ASK any Rangers player and they will, to a man, tell you the same thing.

Namely, that manager Ally McCoist is fiercely loyal to his players as long as they are winning games.

It is a commendable quality that has served McCoist well as the Ibrox club has made its way through the bottom two divisions of Scottish football in the last two seasons.

Yet, if Rangers are to win the SPFL Championship this term, a task that will be altogether more difficult given the number of full-time clubs they will face, he must display another trait.

He must be ruthless with players who fail to perform. Below-par performances from individuals have to be be punished with their removal from the team. With no exceptions.

Because if McCoist tolerates mediocre showings from his charges then form will suffer and games will be drawn and lost.

Ultimately, he could end up paying the price with his job. Far too many Rangers players failed to turn up in the 2-1 defeat they suffered to Hearts in their opening league match at Ibrox yesterday afternoon.

Ian Black, Kyle Hutton, Nicky Law and David Templeton were all posted missing after the captain Lee McCulloch had unfurled the League One flag to a rousing cheer.

The collective gasp of disbelief from both sets of supporters when the stadium announcer revealed that Law had been named Man of the Match late on in the game told its own story.

As did the candid comments of striker Kenny Miller - who, along with his fellow-striker Kris Boyd, was starved of decent service throughout the 90 minutes - after the game.

"We have the leading SPL goalscorer of all time [Boyd] in the side and he did not have a single chance," he said. "Sorry, but that is just not good enough."

When his team was in the third tier last term, McCoist often persevered with both Black and Law in the middle of the park when their level of play did not merit their continued inclusion.

Sure, his side won games - they completed their league programme without losing for the first time in 115 years - so it was difficult to argue with his team selection.

However, now may be the time to relieve Black and Law of their duties and hand Lewis Macleod, one of a few Rangers players to gain pass marks yesterday, a chance in his preferred position.

HECK, even the Honduran enigma Arnold Peralta, who arrived back in Scotland last week after finally securing a visa, should be considered in a central midfield berth ahead of the out-of-sorts duo.

Elsewhere, why not give young Andy Murdoch an opportunity to show what he can do? And should Barrie McKay not get the opportunity to show what he is capable of in attack?

The Rangers side yesterday needed the creativity, energy and hunger these gifted kids can bring. Giving them game time may also provoke a reaction in their underperforming team mates.

Templeton should have given Rangers the lead in the first half when he was presented with a gilt-edged scoring opportunity a few yards out. Somehow, he headed over the crossbar.

Danny Wilson, the former Rangers centre-half, showed far greater prowess with his cranium in the second half when he powered a Billy King corner into the top right corner of the goal.

Law equalised in stoppage- time. But it was his only contribution to the match, and his side was only level for seconds before Osman Sow slotted home the winner for the visitors.

It will be interesting to now see what side McCoist picks in the Championship game away to Falkirk this Friday night.

BEFORE kick-off yesterday, the Govan Stand was officially renamed the Sandy Jardine Stand in memory of the Rangers legend who passed away earlier this year after a lengthy battle against cancer.

The Barcelona Bears took to the field before kick-off and lined up around the centre circle. And as the skipper unfurled the flag supporters raised cards that together read "2 SANDY 2" and "LEGEND".

The man they honoured was not somebody who craved attention, either in his playing days or during the many years he spent working as a club official.

But it was an entirely fitting way to recognise the contribution one of their greatest players and greatest servants made to Rangers over the years.

Dave Smith, Willie Mathieson, Derek Johnstone, Peter McCloy, Colin Jackson, Alex Milller, Alfie Conn, Willie Johnston, Tommy McLean, Jim Denny and Willie Henderson all returned to pay their respects.

But John Greig, the Rangers captain when the team defeated Moscow Dynamo at the Nou Camp back in 1972, was conspicuous by his absence on the park.

The Greatest-Ever Ranger was present in Govan - for only the second time since he stood down as a director during the disastrous Craig Whyte era.

But the fact he remained in his seat, alongside the family of his late colleague and friend, instead of taking to the field, was desperately sad.

When a man whose statue stands outside the main stand at Ibrox feels unable to take part in a tribute to his former team-mate it underlines that all is clearly still not well at the club.