STUART McCall had got up to leave and we wondered when we’d see the Rangers manager again, only for him to pop his head back through the door a few seconds later. “I’ve found Bilel Mohsni, lads – don’t suppose you’d want a word with him?” The press-room at Fir Park erupted in laughter. It was an amusing moment to round off a season which, for his club, had just lurched from the dismal to the disgraceful.
The moment seemed to sum up a few things about the campaign that was supposed to fire Rangers back to the top flight: Mohsni wasn’t talking and indeed no Ibrox man came forward to speak, as is customary after matches, which continued an unfortunate trend of players flunking their duties and mainly the crucial ones on the park. Thus the job of explaining defeat in the play-off final was left entirely to the manager who was his usual open, personable self. This is a club which has been in serious need of some good PR and in this department McCall has delivered.
He has a warmth about him and a lightness of touch which can take the heat out of difficult situations. Goodness knows Rangers have had plenty of them this season and Mohsni’s outrageous assault on Motherwell’s Lee Erwin was just the latest. But that is not to say he is frivolous or that he shirks tricky questions. He has been honest about Rangers’ failings, almost all of which which he inherited.
So: McCall is a nice guy who tells it like it is. But the word is it won’t be him. He is unlikely to get the chance to rebuild this lurching, girning beast of a football institution where under-performance and ineptitude – watchwords for so long – were again in evidence on Sunday. Someone else will have that honour and you have to say: the best of luck to him because he’ll need it.
Yes, ownership has been resolved and the faithful seem satisfied with the new order after all the chaos and embarrassments that had gone before. But how is the club to be re-financed? Dave King has yet to reveal this and you imagine the stunning ease with which millions were squandered in the name of Rangers in the recent past is not something that is being forgotten as sums are calculated.
The club will obviously not now benefit financially from being among Scotland’s elite. You would, of course, hesitate to describe our Premiership as money-drenched. Nevertheless, there will not be four Old Firm games next season, as was widely predicted beyond the confines of Fir Park, and that is a financial blow for the club and an emotional one for the supporters, though you would have to ask the rest of Scottish football if they have really missed these occasions.
“Ibrox diehards are split over which of Mohsni’s cameos was most ludicrous”
Sunday’s grimness will not have induced many pangs of nostalgia. Only old riots were summoned from the memory by the sight of police horses being pressed into service. Even though missiles were hurled from the Rangers end when the goading got too much, the Fir Park stands didn’t quite explode. Not like the pitch.
The Ibrox diehards are split over which of Mohsni’s play-off cameos was the most ludicrous. The immediate reaction is to nominate the boot up the backside administered to Erwin which was swiftly followed by a thumping left hook – but others don’t want it forgotten that against Queen of the South, when the situation called for the ball to be run into one of the corners, Mohsni attempted a shot at goal from fully 45 yards which inevitably gifted possession back to the opposition.
What is clear, though, is that either incident would usefully sum up the character of the player, whose recruitment would usefully serve as emblematic of the clanging stupidity of much of the Ibrox decision-making.
Mohsni was deluded enough, and selfish enough, to think he could score that night. And when some fight was required from him he delivered it in a cowardly way, when the other man’s back was turned. A whole new team will be required for Rangers’ extended stay in the Championship, a division which next season looks like being only a fraction less fascinating than the one just ended. You might call these the first recruits of the post-Mohsni era. Certainly the fans will want a year zero approach to signings, with absolutely no traces of the disastrous recruitment policy which allowed so many to take so much in wages from the club for so little in return on the pitch.
But who will they be and where will the club find them? It is probably too late for Rangers to put their faith in kids who would develop as a team as the club progressed through the divisions – something that should have happened when the punishment was meted out.
The fans – even those who accepted this was the way to go – have grown bored with lower-league football and would no longer have the patience for it.
A big job, then, but it is one that McCall would not cower from. More than once in Sunday’s aftermath he described the task to rebuild Rangers as a “fantastic opportunity for someone”. More than once, too, he mentioned how Alan Stubbs had been required to do exactly this at Hibernian when he arrived just as the contracts expired on a dozen players. Stubbs had crafted a fine side, he said, and he’d love the chance to do the same at Ibrox.
That has been another attractive aspect of the man. In his 17 games, he has not been a myopic manager who only sees his team, their good play and their penalty claims wrongly denied. He has been complimentary about his rivals in an intense contest in which Rangers have come up short.
Should they give it to the good guy? They could do a whole lot worse and indeed have done before.