IT is a sign of the conflicting perception of Rangers that Ally McCoist is firefighting both the complaints of fans and media scrutiny while his team stand on the cusp of clinching the SPFL League 1 title.

Victory over Airdrieonians at Ibrox tonight will complete of phase two of Rangers' journey in record time and that was the remit at the start of the season.

A record of 25 wins and two draws, 84 goals for and only 14 against from 27 matches so far would normally make for impressive reading but many are demanding more. The fall-out from Sunday's shocking performance against Albion Rovers when Rangers scrambled a 1-1 draw to force a William Hill Scottish Cup quarter-final replay has been considerable and it is the manager who has been in the sights of many.

Loading article content

McCoist has tried tactfully to point out there is a difference between the team he is managing and the great Rangers sides of the past. He said: "I just feel some people - not everybody - are failing to distinguish between the club and the team at the moment.

"If Albion Rovers had knocked us out, or even looking at the draw, it's an absolutely shocking result against the club. But the team? At this moment in time? There's no way I am going to criticise those boys because they're doing a fantastic job for us. The fact of the matter is the squad doesn't contain a Laudrup a Gascoigne, a John Greig, Willie Johnston, Colin Stein - we don't have that. What we have is a fantastic squad of boys who are learning about the club and we think, particularly in the league, they're doing more than satisfactorily. I feel sometimes people are finding it difficult to distinguish between the two entities, because they see the team as the club and, at this moment, I don't think that's right.

"Yes, Sunday was a big disappointment and don't think for a minute that because I failed to use the word embarrassment it didn't hurt us. But the team at the moment are doing the job of getting out of the division. The cups, as we've always said, will be a bonus."

It is a widely held view that with the second-highest wage bill in Scottish football, Rangers should not experience a day like they did on Sunday and should win every match with panache. "It's far too simplistic," McCoist said. "Rangers have always had a higher wage bill, along with Celtic, than all the other teams in the country.

"As I said before, Manchester City should be Champions League winners on that basis but we are looking at Manchester City losing at home to Wigan. The financial side of things is not that simple - it just doesn't fit in that way."

Supporters have used social media and internet forums to offer criticism of McCoist and some red-top columnists believe it would have been a merited case for dismissal had he lost the Albion Rovers match. Unless Graham Wallace, the chief executive, offers an opinion on that subject we will never know and McCoist feels the dissenters are a noisy minority. He said: "I still feel I have the backing of the majority of the fans. The vast majority of the fans know what's going on at the club and can understand that we've signed free transfers and you don't get Gascoignes and Laudrups for free. It just doesn't happen.

"I'll be judged on results and that's all you can ask for. Any manager worth his salt in any division would ask to be judged on results and I'll hope that's the case with myself."

McCoist certainly has the complete backing of his players. Cammy Bell, the goalkeeper, said: "I don't see why he has taken flak. We are only out of one cup. We're hoping to wrap up the title and I'm told it will be one of the quickest ever. I don't agree with the criticism. [McCoist] has been fantastic and driven us on. It's tough every week because every team gives 200%.

"You would need to ask the supporters why they don't think it's great at times. We go out and try to play our best and give 100%. The fans are turning up in a great numbers and their support has been fantastic. Obviously, expectation levels are really high here and we are trying to live up to them.

"We are unbeaten, we are still in the Scottish Cup and we have the Ramsdens Cup [final] to look forward to. I think we have been fantastic this season. We have only lost one game and that was in the League Cup when most of the new signings couldn't play. Now I am about to win a league medal and it will be a massive occasion for me."