THERE was a time when the postman who delivered fan mail to Ibrox Stadium used to groan under the weight of cards addressed to Ally McCoist on Valentine’s Day.
Just as his days as Rangers’ pin-up boy for the club’s female support are in the past, so 14 February now has a very different meaning for McCoist.
Yesterday marked the second anniversary of the fateful day he received a call confirming that Craig Whyte had placed the club into administration. It has been two years of almost unrelenting turmoil for Rangers, two years when McCoist has been the central figure in attempting to retain a sense of hope and purpose for their players, staff and supporters.
He freely admits it has taken its toll on him, both physically and mentally, although one part of the 51-year-old’s make-up remains unaltered. The Rangers manager remains able to draw on a sense of humour to maintain his perspective.
“Has it aged me?” he reflected. “Well, I don’t think I’ll be an Oil of Olay poster boy in the foreseeable future! I don’t think there is a product out there that will get the last couple of years back for me.
“Naturally, it takes it out of you, but that’s not a complaint. I wouldn’t change things, because we all wanted to be here and do the best we could to try and see the club through.
“I’ve been lucky in having good family and friends around me, to give me the reality check that some things are a little bit more important than football.
“I do remember my mother looking at me a couple of times and wondering where her son was. Once or twice, she got a hold of the club doctor when she came to Ibrox for games and made sure he took my blood pressure. There were things like that, things that any ma would do.
“But apart from that, I think all of my family knew how important it was to myself, the rest of the staff at Rangers and also the supporters.
“There were times when I was exhausted and felt as if I was battering my head off a brick wall, but I had good people around me. People like Sandy Jardine, who was immense in the early stages of administration. The support from the fans was unbelievable, too, and kept everyone going. It means so much to so many people that you do your best for the club, so you really don’t want to let those people down.”
McCoist can still clearly recall his initial sense of despair when confirmation of Rangers’ insolvency event came his way on 14 February 2012, setting in motion a chain of events which saw his time consumed by far more than simply preparing a team to play football matches.
“It has fairly flown by,” he added. “It’s amazing to think it’s two years. I was at the Hibs training ground for a bounce game when I got the call. In many ways, it’s been a very black two years for the club generally, but within that there have been some positive features which have kept us going.
“We still don’t know what the future holds but I feel we have more hope than we’ve had in a long, long time. I’m a half-full rather than half-empty person and that’s been put to the test in the last 24 months, but I really do believe our chief executive, team, fans and support now have a slightly better feeling about them.
“The day we went into administration was the lowest point. Wrongly, I couldn’t see it happening, either through naivety or just not wanting it to happen. I remember turning to Kenny McDowall and saying ‘that’s it, the club’s in administration’.
“We drove back along the M8 that day and I can’t remember anything being said. It was a very depressed journey. From then, it was into meetings with administrators late into the night and first thing in the morning. Looking back, it was all a bit surreal, the meetings with players to discuss pay cuts and the like.
“The administrators then wanted me to go and talk to Brian Kennedy, then to Bill Miller, then to Bill Ng. The whole thing was absolutely incredible.”
With investigations still ongoing into discredited Whyte’s purchase of Rangers and the subsequent processes of administration and liquidation, McCoist awaits a full explanation of the extraordinary events with more hope than expectation.
“The old cynic in me thinks we might never be able to know the whole truth about everything,” he said. “But I would absolutely love it if that was the case and we found out exactly what went on and we could have a bit of closure about it. I don’t know if we’ll ever get all the answers but we can live in hope. There were definitely points in the two years when you were disillusioned, disappointed or upset. But, to be honest, there was never any point when I thought about throwing in the towel.
“The most important thing was the club coming through the other side, with a team there for fans to watch, and that people who had their jobs in there could keep their jobs.
“We still have a long way to go to get back, but I do think that slowly but surely we are getting on the right track. As I said, there were a lot of low times, but getting the club back to playing football was the priority.
“It still seems incredible, but you have to remember we didn’t have a licence to play something like 36 hours before we played Brechin at the start of last season. That’s how important it was for everyone.
“Progress has definitely been made. We can all argue about what degree of progress, but it has been made. As a coaching and management staff, we are reasonably happy about where we are with the team at the moment.
“The boys won the league last year by 24 points. That’s a fact. We can discuss some of the performances, but the facts are we won the league by 24 points. We strengthened during the summer with free transfers and another fact is that we are sitting in a very good and comfortable position at this moment in the league.
“These are facts that are not up for debate. We are fairly happy with where we are at this moment in time but we are under no illusion as to the task ahead. There is a long, long way to go to get us back into the top league.”