IT WAS an intentional headline-grabber. Dave King’s threat last week that “Celtic will stroll to ten-in-a-row” if Rangers fail to change course on their current “right-sizing” was the former Ibrox director playing on the emotions of a support he wants to mobilise to starve out the current board.
The tactic might work. If fans’ groups carry through their threat to back King’s plan to withhold season-ticket money until receiving financial assurances, Ibrox share-controllers such as brothers Sandy and James Easdale and Laxey Partners may be unable simply to bunker in with their holdings.
Yet, even if King might take the punters with him by spooking them about a dreaded ten-straight title run by the team they hate, Rangers manager Ally McCoist has wised up about where that stands on his priorities. More relevant to him right now would be a ten-year period in which the club doesn’t seem permanently on the brink of going bust, and being in a position to be pushing for a place in the Premiership ten months from now.
McCoist, pictured below with King, has wised up, too, in last week “distancing” himself from what is happening off the park after endorsing David Murray, Craig Whyte, Charles Green, Craig Mather, Graham Wallace and King at various points in the past three years. His new pragmatism also extends to a sober assessment of the prospect that Celtic will become the first Scottish club to win ten consecutive league championships, eclipsing the nine-title run that allowed Rangers to equal the nine that Celtic won under Jock Stein.
“I don’t think of it because I think that would be me running away with myself and the club, because the fact of the matter is we’re miles away if you’re talking about winning the top flight,” said McCoist.
“There’s an incredible amount of work to be done before we’re back challenging in the top flight so it would be wrong to look too far ahead – although I appreciate you have to have short, medium and long term plans for the future. Of course, from a Rangers point of view it would hurt [if Celtic did ten] but I think, in the grand scheme of things, our concerns are very much the last 24 months and the next 24 months. We can’t forget what’s happened, we can’t let it happen again, and we have to keep rebuilding.”
Asked if, all told, he had far more to worry about than a statistic, the Rangers manager said: “Yes, but I don’t want to use it flippantly, as if I’m not doing my job. Of course I don’t want Celtic to go ten, it would be crazy to say that. But, at the same time, I think our club has far more important issues coming up.
“We can’t stop Celtic doing ten in a row where we are at the moment, and we won’t be able to do it next year either, but you keep your fingers crossed and stay positive that in two or three years’ time, we will get back. We’ll obviously have to improve massively, incredibly, to get back, because I think it’s safe to say, unless there’s a dramatic change in Scottish football – I know Aberdeen are doing really well, Derek [McInnes] has done a brilliant job beating Celtic twice in a few weeks but even he would admit that consistency is an issue – that Celtic are everyone’s favourites for the foreseeable future in the top flight.”
In the 1990s, it was Rangers who were in that position. McCoist supplied the striking prowess that powered the club to nine straight title successes but, when asked what that run means to him, he provides a surprising admission. “In truth, probably not as much as is made of it, in the respect that I value every individual championship more than I value them collectively. Nine is just a number. I value more winning the titles and the relationship I had with my team-mates, coaches and manager more than anything. Nine is a fabulous number. But it’s just a number.”
It was only a matter of weeks ago that McCoist was delighting at a wave of optimism that seemed to be sweeping the club with the League One only weeks away from being secured, a Scottish Cup quarter-final at home to fourth-tier Albion Rovers in the offing, and the final of the Ramsdens Cup to come.
Now, with King seemingly prepared to bring the club to the brink in the hope of ousting the Easdale brothers and Laxey Partners, the storm clouds are once more gathering. “I’m not oblivious to that,” said McCoist. “And, as a team and a squad, we’ll react to the storm and see what it brings. Hopefully, we can continue to win games of football.”
That, for many years, has been the least of Rangers’ problems, even if too many failed to acknowledge as much in the old days.