ANOTHER week, another spin of the revolving door at Ibrox. There has been a bewildering number of comings and goings since Rangers went into administration early last year, but unusually for a club in such turmoil, there has been no change of manager.
Ally McCoist has been undermined from within at times, and criticised from without at others. His ability as a manager will remain a matter of debate at least until Rangers return to the top flight, but his powers of endurance are surely beyond question.
It is often said that the most important relationship at any football club is the one between manager and chief executive. If that is the case, McCoist must surely be judged to have done particularly well to survive in this, his first managerial commission, as he could never rely on Charles Green nor Craig Mather in the way he would have liked.
Now, with the departure of Mather this week, McCoist is left without the accustomed everyday contact on the business side of the club, but he seems sure to keep Rangers on track on the field. The manager was away from Murray Park yesterday at a funeral, leaving assistant Kenny McDowall to take over his media duties for a day. Invited to assess his colleague, McDowall left no-one in any doubt about the esteem in which he holds the former striker.
“It’s easy for me to say, and you probably expect me to say it, but what a first job to take,” the assistant manager said. “This game is hard enough when you’re just picking the team and trying to win a football match. Ally has run this place for pretty much two years.
“A lot of people are giving it him in the neck, saying he’s got too much to say. Well, if Ally hasn’t been saying it, who is going to be saying it? He’s trying to keep supporters informed in what is going on at the place, while looking after the football side as well.
“And some day he’ll get credit. He’s not had anywhere near the credit that he deserves. This is the first time this has happened to any team, never mind a club of this stature. His credit will come some day.
“On the football side, he’s done a fantastic job. Myself and the other coaches have all been together for a good spell now. We had a solid education under Walter [Smith, McCoist’s predecessor], so we know what we need to do, football wise.
“Of course there are tough days. But Ally is a clever lad, a clever guy. He knows what’s going on. But what he’s more concerned about is Rangers getting back to where we should be.
“That’s what he can control. We can’t control everything else that is going on. So it’s imperative that we get the football bit right.” Getting the football bit right has by no means been easy for McCoist and McDowall, despite the fact that they still have a far larger budget than the clubs they have been up against in Division Three last season and in League 1 this. They feel they have had assurances from various figures within the club that have not materialised, which has led to unnecessary confusion in what could have been a straightforward three-year plan to get back to the top flight.
“We’ve not really had a war chest,” McDowall continued. “We’ve been promised I don’t know how many. It’s like hide and seek here – there are war chests sprinkled about Murray Park. We keep looking with our shovels but we can’t find any.
“We’ve got players in this year, free transfers, and to be fair the lads have come in and done well. It’s imperative that we keep going step by step, get back to the top flight.
“This is a tough game. Being manager of Rangers is tough enough. I’ve heard Walter saying that many a time,
“And Ally hasn’t had anything like any previous manager, in terms of working terms, to go and build a team, just worry about the football side. Ally has been trying to do everybody’s job here for the last two years. And his own job is hard enough without having to do anybody else’s.
“He’ll be better for it, I’ve no doubt about that. We all will be, but mostly Ally. Continuity in any business is obviously a good thing. Other people might have different opinions, it’s not for me to say, but personally I’m delighted that he’s kept it going.”
Rangers’ defeats in cup competitions, and their stuttering early form in the league last season, are among the factors that have provoked criticism of McCoist. But McDowall feels that those failings are vastly outweighed by the manager’s successes, and that in time, his achievements will be given due recognition.
“What he’s done has been kind of overlooked. There hasn’t been the time to say: ‘By the way, he’s doing a no’ bad job there.’
“I suppose the time to do it is at the end of a season, if you’ve achieved. Nobody’s looking for pats on the back eight games into a league campaign.
“He’s already won a championship. We’re enjoying the football side, when we get out there to do what we do, and he’s done well as a manager. We’ve got a good squad of players who have been fantastic. We’re delighted with the way they’re responding.”
That squad has gelled well, and quickly, despite the transfer embargo which prevented them all playing together in the opening month of the season. “Trying to plan with a transfer embargo – how can you plan a schedule?” McDowall asked.
“Our priority was just to try and win a championship, then come out of the embargo and see where we are. Try and get some players, which we have done, and take it from there.
“At the moment, touch wood, it’s been a good start to the season outwith Forfar in the cup, which just came a wee bit too early as we thought might happen.
“So we’ve got to be happy with where we are at the moment, but we’ve got a long way to go this season and we want to keep progressing.”