ALLY McCoist saved perhaps the most telling line for last. As he came to the end of yet another pre-match media briefing in which the match was not mentioned once, the Rangers manager said: “We are right back in it.”
By ‘it’, he was referring to the deep financial uncertainty which has plagued the Ibrox club throughout his tenure and which has now been placed in fresh focus by chief executive Graham Wallace’s unsuccessful bid to persuade the first-team playing squad to accept a 15 per cent wage cut.
It is questionable, of course, whether Rangers have ever been out of ‘it’ since they were plunged into administration and liquidation by the Mitty-esque Craig Whyte almost two years ago. The notional success of Charles Green’s subsequent stock market flotation of the newly constituted club has been frittered away on running costs and executive salaries grotesquely out of kilter with their current status in Scottish football’s lower divisions.
Wallace has been charged with imposing a sense of fiscal reality and responsibility to Rangers, a task which McCoist accepts will involve considerable discomfort for everyone involved.
But despite McCoist’s concerns over the potential impact on his resources, which he admits may now include player sales during the current transfer window, he is happy to accept Wallace’s pledge that another insolvency event is not on the horizon.
“We have all accepted that again there are going to be extremely tough times ahead,” said McCoist. “If anyone needed to be convinced about that, then recent events would indicate it is going to be the case.
“But it feels different from two years ago for one major reason. I have been given a categoric assurance that there will not be a chance of administration this time. That’s obviously the biggest difference and one we would all be looking for here.
“There is no chance of a second administration. So this is definitely different, although it’s still not nice. I feel sadness about it, a feeling in the pit of my stomach. But I’m not sceptical about Graham’s assurance. I think the club has now got a chief executive who will tell everyone the truth. Make of that what you will, but he will be completely up front about things.
“That has to be a positive. But obviously my overriding feeling, like all Rangers supporters, would be of disappointment at this moment in time.”
McCoist admits he does not know what the alternative effect on his playing staff will be following their resistance to the prospect of salary reductions.
“Graham hasn’t said anything specific to me about the cuts,” he added. “I am aware of the severity of the situation and indeed figures that will need to be cut throughout the club. He has informed me that among other things we discussed there will be potential player budget cuts. But nothing specific in terms of individuals or anything like that.
“It depends on how those cuts were managed, in terms of whether it was players having to go. But it’s a lot easier said than done. Players are on contracts and in an ideal world should be allowed to have those contracts honoured.
“I mean, clubs want players to honour contracts so I think it’s only fair players have that right as well. I don’t know how and in what way, shape or form the cuts would influence and shape the squad.
“I haven’t been told I’ll need to sell players. I won’t be selling anybody. But the club might sell somebody. There are a few options and that is obviously one of them. But it is certainly a route that both Graham and myself don’t want to go down.”
The response of the Rangers players to Wallace’s proposal was unsurprising. Senior squad members, including captain Lee McCulloch and Scotland full-back Lee Wallace, previously took wage reductions of up to 75 per cent in March 2012 to help avoid widescale job losses at the club. There is a powerful sense in the Rangers dressing-room that the current round of cuts should begin in the boardroom, most notably in the shape of controversial finance director Brian Stockbridge, who has overseen operating losses of £14.4 million.
“I’d be very confident that the chief executive is having a total look and overhaul of the whole business,” said McCoist. “He’s looking from top to bottom, right through the business, not just in the football side and he’s made that clear. That’s good enough for me – I’ll let him get on with his job. Graham has told me that he will tell me the truth and I will tell you that I believe him 100 per cent.
“I’ve got nothing but tremendous pride and loyalty to the players. My loyalty is to the players, the fans and the football club and I stand by whatever decision the players make.
“They have done unbelievably well in what they have done and what they are doing. There have been a couple of constants throughout this whole thing. Obviously the fans have been unbelievable, with 36,000 season tickets sold two years in a row. But the players have been fantastic too.
“Last year, rightly or wrongly, they got their fair share of criticism and won the league by 24 points. This year, I think the fact they aren’t being criticised tells me that they are doing fantastically well. I wouldn’t like to think what might have happened if the players hadn’t been doing so well.
“It’s been another tough couple of days but the most important thing from my point of view is that the spirit and morale of the players is still high. They are ready for the game at Forfar on Monday night, they want to keep the progress going on the pitch. The club is being battered from pillar to post again, but it’s our job to keep morale high. Because if the morale goes, then the whole thing collapses.”