ALTHOUGH they probably won’t be happy down Rugby Park way, it is indicative of the positive mood at Ibrox that Rangers have been openly linked with Kilmarnock’s international goalkeeper Cammy Bell months before his contract with the Ayrshire club is due to expire.
Coincidentally, the present incumbent between the sticks for Rangers, thrice-capped Neil Alexander, is out of contract this summer. Does that mean a straight swap with the 26-year-old Bell, pictured, replacing Alexander who, at 34, has three times as many caps as Bell?
Not necessarily, said Rangers manager Ally McCoist yesterday, emphasising that, whatever league Rangers end up in next season, the club will need two top-class goalkeepers.
“We’ve always had competition for places and I think that’s very important,” said McCoist. “Arguably that’s more so the case in goal, where it’s a specialised position.
“We’ve always had top goalies who have had pressure put on them by other top goalies.
“I’m very hopeful that Neil Alexander will be one of them. That goes without saying but I would like another goalkeeper for Neil to compete with for the goalkeeping position. That means we could get young Scott Gallacher, who we have high hopes for, out on loan.”
Alexander has been discussing the extension of his contract but McCoist won’t pressurise him.
“There’s no deadline,” said the manager. “He’s been here for a good number of years now and he has been a solid citizen. He had to bide his time when Allan McGregor was in goals but he came in to play some very important games for us, like the UEFA Cup final, to name but one.”
McCoist anticipates that Alexander would step up to the mark if and when Bell arrives, just as a certain fresh-faced young Rangers centre-forward did all those years ago.
“I used to do it myself and that’s why I can understand it,” said McCoist. “You may remember, we signed one or two centre-forwards under previous managers when I was playing. You had to look upon it as a challenge.
“People are brought in to put pressure on team selections and, hopefully, we’ll get back to that. We can’t do it at the moment because of circumstances [a transfer embargo] but that’s what you need to do.
“I could name ten names brought in to challenge me — wee Mo [Maurice Johnston], [Oleg] Salenko, Erik Bo Andersen, Mark Hateley and others. I looked upon it as a challenge. I certainly wasn’t scared of it. These guys were coming in and, if you didn’t raise the bar, they would be taking your place. You had to raise your own bar and stay in the team. The problem we’ve got is that we don’t have that and we want it back.
“In any walk of life, if you’re not doing your job then your boss will be telling you and you’ll have the threat of someone else coming in and doing it. We don’t have that to any degree at the moment, due to numbers and circumstances. And there’s a chance we might not have it until a year from now.”
Rangers cannot bring in anyone other than free agents and youth players until 1 September, and long-term followers of the Ibrox club’s finances will be wary that a spend, spend, spend mentality could damage the club again.
But McCoist said: “I don’t think that will happen because [chief executive] Charles Green has gone on record as saying it won’t happen. It doesn’t mean that, within a budget, I can’t make competition for places as fierce as I possibly can.
“We won’t be going out and spending £12 million on Tore Andre Flo, but we might be able to attract some people.”
Dorin Goian and Carlos Bocanegra, lest Rangers fans forget, are out on loan with Spezia in Italy and Spanish club Racing Santander respectively. They could be recalled in the summer to boost the squad, McCoist revealed, even though both men will want higher level football as they try to make World Cup squads.
“Bocanegra and Goian have another year of their contracts to o,” said McCoist, “so, unless they stay where they are or move somewhere else, I think they will be back here for next season.
“I have got nothing but utmost respect for Bocanegra and Goian, the decision ultimately will probably be theirs but where they are in their careers I would have to say I don’t think they probably would fancy playing in SFL Three or a league of 18.”
It has been made abundantly clear that no one at Ibrox wants another season in the basement of Scottish football but it may well be that Bell, Bocanegra, Goian and their colleagues will face that fate.