IN the dirty war that is the ongoing battle for control of Rangers, events off the pitch are currently far more significant than what happens on it.
It is why one of the most excruciatingly wretched defeats in the Ibrox club’s history on Saturday was able to be almost completely overshadowed in the post-match media coverage by Ally McCoist’s witheringly unequivocal verbal assault on Charles Green.
It takes either a brave or foolish manager to so publicly flay the man who is the biggest individual shareholder at a club. McCoist is certainly no fool and it has to be concluded that his outburst was a carefully considered move to firmly align himself against Green as the battle lines are drawn in the Ibrox boardroom.
In most companies, any employee who described a major shareholder as both “devious” and an “embarrassment” would quickly find themselves in possession of their P45. It remains to be seen if McCoist, a man fond of a gamble, has played his cards correctly on this occasion.
There will be many Rangers supporters who sympathise with McCoist, who has unquestionably had to undertake one of the most scrutinised roles in football under the kind of restrictive and disruptive conditions quite unprecedented in the history of the game in this country.
Regardless of any mitigating factors, however, very few Rangers fans are of a mood to accept excuses for the first-round elimination from the League Cup against Forfar Athletic at Station Park.
Despite being unable to field any of his eight summer signings on Saturday, McCoist was still able to field four full internationals in his starting line-up. The manager’s observation that it was “last year’s team” was clearly unarguable, but would such a defeat have been considered acceptable last season? Hardly.
McCoist was unhappy at Green’s comments in his eye-popping interview with The Scottish Sun on Saturday morning which included the Yorkshire businessman restating his opinion that last season’s Rangers team was the worst in the club’s history. But if that was enough to put McCoist’s players off their breakfast on the day of the game, then they must have exceptionally weak stomachs. The bald fact, of course, is that Rangers did have the worst team in their history during the 2012-13 campaign, simply because they had never played in the fourth tier of Scottish football before.
It might have been different had they made a significant impression in cup competitions, but that is an area which remains a major blot on McCoist’s managerial CV. The 2-1 extra-time loss to Forfar was the eighth defeat he has suffered in 18 cup ties so far since taking the job in the summer of 2011 and he has yet to guide Rangers to even a semi-final. Green’s insistence that McCoist must win a cup this season, which presumably does not extend to the Ramsdens Cup, has cranked up the pressure on the manager. If the timing of Green’s re-emergence on centre stage of the Rangers soap opera has upset many involved in the club, it has to be recognised that he never really left in the first place. Since his resignation as chief executive in April, he has simply been waiting in the wings and still wielding considerable influence.
Chief executive Craig Mather, it should be remembered, was brought to Rangers by Green, as was financial director Brian Stockbridge. As recently as last month, Greenock businessman James Easdale, another investor recruited by Green at the time of the club’s stock market flotation in December, was appointed a director at the same time former chairman Malcolm Murray and director Phil Cartmell were deposed. The remainder of the current six-man board, including non-executive chairman Walter Smith, were all appointed by Green.
Smith’s loyalties lie firmly with McCoist, of course. His sole stated aim on accepting the chairman’s position earlier this year was to try and provide a more stable environment off the field at the club in order to provide his former assistant manager with every possible opportunity to fashion a successful team on it.
But after a summer of relative calm which persuaded around 34,000 supporters to purchase season tickets for Ibrox, the club is now on the brink of another period of turmoil as billionaire businessman Jim McColl lines up alongside former Rangers director Paul Murray in a bid to wrest control away from Green and his allies.
There can be no doubt that Green intends to be more than a “consultant” on his return to the boardroom. He unashamedly saw Rangers as an investment when his consortium purchased the business and assets of the stricken club last year and he will neither depart the scene quietly or empty-handed.
For McCoist, the stakes could not be higher. If Green wins the looming battle of rival investors and shareholders, the manager’s departure is surely inevitable. Having earned a reputation for enjoying remarkable good luck during his illustrious playing career, McCoist finds himself in the deeply unfortunate position of trying to prove himself as a capable and successful manager at a club which seems determined to tear itself apart once more.