BY his own prolific standards, the Scottish Cup did not provide an especially fertile hunting ground for Ally McCoist as a player. Set alongside the ten championship triumphs and nine League Cup wins he contributed to as a Rangers player, his solitary Scottish Cup final success in 1992 was a paltry return.
Scottish football’s oldest tournament has already delivered disappointment to McCoist as a manager, in the shape of last season’s fifth-round elimination at home to Dundee United.
McCoist’s overall record in cup competitions since taking charge of Rangers has been underwhelming, in fact, which perhaps makes it something of a surprise that Scottish Cup sponsors William Hill still rate the now Third Division club as joint-second favourites with United to lift the famous trophy this season.
Tomorrow’s tie against Elgin City at Ibrox certainly appears to offer Rangers potentially comfortable passage into Monday’s fifth-round draw but McCoist will be making no such assumptions, having seen his team knocked out of both the Scottish Communities League Cup and Ramsdens Cup on their own turf already this season.
Regardless of the transitional status of his team in the fourth tier of Scottish football, however, McCoist remains hopeful that Rangers can make a telling impact in the tournament they last won in 2009.
“The Scottish Cup wasn’t a particularly good competition for me personally,” observed McCoist. “The League Cup was always kinder. But it is the end-of-season showpiece that everyone wants to be involved in.
“I’m not saying we will be involved this season, but we do want to go as far as we can. Winning the Third Division is our priority, 100 per cent, but we’d still like to extend our involvement in the Scottish Cup as long as possible.
“We played two SPL sides in the League Cup this season, beating Motherwell and then losing to Inverness, and we want to go on in this tournament and test ourselves again against SPL opposition.
“We have lads in our squad who are proven SPL players and you can argue that Ian Black was man of the match in the last Scottish Cup final for Hearts against Hibs. So I don’t have any doubt these boys can play at a high level in cup competition.
“I’d imagine that those are games that the likes of Ian Black, Dean Shiels, Lee McCulloch, Lee Wallace and David Templeton are really looking forward to. It’s a chance for them to show what they can do under scrutiny.
“But we have a tough tie on Sunday against an Elgin side coming down here with nothing to lose. We have to continue our home form, which has been pretty decent. I hope losing at home to Inverness in the League Cup was a blip and we certainly aren’t the only team to have lost at home to them in the last few weeks.”
Tomorrow could see a return to action for winger David Templeton. He made a sparkling two-goal debut for Rangers in the 5-1 league win over Elgin at Ibrox on 2 September, following his deadline day move from Hearts. But the 23-year-old suffered a serious ankle injury away to Annan the following week and has been sidelined since.
“Temps has a chance of making it,” said McCoist. “He trained on Thursday and came through it fine. If he feels fine on Saturday, than I would certainly think about putting him in the squad.
“He was terrific against Elgin in the league and our fans could see he was going to be an exciting talent to watch. Then after five minutes at Annan he did his ankle.
“I know he’s really keen to play again as he’s one of these players who isn’t a good spectator. He’s always up for a game and he’s not good when he’s injured. He gets bored stiff and wants to get fit. He takes it badly, more than most. It will be a weight off his mind if he comes back on Sunday.”
McCoist, who also has Spanish striker Francisco Sandaza available again after he suffered a broken cheekbone against Motherwell at the end of September, insists there will be no ill-will towards Elgin City despite the over-selling of tickets which caused the league game between the clubs at Borough Briggs last weekend to be postponed. Elgin were fined £25,000 by the Scottish Football League for the fiasco.
“I take absolutely no satisfaction from the fine at all,” said McCoist. “The SFL had to punish them and I would congratulate the SFL on the speed and swiftness of their actions. Our football club takes no pleasure whatsoever in the fine imposed on Elgin but we do appreciate something had to be done.
“My primary sympathy is obviously with our fans who travelled up, still travelled up there because they had weekends booked, and spent their money. But I also sympathise with Elgin players and officials because they wanted the game on as much as we did.
“It is done and dusted. It was one of these things which was totally outwith our control and it’s obviously an internal mistake Elgin have made.
“They have been punished for it and I’m not going to sit and lambast them because we all make mistakes. I can guarantee their players, staff, directors and fans a warm welcome on Sunday. It’s over with and we look forward to welcoming them to Ibrox again.”
McCoist, meanwhile, has confirmed his interest in an early return to Rangers for Romanian defender Dorin Goian who is understood to be unsettled at Italian Serie B club Spezia. The 31-year-old joined them on a season-long loan in August but has been booked seven times and sent off once in 11 appearances so far.
“I’ve not spoken with Dorin but I know he has had disciplinary problems over there,” said McCoist. “I detect a sense of unhappiness. If it was an option for him to come back, I would be crazy not to look at it.”