ALLY McCoist is hoping that mentor and close ally Sandy Jardine will have a leading role in the future of Rangers after it was announced the legendary figure will unfurl the Third Division Championship flag at Ibrox tomorrow.
The Rangers manager opened up yesterday on his relationship with Jardine and revealed that the former defender’s advice and support had been vital to him during the turmoil at the club last year.
As civil war engulfs Rangers once more following the return of Charles Green, the bid by Paul Murray and Jim McColl to shake up the boardroom and the resignation of chairman Walter Smith, McCoist hopes Jardine can resume a key position at the club.
The 64-year-old was diagnosed with throat and liver cancer in November last year and had to endure surgery followed by 12 days in a high-dependency unit when he contracted an infection before starting chemotherapy treatment.
It has been a long and arduous road but, while still very tired, Jardine is ready to return to Ibrox tomorrow for the opening League One game of the season against Brechin City.
With Rangers rudderless and leaderless following the advent of administration due to the mismanagement of Craig Whyte, McCoist tried to steady the ship and it was Jardine who joined him at the helm.
“He was my biggest ally in the club last year,” revealed McCoist. “The amount of time he would sit down with me and we would talk about everything over a cup of tea. He was great because he was a very calming and steadying influence. Sometimes I might fly off the handle and start doing something I thought was the right thing but it was maybe the wrong way to go about it.
“That’s where Sandy came in and put ideas in my head and calmed me down. He was fantastic. It’s remarkable that he has come through the last year but, to contradict that, it’s not really when you know Sandy the man and what he is made of. He is just an incredibly strong-willed and powerful character.”
McCoist is delighted Jardine has agreed to conduct the pre-match unfurling ceremony in front of a packed crowd.
“It’s magic that Sandy is coming to the Brechin game to unfurl the flag,” McCoist said. “The dream for me is for Sandy to come back and have a major role at the club again.
“He will be the one who decides that in terms of his health but what a boost that would give everybody – supporters, everyone at Murray Park and Ibrox.
“The day he comes back into Ibrox will be fantastic but the day he comes back to his work will be something else and something special.
“I’m looking forward to Sandy walking through that front door again. He has had an absolutely horrendous time with illness.
“He is not only a top Rangers man, he is a top human being. People like Sandy instil the great habits of what it means to be at this football club.
“Our supporters were incredible last season when they paid tribute and showed their respect for Sandy Jardine at every home game and that tells you everything.
“It will make the day of so many people on Saturday and there won’t be a dry eye in the house.
“He has had a really tough time and I know a lot of staff went through to Edinburgh to visit him and the great thing was, you could see and hear him get stronger.
“As you would expect from Sandy, even although he was at a low ebb at many times, he followed the doctor’s instructions – if not doing them twice.
“He was going out for his walks and, if the doctor said go out at 9:30 he would be out there at 29 minutes past. That’s what he is all about.”
McCoist has had to suffer criticism from former chief executive Green who is back at Rangers as a paid consultant at the behest of a selection of investors who want stability in the share price. The manager hit back with an attack of his own after last weekend’s League Cup defeat at Forfar when he labelled Green “embarrassing”.
There is speculation that the division between the two men could be costly for McCoist although finance director Brian Stockbridge has said that the manager’s job is not under threat.
What is clear is that with Smith gone McCoist needs allies and if Jardine was well enough to come back to Rangers in an official capacity it would be a massive boost.
He added: “The pea could not have stopped rolling about in the referee’s whistle at our first match of the season against Albion Rovers [in the Challenge Cup] when the first congratulatory text came through – and it was Sandy Jardine.
“That just meant so much to me, the staff and the players and indeed everyone at Ibrox and Murray Park because he is a well-loved and well-respected work-mate, if you like.”
That work-mate will be back at Ibrox at lunchtime tomorrow and McCoist firmly hopes it will herald a complete return for a close friend and ally.