IT WAS one year ago today that Rangers FC collapsed into administration to begin a series of events that transformed the club and indeed Scottish football itself.
As yet we know little about what actually happened in the inner sanctum at Ibrox during the crucial months in which the club nearly went out of existence and eventually survived to join the Scottish Third Division.
Working quietly in the background all that time as a member of the coaching team was Kenny McDowall, the former Partick Thistle and St Mirren player who had joined his childhood heroes Rangers from Celtic where his talents as a coach of young players, gained him considerable respect in the Scottish game.
Speaking yesterday to promote The Rising: Rangers One Year On From Administration, which will be shown on Rangers TV tonight, McDowell for the first time gave a flavour of what it was like to work alongside manager Ally McCoist and the other staff at Ibrox and Murray Park as the club fought for survival.
Unsurprisingly, he has no doubt as to the hero of the saga. “If you give out medals for that kind of stuff, Ally should get one,” said McDowall.
“I don’t think there’s anybody who’s had to do what he’s done. There was nobody else. Ally was running the whole place.
“Martin Bain, the chief exec, had left, there wasn’t a board so he was having to call all the shots at various meetings. It was very difficult for him as he had to make decisions on things that normally would be made for you. He took on all these different roles and handled them all unbelievably. He’s an intelligent guy, Coisty. That’s what made him able to handle all that.
“When you sign up to be a manager you know your remit is to sign players and put out a successful team. But Ally has been doing ten people’s jobs for nothing.
“I hope this year Coisty gets the credit he’s due if and when we manage to win the championship, because he deserves some people to come out and say ‘that’s a hell of a job you’ve done’.”
The sheer pressure of trying to keep Rangers going made its mark on people, said McDowall.
He said: “When you’re embroiled in it at that time you can’t really see the toll it’s taking. But we were all feeling it.
“Ally was being stuck up in front of cameras and microphones and he would solve one problem and then get hit with another. He was constantly problem solving.
“I spent many a late night with him in at Murray Park and it was horrendous. It was just constant, all sort of issues cropping up that had to be dealt with and decisions to be made. It was all business stuff, as well as trying to get players which was our actual job.
“It wasn’t what we signed up for but that’s life. Nothing’s ever smooth. You just do your best with what gets put in front of you. That’s why Coisty was just fantastic for the whole place. He was concerned about the girls in the kitchen, the whole staff at Ibrox. He had a lot of people in his thoughts. He didn’t want one person to get sacked from the whole place.”
McDowall played a vital role in keeping the football side of things going as well as being a buddy to McCoist.
“I was like a sounding board for him as he was having to do a lot of stuff upstairs as well,” said McDowall.
“All I could do was give him an ear and listen and give my opinion if he asked. Me and Ian Durrant were there for him and he knew that.
“We would make sure that everything was sorted with the players because he was being asked to do a lot of things, attend a lot of meetings and the like. Trying to keep his head on the football side as well wasn’t easy.”
It was “a low time for everyone,” said McDowall, adding that it was the worst year of his life: “But you’ve got to take something out of all that and learn from it. If something like that can happen to a place like this then nowhere’s safe.”
It helped that McDowall had experience of such tumult: “I’d been through it before at St Mirren a couple of times when the club was bordering on administration. It never quite happened but at that time we were told in the next 24 hours the place would be locked and we weren’t sure if we’d get wages.
“It wasn’t nice then and it definitely wasn’t good going through it again.
“But when it actually happened, that’s when the shock happens because suddenly it’s real and you wonder what’s going to happen. Is the place going to close?
“There were a few points when I wondered ‘how can this continue?’ When is it going to end?”
McDowall said the club is going forward: “We are on a journey at the moment and all we can do is take each league as it comes.”
Had he stayed at Celtic he might well have been part of the coaching team for the Champions League but he has no regrets:
“It was a step up for me at the time and I’m at the best club in the world.”
• The Rising: Rangers One Year On From Administration is on Rangers TV tonight at 7pm. Supporters can subscribe for £5 per month, or 99p for the programme, at www.rangerstv.tv