FRASER Aird acknowledges the arrival of James Tavernier spelled the end of his Rangers dream but there was no one happier than the Canadian when his usurper lifted 55.

His Scottish parents were Rangers diehards and Aird lived out every schoolboy’s dream by turning out for his heroes during their rise back to the summit of Scottish football.

As the Ibrox giants were demoted to the bottom tier following the financial collapse of 2012, Aird and others were looked upon to guide the club through the lower leagues.

Now playing in Canada for FC Edmonton, he joined the Light Blues shortly after his 16th birthday after impressing during two trial spells under the watchful eye of former reserve team coach Tommy Wilson.

It was an opportunity he grasped with both hands.

He recalls: “When I got the chance to go on trial with them, it was a massive thing and getting the opportunity to sign was a dream come true not just for myself but for my family too.

“I was very nervous to be honest, in Canada there weren’t big clubs like that that I had an opportunity to train with so going in and seeing boys who are full time was a bit of a shock to the system. We would normally go to school and train three or four nights a week in the evenings but going into a full-time environment was quite daunting at the start. But when you get that opportunity it can only make you better.”

Almost a year after joining his beloved club, Rangers were plunged into administration on Valentines Day 2012.

That fateful day and the aftermath of Craig Whyte’s announcement is one that Aird has never forgotten.

“I just remember all the media and stuff around the club at that time,” he recalls.

“There were people outside the stadium and training ground all the time asking the young boys what was happening. I remember all the first-team lads having meetings in the canteen and no one was allowed in. It was a shock to everyone, everyone’s contracts were up in the air and everyone was told not to speak to anyone.”

As an array of senior pros jumped ship, Aird was one of several youngsters fast-tracked into the first team following the club’s demotion to the Third Division.

It was an opportunity the now 26-year-old relished.

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“When Rangers went into administration they had no other choice but to give youth more of a chance. In previous years you had to be top of the top to even get a chance in the Rangers first team so the boys in my age group relished the chance. We know we all got pushed up probably a lot quicker than we would’ve in different regimes and different times but that’s just what happened and you didn’t have any choice other than to step up to the mark.

"I came through the youth team with Lewis McLeod, Barrie McKay, Robbie Crawford - all these boys got a chance through everything that was happening at the club. I think we’d all be the first ones to say we’d probably not get pushed forward as quickly as we did in other circumstances but that’s football - when you get your opportunity you need to take it.”

Aird would make his senior debut in a 4-1 defeat of Montrose at Ibrox, a match that’ll live long in the memory of the Canadian.

“I was super nervous, I’m pretty sure Ibrox was sold out that day.

“Afterwards I got drug tested as they do with the random drug tests and it took me two-and-a-half hours to pee because my adrenaline was going so much but it was an incredible moment for me and my family. Millions and millions of kids dream of playing for Rangers, I was one of those kids growing up and to eventually get the chance to do it, it was unbelievable. It’s very hard to describe to someone that hasn’t done it before but it was a kid's dream come true.

“People that come to Rangers that aren’t Rangers fans I always feel they leave as fans, that’s the way the club is. The fanbase is incredible, the best fans in the world if you ask me even though I’m biased. To hear the fans when you’re coming out from the tunnel is incredible.”

It wouldn’t take Aird long to open his account for the Light Blues and who could forget his injury-time winner against Queen’s Park at Hampden?

Rangers Review: A jubilant Aird wheels away after netting the winner against Queen's Park at Hampden A jubilant Aird wheels away after netting the winner against Queen's Park at Hampden

“My first goal for the club was always going to be amazing,” he beams.

“To get it in the 91st minute on a day when there were 35,000 Rangers fans even though it was an away game at Hampden was incredible. I think a good few thousand probably left because they were disappointed in the result because Rangers have expectations of going to these places and winning 4 or 5 nil but to get the winner in the last minute and my first goal for Rangers, I don’t know if it gets any better than that.”

Of course, Aird is right when he says there was an expectation to blow these part-time teams away despite this being a very different Rangers to the one we all know.

And playing under that pressure is something he had to get used to very quickly.

“When you play for one of the big clubs in Glasgow it seems that there’s a spotlight on you all the time.

“I feel like I took it in my stride but it’s something that you need to get used to. If you want to play at a big club like Rangers you need to get used to the spotlight, get used to the criticism, the good and bad times. Some boys do struggle with it but I feel with my personality I embraced it.

“It’s a cup final for every team playing against Rangers, it’s a big scalp for the smaller clubs.

“It was like this week in week out and it was tough. Sometimes we underachieved in games but that’s football. The expectations at Rangers are as high as they are because the club has had so much success and as a young boy you learn that very quickly that even in the youth games and as a reserve player at Rangers it’s all about winning, it doesn’t matter how you do it, it’s all about winning games.”

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Aird would prove to be a vital component of the Rangers teams who would win the Third Division and go unbeaten in League One under McCoist.

The 26-year-old says he owes a great deal to Super Ally.

Rangers Review: Aird celebrates with Ally McCoist after opening the scoring against Albion Rovers in their Scottish Cup replay at New Douglas Park Aird celebrates with Ally McCoist after opening the scoring against Albion Rovers in their Scottish Cup replay at New Douglas Park

“He was brilliant, I give him all the credit in the world. He was the one who gave me my chance. I have a very good relationship with him on and off the park which is amazing as he is a legend and someone who I watched on Youtube scoring all those goals for Rangers.

"I learned so much from him that I can still take into my game now. I didn’t even have a quarter as good a career as he had but he gave me little bits of information, showing me the ropes and telling me things, giving me the confidence to go and play and express myself.

“If he didn’t give me a chance who knows where I would’ve been.”

As a plethora of players departed Ibrox in 2012, a few would remain, notably Lee McCulloch and Lee Wallace. Aird says they were vital to enable the club to progress through the divisions.

“The older players in the squad helped the young boys a lot. They knew the expectations and they held us accountable for the high standards every day in training which was so important.

“When you play with someone like Lee McCulloch, Lee Wallace and later Kenny Miller,  their experience and their talking on the pitch just brings your game to a different level. The things that they do on and off the park, the way they look after their bodies, the way they eat, you can take so many positive things and learn from these guys, they made us into the players that we are.”


One player Aird had a soft spot for was Bilel Mohsni, arriving on a free from Southend, he was someone he quickly established a bond with.

“You didn’t want to be up against him in training that’s for sure but he was an absolute big gentleman - that’s the only way I can describe him. On the park maybe not so much, but off the park, he’s probably one of the nicest guys you can meet in football. He always had time for people, the fans loved him, he was a big fans favourite. He always had time for pictures and to talk to people and he was the nicest guy in the world."

The 2014-15 season was one of abject failure both on and off the pitch as the club failed to win promotion to the Scottish Premiership while Ally McCoist was put on gardening leave.

It was a fraught time when Rangers were more likely to be dominating the front pages of the newspapers than the back.

McCoist’s departure resulted in Kenny McDowall taking the reigns on an interim basis. His time at the helm would include the first Old Firm game in three years as the fierce rivals met in the League Cup semi-final at Hampden.

Aird would feature in the 2-0 defeat but admits his decision to play in the game was not an easy one to make.

“It was a very weird situation for a few weeks with Ally there, then not there, and then Kenny McDowall taking over. It was a very tough time for me because I got called into a Canada camp to go to Olympic qualifying.

“I sat down with Kenny and spoke to him about it. I was going to be away for a month as I think it was Mexico or Jamaica where we were going to do the qualifying and I was going to miss around six league games including the Old Firm game.

Rangers Review: Aird tussles with Anthony Stokes during the Old Firm League Cup semi final at Hampden in 2015 Aird tussles with Anthony Stokes during the Old Firm League Cup semi final at Hampden in 2015

“It was such a big point in the season for us, I was playing week in week out so it was a tough decision for me but we came to an agreement that I wasn’t going to go. I didn’t want to miss that much time even though I would’ve loved to get the chance to go and qualify for the Olympics. It would’ve been a very interesting and cool experience but I’m a massive Rangers fan and to miss that many games when you’re in the squad and you might not get the chance to get back in it, it was very difficult. It was a tough time for all of us but I’m glad I stayed.”

Despite coming out on the losing side, Aird says the Old Firm experience was one like no other.

“I definitely struggled to sleep the night before the game. The week before the game, training is just totally different, the mood around the camp is totally different. It was kind of a free hit for us because all the expectation was on Celtic. If we went and got a result it would’ve been one of the greatest ever but at that stage, Celtic were two or three gears ahead of us. We gave a goal away early on and the place absolutely erupted but for a young boy to get a chance to play in an Old Firm game, every Rangers fan would love to do that. Even though we were disappointed with the result, to get the opportunity to play in the game was incredible.”

The summer of 2015 would herald a change in direction for Rangers as Dave King and the three bears took control of the club and appointed Mark Warburton as manager. It would soon spell the end of Aird’s time in Govan but he’s not one to hold grudges.

“Mark saw me as a right-back as soon as he came in and thought that was my best position going forward but then they signed James Tavernier.

“I don’t mind giving up my spot for a player like him, we still have a good relationship. We keep in contact now and again on social media. But it was just one of those things, the manager wanted to bring in his own players and for me, I just didn’t want to sit on the bench just to say that I played for Rangers. I wanted to pursue my own career and if it wasn’t going to be at Rangers then I wanted to move on and get games.”

Speaking of Tavernier, Aird says there was thrilled to see him lead the club to 55 last season.

“He’s done incredible things since he came to the club, he’s been a leader on and off the park. It was great to see him lift his first trophy for Rangers, I think he had a lot of pressure on him in the last few years not being able to get any silverware and at Rangers that’s what it’s all about.

“To see the joy on his face when he got the chance to lift that league trophy was incredible because I know the sacrifices he’s made and the loyalty he has shown to Rangers over the last few years.

“He’s grown as a player and into a captain and then there’s the young boy coming through, Nathan Patterson. There’s a lot of hype around him and he’s learning from the best. For me, Tav is probably one of the top right-backs in the UK. Even if you put him down in England he’d still do incredible things. There’s no better player for Nathan to look up to right now and get the chance to train with every day.

Rangers Review: Aird and James Tavernier in discussion following Rangers 1-0 win over St Mirren in 2015 Aird and James Tavernier in discussion following Rangers 1-0 win over St Mirren in 2015

“I try to base my game off the same things as Tav, he loves to get forward, the more you attack as a right-back, the more fun it is and the less defending you have to do the better. Right now the way football is evolving, you see Barisic and Tav like to get forward as much as possible and it’s a joy to watch.”

After leaving Ibrox, Aird would spend some time on loan at Vancouver Whitecaps as well as stints at Falkirk, Dunfermline, Dundee United, Queen of the South and Cove Rangers before moving back to Canada.

His time at Cove ended in controversy when he was filmed making a rude gesture towards Celtic supporters after watching his beloved Rangers defeat their arch-rivals at Parkhead in 2019.

The footage resulted in a strongly-worded statement from the Aberdeenshire outfit who announced his time at the club was being brought to an end with immediate effect.

It was an incident Aird felt was blown out of proportion.

“You know what the papers are like in the UK, any chance to write a story and they’ll write a story. Everyone knows I’m a massive Rangers fan, I go and watch Rangers whenever I can, I watch all the games still to this day. It was the first time Rangers had won at Parkhead in nine years, it was an incredible day but I got caught off guard for 10 seconds and the media like to make things a lot bigger than they are.

“I’m sure the Rangers fans love me a lot more than they did before that, a few other people didn’t but a lot of people don’t know I only had two or three days left on my contract at Cove Rangers. They put out a statement that kind of threw me under the bus.

“All the papers wanted to jump on it but you take it as it is, that’s the way life goes, I enjoyed my time at the game and I’ll never stop going to support Rangers.”

Despite living across the pond and thousands of miles away, Aird’s love of the club is as strong as ever and he’s tipped Steven Gerrard’s men to retain the title they won so emphatically last season.

“They’ve probably been a bit under par for the standards Gerrard set at the football club,” he admits.

“I’m sure he has very high expectations and he’ll be the first one to say the boys haven’t been firing on all cylinders like they were last year - but they’re top of the league.

“They’ll hopefully continue doing what they’re doing. The main goal at Rangers is always a league title."