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Ibrox cauldron can take some getting used to

For the Rangers players, progressing involves making a series of adjustments.

Bilel Mohsni was ushered off the pitch at Airdrie
Bilel Mohsni was ushered off the pitch at Airdrie

Of the current squad, only Lee McCulloch, Lee Wallace, Richard Foster and Steven Smith know what it is to perform for the Ibrox side in the top flight, and the expectations and the hostility that come with playing for one half of the Old Firm.

Rangers' last two encounters were heated at times, with the game at Airdrie involving angry exchanges after the final whistle. Sebastien Faure has since accused Gary Bollan, the opposition manager, of shoving him and Bilel Mohsni. "The Airdrie striker and manager went to Bilel after the final whistle," Faure said. "The Airdrie manager pushed me and pushed Bilel, too. Bilel was very angry. I don't know if he talked to the striker afterwards."

Tempers can be raised at any occasion, but many of the Rangers players are still coming to terms with the demands of playing for the club. That does not excuse aggressive behaviour by opposition players, staff or fans - although Bollan claimed after the game that he had no idea why Mohsni shouted at him - but it is something that the Ibrox squad has to contend with. Mohsni was sent off after the final whistle, when the referee Greig Aitken showed him a second yellow card for aggressive behaviour, and Ally McCoist said later that he would speak to his player about his reaction.

Mohsni was being ushered off the field by Faure, after the defender argued with some of the Airdrie players. The Frenchman had been irked by some of the challenges on him during the game, which he felt were over-physical, but his response only served to exacerbate the attention he received from some of his opponents. They were being niggly rather than violent, but coupled with the barracking of the home fans, Rangers players might have felt under siege. As McCoist has acknowledged, individuals who thrive in that atmosphere, and react positively to it, will succeed at the club. "When you play away from home against some of the teams we face, it is the game of their lives, so it is difficult for us," Faure said.

"Airdrie were aggressive and should not have finished the match with 11 players. The striker was always catching Bilel. It is okay to be physical when you play football but there were a lot of bad tackles on Thursday night. Sometimes against Rangers, the opposition players play so hard."

There has always been a natural antipathy towards both Old Firm teams, since they have tended to dominate all competitions and had the wherewithal to sign the best players from other Scottish teams. As the two major sides in Scotland, they were the teams that everybody else wanted to defeat. A further edge entered into the view of some fans towards Rangers following Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs challenging the use of Employee Benefit Trusts and seeking a large tax repayment - a case which Rangers, as part of the Murray Group, won, although an appeal is due to be heard this year - and the liquidation of Rangers Football Club plc in the summer of 2012.

Supporters can at least sing waspish comments in response, but the overall atmosphere can be testy and the players need to be able to perform without being intimidated or over-reacting. McCoist said after the Airdrie game: "I've been around Scottish football long enough to know that fans and opponents are not going to open the door and let you trample all over them. If we are going to have to handle that, then we will."

It is an adjustment, in as much as players have to become used to the relentless demands at Ibrox, where a 1-1 draw with Stranraer on Boxing Day provoked booing and criticism despite it being the first points the team had dropped in the league.

Nicky Law, the former Motherwell midfielder, has spoken of the need to come to terms with the standards expected at the club. McCoist attempted to sign players with a certain hard-edged and winning mentality last summer, and they will need to carry the team into next season's title challenge, with Rangers expected to comfortably retain their lead in SPFL League 1 and move up to the Championship.

The manager will meet with Graham Wallace, the chief executive, next week to begin the process of evaluating the playing resources and the budget, to devise a strategy for squad development in the coming months. The likelihood is that players will need to leave before others can arrive, if at all.

"Until I'm told otherwise [bids for his players are] not a concern," said McCoist. "I'm the same as any other manager, I'd obviously be looking to add bits and pieces to [the squad]. I haven't had the conversation yet with the chief exec, so until that happens, there's no use worrying about something that might or might not happen, and hopefully won't happen. We have [targets in mind]. We wouldn't be doing our job otherwise."

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