AT THE height of Rangers’ financial implosion and repositioning in the bottom tier of Scottish football two years ago, it would have been difficult to envisage Ally McCoist and Turnbull Hutton happily spending time in each other’s company.
When McCoist raged against the decision of an SFA Judicial Panel to impose a £160,000 fine and one-year player registration embargo on the Ibrox club for going into administration, his call for the panel members to be identified led to threats being made against Raith Rovers director Eric Drysdale, who was one of those who sat in judgment.
Hutton, the Kirkcaldy club’s chairman, then made his memorable intervention into attempts by the SFA and SPL hierarchy to give Rangers a softer landing in the then First Division following their insolvency event. Branding the SPL a “dead parrot” and claiming Scottish football was “corrupt”, Hutton insisted Rangers had to start again on the bottom rung of the ladder.
Two years on, Hutton’s Championship outfit face McCoist’s League 1 champions in Sunday’s Ramsdens Cup Final at Easter Road. According to the Rangers manager, there is no ongoing resentment between the two men.
“I’ve got a great relationship with Turnbull,” said McCoist. “He has absolutely given me stick in the past, which is fine – a lot of people would agree with him.
“To be fair to Turnbull, he only said what the vast majority of Rangers fans actually agree with, that we should go down to the bottom tier and start from there and work our way back. Far too much was read into the situation.
“I have got nothing but respect for Turnbull, Eric Drysdale and all the boys at Raith Rovers. They do a great job for their club, they are 100 per cent behind their team and want the best for Raith Rovers. It is men like them who are of paramount importance to Scottish football and the clubs within the SFA and the SPFL.
“Just because Turnbull says something that maybe he wasn’t in agreement with me, well I don’t have a problem with that at all and neither does he.
“I know he doesn’t, because I’ve never been looked after better than when I was through at Kirkcaldy for their Scottish Cup tie against St Johnstone last month. I had a cup of tea and great craic before the game with Eric and Turnbull.
“I don’t think there is any bad blood at all. Myself and my assistant, Kenny McDowall, were also at their Ramsdens Cup semi-final and the hospitality was absolutely first class.”
When Easter Road was initially chosen as the venue for the Ramsdens Cup Final, McCoist was critical of the SPFL and expressed his view that it should have taken place at Celtic Park to accommodate more Rangers supporters.
“I am not bothered about that now,” he said. “I probably made my views clear at the time. So I don’t think there is any point in going back over it. It is obviously a disappointment that fans can’t get there. But we know the game is at Easter Road and we have known where it will be for a considerable time and we have been planning for that since we got through the semi-final.”
Rangers’ preparations for the match, which kicks off a season-defining week for them culminating in the Scottish Cup semi-final against Dundee United at Ibrox the following Saturday, have been disrupted by injury concerns to key players.
“It’s not great at the moment,” added McCoist. “We will wait right up to the last minute. The biggest doubts are David Templeton and Andy Little. There is a better chance of Ian Black, Nicky Law and Jon Daly making it, but we’ll give everyone until Saturday before deciding our team.
“But I won’t be picking it with the Dundee United match in mind, because we have got to win this final on Sunday. I don’t think we are in a position to start picking and choosing games. We’re not well off enough in numbers to do that. The importance of Sunday’s game determines that we choose our strongest team, come what may.
“There is no chance of the players’ minds wandering ahead to the Scottish Cup semi-final – none. They can do that on Sunday night or Monday morning. Sunday is all about us lifting the Ramsdens Cup. It would be another wee sign that we are coming back. The last two promotions have been big steps in terms of getting to where we want to be, but winning a cup final would be another indication of a step forward.”