AFTER a series of questions relating to his salary, it was understandable that Ally McCoist looked visibly relieved to be allowed to talk about football at Ibrox yesterday, as attention turned to tomorrow afternoon’s trip to face Ayr United at Somerset Park.
However, before turning his thoughts to a fixture that will see Rangers hoping to earn a tenth successive victory, McCoist had the little matter of the postponement of next weekend’s game against Dunfermline to clear up first.
The Rangers manager insisted that the rescheduling of the fixture had been a “football decision” and was based on the potential number of Rangers players on international duty, which could be as many as 12.
It had been proposed to McCoist that the real reason behind the postponement had been directors seeking relief from another barrage of anti-board sentiment prior to the annual general meeting later this month. A protest was held at separate stages during last Saturday’s win over Stenhousemuir at Ibrox. With the Dunfermline game now rearranged for 6 November, Rangers do not have another home game scheduled until after the agm on 24 October.
“It was my opinion that we should get the game cancelled, 100 per cent,” confirmed McCoist, who stressed that he felt for those supporters who had already made travel plans and had therefore been inconvenienced. He revealed that he had been in dialogue with fans’ groups as much as possible.
“There is nobody more respectful than me of the supporters giving up their hard earned cash,” he said.
“That’s of paramount importance to everybody at the football club. I have attempted to keep as much dialogue going with supporters in terms of that particular game and I do sympathise with them. The way we’ve been going in the league, there is nobody more disappointed than us. We just feel it is the right thing to do.”
McCoist explained that Rangers could be without as many as a dozen players due to international commitments, a number that includes those representing the Scotland Under-19 side against Latvia.
“It is my job to look after the football team and I am not looking after the football team if we don’t do what is best for the football team. It was my opinion and my staff’s opinion, and we had a good, long chat about it. We could have 11 or 12 players away.”
Definitely due to be representing their countries are Honduran Arnold Peralta and Scotland left back Lee Wallace, while Lewis MacLeod has also been called up by the Scotland Under 21 team. Dean Shiels and Andy Little are also on stand-by for Northern Ireland.
“There is every chance Shiels and Little could be away and I think we have seven possibilities in the Under-19 Scotland team [to play Latvia],” said McCoist. “I don’t believe we are doing our job if we take on anybody, never mind the second best team in the league, with a completely under-strength Rangers side.
“Can you imagine the press conference we would be having if Dunfermline beat us 2-0 at Ibrox and we were without eight players? You would, quite rightly, be asking me if I was doing my job correctly.”
With no game now scheduled for next weekend, McCoist stressed the importance of maintaining their current winning run, which stretched to nine games courtesy of last weekend’s 8-0 thrashing of Stenhousemuir.
The improved showings on the pitch since the 2-1 defeat to Forfar Athletic in the Legaue Cup in August has led to happier weekends for McCoist and his backroom staff of Ian Durrant and Kenny McDowall. “Since Monday we have been saying that we can’t wait for the game to come round,” the manager reported. “It’s not been like that most Mondays.
“The fans have been enjoying it too, which is really encouraging.
“We watched the Stenhousemuir game again on Sunday and Monday, doing some video analysis. The football is keeping us going. It’s a long time since I have been phoning Durrant and McDowall late on Saturday night saying: ‘that was magic today’.”
McCoist looked forward to linking up again with Ayr manager Mark Roberts, a former team-mate from their days together at Kilmarnock. “I’d imagine there will be a bit of banter between the dug-outs,” he said. The Rangers manager is also glad to see Kevin Kyle back playing again. The former Scotland internationalist had a short, injury-interrupted spell at Ibrox last season and it was feared he might have to retire before he returned with Ayr earlier this season.
“I’m pleased for him,” said McCoist. “He needs to get back playing again. I don’t forget that big Kevin Kyle got a really bad injury playing for us up at Montrose at a time he was scoring one or two goals.
“Although he wasn’t at the club for a long time you have got to remember things like that. He got injured going for a ball, trying to get us a goal.”