RANGERS just can't win this season.
That is not a cheap dig at the Ibrox club's inability to see off SPFL League Two outfit Albion Rovers at home in the William Hill Scottish Cup quarter-finals. But it is midfielder Nicky Law's considered opinion about how the club's 2013-14 campaign is destined to be viewed from outside the club.
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After their midweek capture of the title - Rangers remain unbeaten in League One - and with a Ramsdens Cup final against Raith Rovers still to come, the 25-year-old reckons that even going on to lift the Scottish Cup, becoming the first club from Scotland's third tier to do so, would not be enough to placate some of the side's critics.
Law said ahead of tomorrow night's replay against James Ward's side at New Douglas Park: "If we could win the cup it would be fantastic," said Law. "But I'm sure a few people wouldn't enjoy it if we did. We would probably be called the worst side in history to win the Scottish Cup. But we need to put things right on Monday first and then we can look forward to the semi against a really good Dundee United side."
While Law would dearly love to savour the first championship win of his career - achieved in some style at home to Airdrieonians - and gaze ahead to what should be an enthralling Championship next season, authentic celebration has been difficult. Not only was the moment inevitable, with merely the timing of it uncertain, but it arrived in the face of a sustained media backlash following Rangers' embarrassment against the Coatbridge side.
With the tie screened on terrestrial TV, there was no hiding place for a performance which was severely lacking in tempo and quality. "As poor as we were, we should have still won," Law said. "We've watched it again and we had 33 shots and I think 51 scoring opportunities.
"It wasn't as if we didn't create chances, the ball just wouldn't go in. I could count 15 or 20 times when it ricocheted and fell for them. There have been a few little wake-up calls along the way, but last Sunday in particular and the reaction after that result was a bit of an eye-opener.
"The manager told us afterwards that we had learned what it is like to play for Rangers. Monday's match does define our season because if we lose that game I don't know what the reaction will be. I am guessing it wouldn't be good." You can say that again. While the arrival of Dave King in Glasgow has the potential to either re-energise or further destabilise the club, at least for now there is enough intrigue merely in the football.
Rovers manager Ward insists his part-time players, just 48 hours after a league game against Queen's Park, can go on to win the tie and McCoist recognises a worthy adversary.
"He's positive and that's the way he should be," McCoist said. "It's up to us to make sure he is wrong. But I thought his team absolutely did him proud last Sunday and he is saying exactly the type of thing you would hope your manager would say. Everyone else is saying you only get one chance at the big team, but he's saying we only get another chance at them!
"I can understand his psychology and fair play to him, but I'm obviously hopeful there is a bit of Ally MacLeod in there. We had a couple of beers after the match. In fact, he turned down the invitation of more because he was already heading out. I think he told you lot [the media] it was a Chinese. They were enjoying themselves, in good form and it's safe to say that when they went out of the room their party didn't end there. Good luck to them and I'm looking forward to seeing them on Monday."
As for the medium to long term, McCoist has prepared different scenarios in terms of personnel changes to his squad for next season, and expects to sit down with chief executive Graham Wallace imminently to discover which plan he will put into practice.
While he is hopeful of being able to strengthen - with or without King's input - Rangers are entitled to feel they would be favourites to win the Championship in any case, where passing football has a better chance of flourishing.
Law, who admits his own form has taken a dip as the displays of the team in general have waned since the turn of the year, sees no reason why the Ibrox club shouldn't be back in the top flight at the earliest available opportunity.
"In that league there are better players and hopefully teams will be 4-4-2 or 4-3-3 and have a go," he said. "That should make the games better and also make it better for us. No offence to this league but a lot of the boys are too good for this level and it will be good to test ourselves against better teams."