AS he prepared to face the club where his professional career began, Ally McCoist found himself having to confront intense speculation that his time as Rangers manager was at an end.
On another tumultuous day in the Ibrox soap opera, it soon emerged that reports of his demise were premature. In keeping with the bizarre nature of events at Rangers, McCoist might even have been the first manager in football history to receive votes of confidence from two chairmen on the same morning.
Once that news had been relayed to him by both Rangers plc board chairman David Somers and football club chairman Sandy Easdale yesterday, following confirmation of Mike Ashley’s controversial £2 million loan deal and the resignation of Graham Wallace as chief executive, McCoist attempted to train his focus on tonight’s League Cup quarter-final tie against St Johnstone at Ibrox.
Doing his job against the backdrop of off-the-field turmoil has almost become second nature for the 52-year-old, of course, since his appointment more than three years ago.
With the arrival of Ashley’s men in the Ibrox boardroom imminent, it may yet prove that McCoist simply received a stay of execution yesterday. But despite all the uncertainty surrounding the club, he insists his strength of purpose and desire to lead Rangers back to the top of Scottish football is undiminished.
“My resolve is as strong as ever to get the job done here and get us back to the top flight,” said McCoist. “That is by far the biggest part of my job, to get the team on the park to get results. I think we are in a reasonable place as a team right now and we have some good games coming up. `What’s happened at the club over the past few years has not taken its toll on me. Like any man in any job in any walk of life, some days are better than others. It’s the exact same for me.
“But my strength and will remains. I’ve got some fantastic people around me to work alongside. For that reason, plainly, my resolve is as strong as ever.”
The financial collapse of Rangers and the subsequent boardroom mis-management of it have prompted both John Greig and Walter Smith, similarly iconic figures at the club as McCoist, to sever their ties at Ibrox. But he still has no intention of walking away.
“No, not at all,” he said. “I’m as strong willed as I’ve ever been to continue in my job of getting Rangers back to the top flight. And then further.
“I won’t, and we as a football club can’t, lose sight of that. There have been a lot of things going on in the last couple of years when there might have been a reason, but certainly not an excuse, to take your eye off the ball. We simply cannot do that as it too important to too many people.
“I think my past helps. I feel I know the club as well as anybody. Obviously, I’m not comparing myself in any way shape or form to John Greig and Walter Smith but what I would say is that I know the club as well as anybody. I know how quickly things can change, from good to bad and then bad to good. At our club, there is seldom an indifferent period. The best piece of advice I have been given is not to get too carried away with the good and don’t get too down with the bad. If you do that, then you’ll be okay.”
An increasing number of Rangers’ supporters, however, are finding it difficult to share McCoist’s tolerance levels of the way the club is being run. One of the fans’ groups, Sons of Struth, are boycotting tonight’s match against St Johnstone.
“It has been an unbelievably tough three years and I can totally understand the frustration from a section of the fans,” added McCoist.
“All I would ask of them is to continue with their unbelievable support of the team. I know there has been talk of boycotts and people staying away and I can understand that. The last thing I will ever do is turn against the fans because they have been the one loyal and one constant throughout the last three years.
“But I have to remain optimistic that we can get the club back to where they want it to be. Whether there are 100 people or 50,000 people inside Ibrox, it doesn’t change things for us – we have to go out and get a result which gets us into the semi-finals of the cup. I understand emotions are running high among supporters and they are making decisions they feel are right. But it goes without saying that I would rather have 50,000 in the stadium.”
McCoist has no plans to seek a meeting with Newcastle United owner Ashley as he waits to discover how the Sports Direct businessman’s increased involvement will affect football operations at the club.
“With the greatest of respect, if Mike Ashley wants to see me, or any of his people who work for him want to see me, that’ll happen,” said McCoist.
“I’m manager of the football team and most of my meetings, if not all of the meetings I want, will be involving the football side of the business.
“It would be wrong of me to start asking to meet people. If it happens, it’ll happen but I’ve got far, far more important things, in the respect the games we have coming up.”
McCoist can give himself and Rangers a significant fillip tonight if his team can claim their second Premiership scalp of the season in the League Cup, having knocked out Inverness Caledonian Thistle in the previous round.
Against a St Johnstone side who have won just one of their last seven matches, McCoist is not without confidence.
“We just need to win, we’ve got to win,” he added. “That’s what the manager of the football club here has always had to do. We’ve had some pretty decent results and performances but this is a very stiff test.
“We’re playing a team from the division above us and Scottish Cup holders. But it’s a game similar to the Inverness game in the respect we feel we can give the vast majority of teams in the country a game. We did that against Inverness and ran out deserved winners. If you’re asking me if I’d settle for a similar performance, I absolutely would because I thought we were pretty decent against Inverness.”