "It will be difficult to win the Scottish Cup, but we are still involved in the competition so there is no reason why we can't win it.
"We all want to get the league wrapped up as soon as possible and then go on and try to win the cups as well."