ALLY McCoist has dismissed the personal significance of Rangers’ Scottish Cup campaign this season ahead of today’s intriguing fourth-round tie at Falkirk.
Since becoming Rangers manager two-and-a-half years ago, McCoist’s record in knockout tournaments has been poor. He has overseen two successive last-16 exits from the Scottish Cup while this season’s embarrassing first-round elimination from the League Cup at Forfar followed losses to Falkirk (last 16) and Inverness Caledonian Thistle (quarter-final) in the two previous years.
While Rangers supporters have a Ramsdens Cup final against Raith Rovers in April to look forward to, it is in the major competitions where the Ibrox club will be judged. But McCoist insists that improving his managerial CV on that front is of secondary concern to him. “I’m thick-skinned enough not to worry about that,” said McCoist. “It’s got nothing to do with personal satisfaction, it really hasn’t.
“It’s all about the continued improvement and moving on of the football club. The priority is, and always will be, getting promotion this season because we have to keep doing that, but it would definitely be seen as progress if we could get a cup run.
“The team moving forward is more important than any individual’s hopes. That’s where we are. If we win on Saturday, I will be absolutely delighted for everybody and if we don’t we have to regroup and get on with it. But I’m not thinking about defeat.
“It would be great to give the supporters a Scottish Cup run. After what they’ve been through in the last two or three years they deserve every bit of joy they can get. That’s a responsibility the players are very much aware of.”
The 2-1 extra-time loss to Forfar at Station Park in August remains Rangers’ only defeat this season. They are currently on a run of 17 successive wins in all competitions and are 11 points clear at the top of League One. The League Cup exit came during the period before McCoist was able to field all of his summer signings due to the club’s player registration embargo. “We can’t shoulder that defeat on the majority of the boys in our team now,” he reflected.
“Their unavailability slightly diminished our chance, although we should still have got through that day and it’s not an excuse. But I can sense an anticipation this week which I haven’t sensed from the squad in a long time, although it’s a relatively new squad. We can sense there’s an importance about this game.”
It is a tie against full-time Championship opposition which should present a clearer indication of how McCoist’s runaway League One leaders have progressed in recent months. The manager is certain of one thing, that Rangers remain as big a scalp as ever to opponents.
“For the last 18 months, we have not been the same team,” said McCoist. “By that, I mean we are not a Champions League team with the likes of Nikica Jelavic, Allan McGregor, Steven Davis and other proven internationals in our side. But we are still Rangers, we are still the same club for the opposition facing us. They don’t look at us and say ‘Oh, we’ll go slightly easier on them because they don’t have the players they had before’. It’s quite the opposite, they have a right go and think they’ve got a real chance because we don’t have those players. We’re still the same club, still the same scalp.
“I remember when we lost to Dundee United in the Scottish Cup last season, you could tell they were as happy to knock us out as they had been before, regardless of how our playing staff had changed.”
Rangers are ranked second-favourites behind Celtic by some bookmakers to win the Scottish Cup, a status McCoist neither endorses nor discourages. “I don’t know if it’s fair or unfair, but generally speaking the bookies don’t get too many things wrong,” he said. “I would class us in the bracket with the rest of the clubs in the top flight – you have to get a bit of luck along the way to win the cup. Celtic will be the favourites and they will be the vast majority of people’s favourites. But the fact we are second favourites doesn’t faze me one way or another, to be honest.”
McCoist will face his former Kilmarnock team-mate Gary Holt across the technical areas for the first time today and has fond memories of winding down his playing career alongside the gritty midfielder at Rugby Park.
“I’ve not spoken to Gary since the draw was made,” said McCoist. “He’s a great lad. Ian Durrant and myself had some great times with him at Kilmarnock under Bobby Williamson. We were talking about it the other day. It was a great set of players – Kilmarnock made it into Europe four times in five years. That’s staggering when you look back on it now. Gary was an integral part of that success.
“I expect his team to pass the ball, to try and knock it about. They will have Gary’s attitude, he will have stamped his mark on the team. Some of their performances have been very good, although they obviously took a sore one against Aberdeen in the League Cup when they lost 5-0 at home this season. But they have got a bit of recent league form and are scoring goals.
“We’ve done our homework on them, but I’m not sure if he’ll go with two up front against us – Rory Loy and Philip Roberts. I’ve a sneaky feeling he might.”
Former Rangers player Loy, 25, has netted nine times for Falkirk this season and McCoist is wary of him.
“Rory will obviously be out to prove a point,” he said. “He did well here but got some injuries and ended up going down to Carlisle United. But he’s always been back around the place, he’s come in here for treatment when he’s had injuries.
“He’s a smashing lad. No doubt he’d love to make his mark against us and we have to be careful of that.”