THEIR time on the pitch together at Ibrox may have been limited back in the period 1996-98, but Ally McCoist saw enough of Barry Ferguson as a teenager, and again when the younger man was captain of the club, to convince him that the new caretaker player-coach of Blackpool has the wherewithal to be a manager.
“I think he’ll do fine,” said McCoist. “Barry was one of those players, like myself, who maybe had one or two chequered moments during their career.
“Some weren’t football-orientated, some were. I’d think that will stand him in better stead as he’ll have an idea of perhaps one or two off-the-wall characters in his dressing-room.
“Is it poacher turned gamekeeper? Well, I wouldn’t go as far to say that – but yes!”
The Ferguson of the drunken antics with the Scotland squad and its unfortunate aftermath has matured in recent times, as McCoist did himself but, in their carefree gadabout days, few would have seen either of them as a managerial type.
“A lot of people probably thought people like Barry, and indeed myself, would not go down the route of coaching and management,” admitted McCoist.
“I love the fact he has. I’d guess, although I might be wrong, that, similar to myself, he decided to do it a bit later on in his career.
“I was probably about 29 or 30 when I started think about it. I suppose it’s natural because at that point you say, ‘What am I going to do?’ At 24 or 25, you are thinking about what you are going to do – but it’s nothing to do with what you are going to do!
“Eventually, you realise that the boots will be hung up one day and that you’ll have a family to look after and responsibilities. Maybe he’s always wanted to do it. Whatever the case, it’s great and I look forward to seeing how he handles it.”
McCoist opined that having been captain of Rangers will give Ferguson unique experience of the pressures of a big job and handling big-name players. He said: “You look at Barry and he played in some great Rangers teams and captained some great Rangers players. He was responsible on the park for boys like [Claudio] Reyna, [Giovanni] van Bronckhorst, [Jorg] Albertz, [Stefan] Klos — some outstanding international players.
“That’s arguably one of the biggest compliments anyone could pay him, to be in charge of these boys. I honestly believe that can only have been a great education for him as he goes into coaching and management.
“It certainly won’t scare him. There’s a lot of people, amongst them ex-players, who go into management and coaching jobs not 100 per cent sure of themselves for one reason or another. Sometimes it’s the enormity of the task, but Barry certainly won’t be one of those. Barry will go into the caretaker role believing he is the right man for the job and believing he can do very well at it.”
Other Rangers players from the nine-in-a-row squad, for instance, have tried their hand at management, but none has made it to the very top, as McCoist acknowledged.
He said: “Big [Richard] Goughy went into it, big Mark Hateley, Stuart McCall’s done well, John Brown, Terry Butcher – a lot of them have had good degrees of success. I’m a little bit surprised none have gone right to the top, but there’s a lot of them who stayed involved in football.
“The two who would be interesting are [Paul] Gascoigne and [Brian] Laudrup, two of the most talented players. Their absence from football isn’t a good thing. That’s two who you would have thought would still be involved in football.”
His parting shot for Ferguson was simple: “Expect the unexpected, but he’ll not get anything like the unexpected I got.”
That is so true. In the long-running soap opera that is Rangers, even the cast changes quicker than EastEnders. Just as McCoist was meeting the Sunday press at Murray Park on Friday afternoon, the departure of finance director Brian Stockbridge was being finalised. Not knowing that was about to happen, McCoist’s words on his own experiences are telling.
When asked if had any regrets, he replied: “There have been times when I’ve said, ‘What am I doing here?’ I’m not sure if that’s regretting it but I have asked that question, being totally honest.
“But I’ve never regretted it. How could you regret becoming the manager of Rangers? That’s not something you’ll ever regret.
“You might regret things that happen. But in terms of getting into management and becoming Rangers boss, never could I regret that.
“But I take point that there have been situations – quite a lot – within that period where you say, ‘What’s going on here?’ Do I see myself here five or ten years down the line? I don’t think I’m in a position to look any further forward than this week. I’ve got my dream job. It’s not the dream situation, or the dream time. I don’t think anyone could argue with that. But it’s my dream job.
“The timing? You could maybe argue that I’d have wished it at a better time, but you don’t get these opportunities a lot in your life. It’s been rollercoaster in the last two years. One thing I have learned is not to look any further forward than the end of your nose, never mind next week. I’ll continue to do that.
“I made the decision to come back into football. Would it have been far easier where I was? Of course it would, 100 per cent. But I’m the Rangers manager and that’s something I could only have dreamed about.”
McCoist is living the dream, therefore, but sometimes, surely, he must think he’s woken up to a nightmare.