ARCHIE Knox, who was assistant manager to Walter Smith at Rangers for seven years, admitted yesterday he could not work under the circumstances in which Ally McCoist has begun his managerial career.
On the one hand, McCoist has been able to work his way through Leagues 1 and 2 with a squad that has been acknowledged as the second most expensive in Scotland. In mitigation, he has found himself hamstrung in the transfer market at times by the continuing uncertainty over Rangers’ future and budgetary outlook, and it was this predicament that attracted sympathy from Knox.
Speaking at a McDonald’s event at Ibrox, Knox said he had seen McCoist after Saturday’s win over Stranraer and found him in “good humour – as always”, adding: “I really don’t know how he manages it.
“Normally you are well down the road by now because you are always looking at targets for next season, who is going to be moving on, who is going to be out of contract that you might be able to attract. He can’t get started with any of that and we are at the end of the season so it’s really unfair,” said Knox. “It’s unfair to the supporters as well – who are they going to be watching next season?
“You knew in the past what you would be able to do, and you would be targeting somebody, hopefully a decent player who the supporters would want to come and watch. I really don’t know how Ally manages it, because it must be difficult to bear having been part of a terrific team, a terrific club, the whole lot, having good success and then having to start his managerial career where he had to start it.
“It’s a no-win for him. He’s got to get out of the Championship next season and everybody will be asking when he’s going to win the league. I couldn’t have managed in those circumstances, I’m far too volatile for that I’m afraid.”
Scottish football is the poorer for Rangers’ absence from the Premiership, Knox emphasised more than once.
“The circumstances are totally different and I think Ally and his staff have done a phenomenal job. He hasn’t lost a league game and OK, the cups have been disappointing but you can only do what you can do. If you have won 33 out of 35 games what else can you do?” he said. “If you look at the numbers turning up here it’s absolutely phenomenal. Apart from Newcastle and Arsenal and Man United, there are no clubs in England getting bigger crowds than Rangers are.
“Scottish football – and I don’t care what anybody says – needs Rangers and is missing Rangers in the top division. How they came to get there I am not privy to, but it’s a major loss for them to be out of that Premiership and everybody is feeling the pinch. How it resolves itself I don’t know. It’s the same with Celtic,” he added. “OK, they’re going to win the league. Until Rangers are back in a position where they’re going to be able to compete, Celtic are going to win the league.
“Aberdeen will make a fist of it, Dundee United with their young players will make a fist of it, Stuart McCall’s done unbelievably at Motherwell. The boy [Tommy] Wright at St Johnstone, he’ll make a good go at it. Terry Butcher will bring Hibs up I’m sure, Hearts will make a comeback. If you look at the league next year, say Dundee don’t get up, you’ve got Rangers, Hearts, maybe Hibs, Dunfermline, Dundee, all of them could get decent crowds in the Premier League. And you’ve got Ross County, Inverness, Kilmarnock, Motherwell, St Mirren – all the clubs I’ve mentioned previously would get better gates.
“It’s a hard period for Scottish football until we can get in a position where the bigger clubs are qualifying for Europe. Celtic have done a fantastic job qualifying for the group stages of the Champions League on a couple of occasions. But how do they attract players if there’s no Rangers and they’ve three qualifiers next season?”
Aberdeen’s resurgence, Dundee United’s revival and St Johnstone’s march to a maiden Scottish Cup final have been entertaining distractions from the harsh financial reality affecting the game this season. Knox was not about to be persuaded that there was a hidden benefit to Rangers’ absence from the business end of the game winning silverware.
“You get credit for winning titles every season but the top competition – much as Aberdeen and the others will disagree – comes from Rangers,” he said when asked what Neil Lennon would have to do to satisfy his own seemingly insatiable critics. “That’s what attracts the big crowds and we can’t afford to be losing any more fans in Scottish football. Aberdeen have done hell of a well but they need the likes of Rangers in the division as well. Everybody misses the Old Firm games. A lot of the supporters of both teams are desperate for that to be back.”
• Archie Knox was speaking at a grassroots heroes match held at Ibrox to promote this year’s 2014 Scottish FA and McDonald’s Grassroots Awards. Nominate your local grassroots volunteer or club now for this year’s awards at mcdonalds.co.uk/awards.
BT Sport Q&A: Rangers | Hibs | Neil Lennon
THIS week’s BT Sport video Q&A looks at whether Rangers fans will buy season tickets and if the club’s supporters will force a change of ownership.
The form of Hibs under Terry Butcher is also examined following the Easter Road side’s derby defeat while the future of Neil Lennon is also considered following the announcement that his assistant Johan Mjallby is to depart at the end of the season.
• Email your Scottish football question for the BT Sport panel to answer. The next show will be recorded on May 7 after St Johnstone v Celtic with the video available on The Scotsman website the following day. You can also tweet us @TheScotsman.
A line-up of experts will handle your questions after each BT Sport game. Most match days, the team includes Darrell Currie, Derek Rae and Gary McAllister.
Over this season, BT Sport will air 30 SPFL matches plus 10 Rangers games from the SPFL League One.
• T&C We can not guarantee which presenters will answer your questions. Questions are vetted and no correspondence will be entered into.