YOU can’t blame Ally McCoist for not wanting to do the sums. Too many of the numbers might add up to ten if the Rangers manager puts his mind to counting the cost of the position the Ibrox club finds itself in.
Last week, chief executive Graham Wallace admitted that it would be a five-year mission to make the current Rangers competitive in the top flight. Which suggests there is little chance of the club challenging for a Premiership title much before Celtic should surely be homing in on a record ten-in-a-row. Moreover, Wallace stated that Rangers would need to scale the heights by living within their means. McCoist interpreted this as a top-flight Rangers operating with a £3 million playing budget while Celtic worked with ten times this figure.
This illustrates the monumental concern for Rangers supporters and McCoist. If the Ibrox club and Celtic both live within their means, then the near £30m Celtic can generate from the Champions League puts them out of sight of any domestic challengers. It is a vicious circle. Rangers need Champions League money to mount a challenge to Celtic in sustainable fashion. But they can’t obtain that income because this very Champions League money puts Celtic on a different level to them.
“The worry is Celtic are off and running with the Champions League money,” McCoist accepted. “That’s obviously a big concern. It would be wrong for me not to look at Celtic’s finances and not appreciate the gulf between the two, but what we need to do is concentrate on our own club at the minute. Celtic aren’t an issue for us at the moment. They’ve handled things well and fair play to them, but until we’re back competing against them then that’s when we’ll have to assess the situation. At this moment in time we can’t concern ourselves with Celtic. I don’t mean that in a rude way but they’re in a different place from us at the moment.”
How on earth Rangers get to that place before Celtic achieve an unparalleled decade of domination in the top flight is what gives followers of the Ibrox club sleepless nights. “I understand 100 per cent where the fans are coming from,” said McCoist. “We’ve lost £50m-worth of players. We could argue about valuations but that’s what we’ve lost and had to replace them with free transfers. It’s not rocket science. You’ve got no divine right at the best of times to challenge for the top league, so when you look at the facts and figures you shouldn’t be challenging all of a sudden. But that’s not to say we can’t bring in some more youngsters and if that’s what it takes to move forward then that’s what we’ll do.”
To plan to win a Premiership title with a crop of youngsters would be cock-eyed optimism, cautions McCoist. “You’ve got to get a blend. There may be exceptions but other than Manchester United I can’t think of too many teams that have had seven or eight youngsters come through and gone on to be a top-class European team. We’ve never, as long as I can remember, had seven or eight youngsters in the team who have come through Murray Park. You’ve got to get a balance. I think we’ve done fine in recent years when you look at the likes of [Alan] Hutton, [Allan] McGregor and [Charlie] Adam, [Chris] Burke and so on. I don’t think you’ll get too many cases like that Manchester United team. That said, it’s really important we get as many through as we possibly can.”
And hold on to them. When the old Rangers was liquidated, the likes of McGregor declined to have his contract transferred over to the new company then formed. McCoist has had plenty to say about the fact that the keeper and other high-profile players “headed to the hills”, as he put it at the recent agm. But he was more conciliatory when asked what McCoist the player would have done in 1992, had Rangers gone bust. “I don’t know what I would have done,” McCoist said. “It’s the easiest thing for me to say that I’m a Rangers man but I don’t know. I’m not going to look back and start criticising people. I wouldn’t want to move back into hypothetical 1992 situations.”
How McCoist must wish there was a Rangers currently enjoying the situation the Ibrox club did in 1992, though.