As a player, Gary Holt helped stop the Rangers juggernaut from driving on to a record ten-in-a-row – as Falkirk manager he now wants to halt the Ibrox club in their tracks in the Scottish Cup.
Holt was part of the Kilmarnock side that, in May 1998, earned a shock 1-0 victory over the dominant Rangers side of the decade thanks to a 90th-minute winner from Ally Mitchell. It was a costly defeat that allowed Rangers’ bitter rivals Celtic to snatch the league title away by just two points in a dramatic climax to the campaign.
The Old Firm giants brought on the current management team of Ally McCoist and Ian Durrant as second-half substitutes that day and the pair went on to become team-mates of Holt at Rugby Park just weeks later. But, although full of praise for the way McCoist has steered the present Rangers through some difficult times of late, Holt is desperate for his young Falkirk team to bring an end to the runaway League One champions-elect’s current run of 17 wins in a row.
Speaking ahead of tomorrow’s fourth-round cup tie, he said: “When I was at Kilmarnock we stopped them winning ten-in-a-row. We went to Ibrox and Ally Mitchell scored in the 90th minute to give us a 1-0 win and I think that was the catalyst that stopped them winning ten-in-a-row. The atmosphere that day was phenomenal.
“I’ve also played against Rangers at Ibrox and scored [in October 2000], which was a surreal moment.
“Christophe Cocard scored after five minutes and I was thinking ‘that’s maybe a bit too early’ and then I managed to break through the middle and score, and then I looked up and there was still about an hour left to play. They say it’s never too early to score but you know at Ibrox or Parkhead they’re going to get chances. But we eventually won 3-0 and that was a phenomenal day.
“I played with both McCoist and Durrant at Kilmarnock but it’s been quiet this week. I think they’ll be unleashed on Saturday and I’m sure my ears will be ringing then.
“I’m looking forward to seeing them again. They said some nice words about me when I got the job here so it will be good to see them. What they’ve done at Rangers is phenomenal, I take my hat off to them. The pressure they’re under, not just with the circumstances, but with having to win games week after week, is massive. That’s what the fans demand and it must be hard to deal with the expectation of winning every game – but they’re doing it. You don’t just turn up and win games, so you’ve got to take your hat off to Coisty and his staff.
“But this is a one-off cup tie. We know we need to be at it, and if we’re at it we’ve got a good chance. But, if we’re not and we get caught up in the occasion, we’ll end up with egg on our face again.”
McCoist has noted Falkirk’s confidence and has warned his team to take notice of the comments coming out of their opponents’ camp ahead of the fourth-round trip.
McCoist told Rangers TV: “I’m already reading comments after Falkirk’s good victory at the weekend – quite rightly – from one or two of their lads. They knocked us out of the League Cup a couple of seasons ago and are doing well in the league just now.
“They are looking forward to the Rangers game and they’re looking to put one over on us again. You’d absolutely expect them to say that. If there was ever any doubt about how up for the game Falkirk are, you just have to look at their quotes in the newspapers. They’re full of confidence. We’ve had them watched and they beat Livingston 4-1 recently, so it’s a tough game for us this weekend.”
McCoist’s top-flight team lost at the Falkirk Stadium in their last season before liquidation, although Rangers gained revenge in both the League Cup and Ramsdens Cup last season. And McCoist has warned that teams are just as determined to cause an upset against his side as they were before the club’s financial collapse.
“We’re a massive scalp, of course we are,” McCoist said. “I make no apologies for saying the vast majority of teams raise their performance levels against us.
“That’s not a criticism of them, it’s just a statement of fact and it’s totally understandable that they do that. We might not be the same team we were in terms of playing well in the Champions League and winning top-flight titles.
“But we are, without doubt, the same club and that’s as big a thing for our opponents as it was before.”