TWO contrasting questions arise from the abject capitulation that added one more sorry cup chapter to the bookful of them bound up in Ally McCoist’s tenure as Rangers manager.
The first – what impact the excruciating 3-2 Petrofac Training Cup semi-final loss to Alloa will have on his employment prospects – is easy to answer. Rangers need to find an additional £8 million in the coming months to avoid going under. They are in no position, then, to agree severance packages with McCoist, and his assistants Kenny McDowall and Ian Durrant, that could relieve them of around £1.4m they simply do not possess.
The second question is more germane to the position that McCoist finds himself after three-and-a-half years in charge, and requires to be directed at the man himself. Searching the deepest recesses of his soul, and putting all financial considerations to one side, does he really believe that he deserves to remain in charge of the Ibrox side?
There were myriad damning aspects of the Alloa exit on Wednesday evening that condemned Rangers to a third monumental embarrassment in a Challenge Cup that was supposed to be the club’s gimme double-delivering trophy as they made their way up the leagues.
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Perhaps most damning of all is that the result and performance served up at the Indodrill Stadium could have come at any juncture since the liquidation of the old Rangers in 2012 forced a reincarnated version to start again at the lowest tier of the senior game.
In other words, Rangers, two-and-a-half years, two dozen signings, and a shedload of spondulicks on from their Third Division start-out, have not progressed beyond the point where their vulnerabilities and charmless, clunking football cannot be exposed ruthlessly and comprehensively by part-time opponents.
One thing has changed since the later half of 2012: the tolerance of the Ibrox support for these regular blots on the Rangers landscape. While his heroic playing career in blue and his unifying figurehead role in the dark days of the old Rangers implosion will always be acknowledged with deep gratitude by the Ibrox faithful, they could not forever inure him from angst over his unsuitability for the role bestowed on him when Walter Smith stepped down. Indeed, these factors frankly bought him an inordinate amount of leeway. However, punter patience with McCoist has now well and truly passed breaking point.
When Queen of the South, at Ibrox, ended the club’s first tilt at the Challenge Cup, it was dismissed as teething problems for the new, reduced Rangers. Likewise, the home dismantling by Inverness Caledonian Thistle in the League Cup around that time. The following summer the loss away to Forfar in the same competition was explained away because the tie took place before the end of the club’s registration embargo. Meanwhile, the defeat in April’s Challenge Cup final at the hands of Raith Rovers was just one of those days. There are no excuses, even with a veneer of legitimacy, for the inability to see out this week’s semi-final when two goals ahead with 17 minutes remaining.
There may be reasons, though, and the search for these always leads to the wiles, or otherwise, of a manager still able to operate with the country’s second highest wage bill, and still the highest paid in Scotland despite agreeing a 40 per cent (temporary) wage reduction.
If looking for a club whose recent experiences might ape those of Rangers then Queen of the South offer a decent parallel. In the past two-and-a-half years, both clubs’ finest achievement was breezing the Second Division. Each have reached one Challenge Cup final, Queens ending their showpiece with the trophy. The pair have knocked out top-flight sides in the other cup competitions, Rangers doing so four times with the Dumfries side achieving this on two occasions. Currently, they are struggling to keep pace with Hearts in the Championship, while being odds-on to make the play-offs. However, the two clubs diverge in one crucial respect. While Queens’ spend on their football department will settle around £2m for the three seasons including this one, Rangers outlay will be north of £22m.
Imagine if Rangers had only spent six times as much as Queens since 2012 in order to achieve broadly the same outcomes. Right now, they would not, in unseemly fashion, be hawking their wares in a desperate pursuit of cash. Alas, the reality is that Queens’ £2m would hardly have covered the sum that McCoist has made from managing a lower league Rangers.
Indeed, when assessing why the Ibrox club are in such a dreadful financial position, McCoist does not deserve the status of some sort of innocent bystander often accorded him. He pushed for Scottish top-flight players that were attracted by £5,000-a-week to slum it. Players from which he hasn’t been able to extract the performance levels that made these individuals appealing in the first place. More than that, McCoist’s personal fiscal arrangements remain inexplicable.
A Rangers supporter to his core, how on earth did he not blanche and offer, initially at least, to take a quarter of the £850,000 salary he was on before becoming a contracted employee of Charles Green’s Rangers just as league football in a part-time set-up beckoned?
In what often sees journalists derided by football supporters and their keyboard-clattering wings, it can feel difficult for many of us to make plain what we see as the natural conclusion to McCoist’s trackside shortcomings. An incredibly personable fella, he is a pleasure to deal with and handles – as well as attempts to answer – all questions directed at him with good grace and good humour. But McCoist the man is not McCoist the manager. And increasingly, all the evidence points to the fact that the man simply isn’t cut out to be the manager.
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