WHEN the history of Scottish football in the year 2012 comes to be written, very few people will emerge with their reputations intact from the saga which has dominated the last 12 months.
The former owners of Rangers and the football authorities must be dreading the verdict of hindsight which will surely go against them. For their support of the club, the Rangers fans will be given credit in the long run as they, more than any other group, kept the club alive.
One man above all has not only enhanced his reputation, but conducted himself with considerable dignity and no little humour throughout an ordeal that would have broken lesser men.
Ally McCoist was not always taken seriously when he rejoined Rangers under Walter Smith. His time as a television celebrity and his cheeky chappy persona counted against him in the solemnity stakes, even when he did become manager in his own right.
Only the most churlish of people would not concede that throughout Rangers’ descent into chaos and re-emergence in the Third Division, McCoist behaved almost always impeccably and brought an earnestness to his tasks that perhaps few had credited him with possessing beforehand.
McCoist’s love of the club shone through, and at all times – with the exception of an ill-judged remark about the identities of an SFA tribunal – he spoke articulately and honestly about the trauma that he and everyone at Rangers was going through.
Now with things going well on the field of play, McCoist is smiling as never before in this annus horribilis. Dark shadows briefly cross his face at some memories, but as always with McCoist, a smile and a joke are never far away. If for nothing else, he will always be remembered for coining the new motto of the resurgent Rangers: “We don’t do walking away.”
Yet he revealed that his philosophy-in-a-phrase was just a chance remark that he never intended to become the slogan that it is now, and which he conceded might have become a rod for his own back.
“I know, I know, “ he said ruefully, “And there’s one or two who have accused me of having a big mouth, which is probably right.
“It was a throwaway line. I wasn’t trying to be profound or anything like that, it was just something that I said out of the car window and I certainly didn’t think it would have had the reaction it did have.
“The supporters needed somebody. They didn’t have anybody. They didn’t have a chairman or a chief executive or a board. All they had was the team and myself as manager, that’s all they had and they were looking for something.
“It certainly wasn’t premeditated, but a lot of them jumped on it, which was great.”
It did encapsulate his attitude, however: “Never, ever once did I think about walking away because I just wanted to see it through and I just wanted the club to survive and the people within their club to keep their jobs.
“That was all we were gunning for because that’s effectively how serious it was, because we know the club nearly died and with that would have been people’s livelihoods.
“We all wanted to do our bit to get through it and make sure at the start of the season that we were playing football again.”
Thanks to Charles Green and McCoist, Rangers did make it, albeit into the Third Division. So how does the manager view the events leading up to ‘The Journey’ as the Rangers fans now call the club’s bid to return to the top flight of Scottish football.
“We always had a feeling all was not well,” McCoist said of his time working for Craig Whyte.
“Inside here (Ibrox) we knew all was not kicking along nicely.
“We didn’t know precisely what the problems were, but we did know there was trouble brewing.”
When all hell broke loose over Rangers, McCoist stayed on when he could easily have gone back to life as a television personality.
He said: “I loved the TV, of course I did and it certainly is easier. But I love the club and the people within the club and, like everyone else, I just wanted to keep the club together and get through it.”
So how does he view 2012?
“I wouldn’t have it down as the best year of my life, that’s for sure,” said McCoist. “That is an absolute given. But I certainly wouldn’t say it was the worst either. There are worse things that can happen.
“It has been the most topsy-turvy year of my life without a doubt. I have not had an opportunity to sit down and look at it again, which I will do. I will probably look at it month by month and be amazed.
“It’s safe to say that what has happened to the club and what has happened to the team has been, at best, bizarre and certainly challenging.
“We have come through it to a certain degree, which is great. But there are still miles and miles to go.”
It says much about McCoist that he is still unsure as to whether 2012 will be seen as the year he proved himself as a manager.
“I don’t know, I really don’t.” he said. “You just do things you feel are right and are the right things to do.
“You are going to make mistakes, of course you are. But, at the same time, it was such an important situation for the club to be in that every decision was probably being analysed and looked at meticulously.
“I probably think, being honest, that though it has been the worst year in terms of working at the club, it has been strange because we haven’t been judged on what you usually get judged on – and that’s results.
“Its probably the only year I can remember where results didn’t matter. They were completely secondary.
“So I am looking forward to 2013 and being judged on results – because that is what managers should be judged on.”
There is an indication in that final McCoist thought of a New Year’s resolution everyone involved with Scottish football should take to heart. Let 2013 be remembered for what happens on the pitch, not off it.