HAVING stepped away from front-line coaching because of illness two years ago, Gordon Durie might struggle to find a doctor who would advise him that becoming assistant-manager of Rangers is likely to be good for his health.
Although it is difficult to think of a more stressful football environment than the one currently enveloping the troubled Ibrox club, Durie is relishing the opportunity he has been handed in the wake of Ally McCoist’s departure as manager.
The 49-year-old has been promoted from his position as coach of the Rangers under-20 side to assist caretaker manager Kenny McDowall.
Happily, Durie has made a full recovery from the mystery viral complaint which saw him collapse in front of startled East Fife players in August 2012, eventually forcing him to resign as manager of the Bayview club on medical advice.
Since his return to football with his former club Rangers in the summer of 2013, Durie has established a positive reputation for his work with their under-20s, including a Scottish Youth Cup final success against Hearts earlier this year.
“When I finished at East Fife, I didn’t think I was finished in coaching, although I did say then that I didn’t think I would be a manager again,” said Durie.
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“This situation at Rangers was only put on me on Monday, so it’s quite new again. It’s something I’m looking forward to, being on Kenny’s right-hand side. I’ll give him as much support as I can.
“I’ve had a wee bit experience of the management side, so if I can help Kenny in any way I can, I will do. It was a wee bit different at East Fife, with boys not turning up for training sometimes because they couldn’t get a baby-sitter and stuff like that. Hopefully we won’t get that here!”
In truth, those kind of problems would be preferable at Rangers to the endless turmoil they have experienced in recent years and which shows no sign of abating.
Durie’s own elevation to the assistant manager’s position has come in difficult circumstances which have seen Ian Durrant demoted from the first-team coaching staff to take up the role in charge of the under-20s.
“Of course it was important I spoke to Ian about it,” added Durie. “We had a chat on Monday about it. We are good friends for life. We both know the situation and are professional enough to get on with it. We will both do that.
“I got the call from Kenny to come in to the club on Sunday night when I was actually preparing the under-20s for a game on Monday. I spoke to Kenny and Alistair on Monday morning. I was surprised but it was important for me to speak to them and Ian.
“I’d a chat with them and what we said will remain between us. Ian’s a friend, he’s a work colleague, I’ve known him for years. He’s worked with the under-20s before so it’s nothing new for him.
“Hopefully people will understand the position we have been placed in. We were asked to take these roles, we’ve got to be professional and do it, and we’ve got to look forward now.
“Any backroom staff you have – manager, assistant, coaches – they’ve got to be united and work together. I’ve known Kenny and Lee McCulloch, who is now player-coach, a long time. I’ve been around with the players for a couple of years, even with the under-20s. We’ll stick together and the players will too.”
As fate would have it, Durie’s first match with the first team is at Easter Road tomorrow against Hibs, the club where he sprang to prominence in Scottish football in the mid-1980s after his move from East Fife, before earning a move to Chelsea as a fine playing career blossomed.
He is determined to try and block out the ongoing disillusionment among Rangers supporters at the running of the Ibrox club and help McDowall in the bid to reel in Hearts’ commanding 12-point lead at the top of the Championship.
“The Rangers fans have got their own ideas of what’s been going on,” said Durie. “Us, as a staff, don’t really have anything to do with that.
“Our focus is preparing the team for Saturday and making sure we are bang up for it against Hibs. We’ve got to focus on what’s happening on the pitch. We’re Rangers people ourselves but our focus has to be on getting results on a Saturday. That starts this weekend.
“The fans have been fantastic for the last two or three years. Yes, the crowds have been a wee bit short in the last few months but we can only hope that if we start winning games they will come back.
“We are 12 points behind and we know what our job is. We have to focus on it game by game, win as many as we can. Yes, there has been turmoil but we have to try to get that away from the players so they are going to produce on the park, not just for themselves and us but for the supporters.
“Whatever happens with Hearts, we have to look after ourselves. Saturday comes first and we will look forward to that. It’ll be a tough game. We were disappointed with the result against Hibs at Ibrox the last time but the boys are looking upon it as an opportunity to put it right. I’ve been involved in the game a long time and these are the kinds of games you want to be involved.”
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