ALLY McCoist has refused to adopt a hardline approach to those few hundred supporters expected to break the Rangers boycott of Tannadice Park this afternoon as the Ibrox side travel to face Dundee United in a highly-charged Scottish Cup fifth-round encounter.
The Ibrox manager dismissed the suggestion that he would be “disappointed” by the actions of Rangers supporters who go against the club’s wishes for them not to attend. Charles Green, the Ibrox chief executive, made it clear that the club would not be taking up their allocation of tickets for the tie in protest at what they regard as Dundee United chairman Stephen Thompson’s vocal opposition to the new Rangers company entering the Scottish Premier League last summer.
McCoist stressed that the main thing is that “everyone behaves themselves”. He added that he could not possibly criticise fans who choose to attend, because “our fans have been the real story of our club in the last year”.
The majority of supporters who would normally travel to Dundee for the attractive lunch-time clash will watch events unfold on television, with Rangers having made suites available for fans to watch the game at Ibrox. However, over 300 away fans are expected to be present at Tannadice this afternoon. Dundee United have issued crowd control procedure information on their official club website, with barriers cordoning off parts of Tannadice Street in order to “help facilitate the safe arrival of those attending the game”.
With what he described as “the eyes of Scottish football and Sky TV upon us”, Stephen Thompson has appealed to Dundee United fans to “grab this opportunity to show all that is good about our city, our club, its team and supporters”. As of last night, just under 9,900 tickets had been sold for the game. The last time Rangers travelled to Dundee United, for a league fixture, 9,464 fans attended.
McCoist yesterday said “it was time to take a bit of the heat out of the situation”. He acknowledged that there is likely to be a dissident band of supporters within the stadium, despite an appeal by the Rangers Supporters’ Assembly, an umbrella body covering all the fans’ groups – to stay away from the game.
“They turn up no matter where,” McCoist added. “The club have taken the stance about not taking tickets. That was the club’s opinion on it. We don’t have a final say on who buys tickets. The most important thing, obviously, is that everyone behaves themselves and we can enjoy a game of football.”
On the issue of those fans intent on breaking the boycott, he said: “I am certainly not going to be critical of our fans at any time this season. Our fans have been the real story of our club in the last year. They will certainly not be getting any criticism from me, because they have been nothing but fantastic for us.”
McCoist hopes today’s boycott does not become a trend. If Rangers win, then they could be given another away fixture against a Scottish Premier League side in tomorrow’s quarter-final draw. “It does not really suit us long-term not having any support,” he said. “As manager it suits me better having supporters who are backing the team. I hope it is a one-off.”
He knows the fans have not totally abandoned the team. As well as suites at Ibrox, they will be filling up bars up and down the country and cheering their team on from afar. “They will be there in spirit,” he said.