WHEN Ally McCoist, the Rangers manager, laid into Charles Green, the club’s former chief executive, in an explosive post-match interview on Saturday night, it served to disguise the shortcomings of his vanquished side, and no less significantly, the magnitude of Forfar Athletic’s achievement.
It would be stretching a point to suggest that McCoist’s rant against Green – who had resurfaced in the morning newspapers – was designed only to steal the headlines from Rangers’ Scottish League Cup first-round exit, but let’s just say it was a welcome bonus for the club’s management team.
If the back pages had not been reporting McCoist’s reference to Green as an “embarrassment”, they would have been using the same word to describe his players. As it was, the gory details of their extra-time defeat were pushed inside by the manager’s scathing attack on the man now back at the club as a consultant.
Green had repeated his claim that the Rangers team of last season – which was also the team selected at Station Park on Saturday – was the worst in the club’s history. He had also suggested that, if McCoist did not win a cup this season, as well as League One, he would find himself with a problem on his hands.
As McCoist let rip with his response, calling Green “devious” and “the worst Rangers chief executive in history”, poor Dick Campbell must have been wondering if he had dreamt the previous couple of hours, so quickly and mercilessly were his team shoved from the spotlight with only the briefest acknowledgement. “I’ve got to be careful,” said McCoist, “because Forfar deserved their win, and well done to Dick and his players, but ...”
The Rangers manager then explained that his team only lost because none of his eight summer signings were eligible to play. The transfer embargo, which expires on 1 September – combined with a League Cup rule that prevented them from playing trialists – ensured that Jon Daly, Nicky Law and the rest had to sit this one out. It would, said McCoist, be a different story next month.
Maybe, but this team should still be good enough to beat Forfar. A vastly superior budget meant that, even without their new men, they had Lee McCulloch and Lee Wallace in defence, as well as Ian Black and David Templeton in midfield. The remainder of the side lacked experience, but they are full-time players, many of them products of Murray Park.
Forfar, remember, will be back in their day jobs this morning. Campbell, who works with his assistant – and twin brother – Iain for a recruitment company in Dunfermline, has assembled a strong squad of part-time players, which includes 37-year-old Marvin Andrews, the former Rangers defender. After the final whistle on Saturday, the Trinidadian was to be found lying all his length on the artificial pitch, stretching his aching limbs.
And yet, Forfar didn’t just beat Rangers, they finished more strongly than them, threatening on two or three occasions in the second half of extra time. When they eventually scored their winner – through Iain Campbell’s cross and Gavin Swankie’s glancing header – even McCoist could not begrudge them it.
Sure, Station Park had been a wind tunnel all afternoon, but it was Forfar who exploited the chances it created. Only nine minutes had gone when Swankie latched on to a through ball – left by both McCulloch and his goalkeeper – to lob home the opening goal. Chris Templeman might have doubled their lead, but his header slipped by the left-hand post.
The conditions were in Rangers’ favour after the interval, but the visiting side were slow to harness the advantage. Robbie Crawford’s lunging effort was brilliantly turned away by Darren Hill, the Forfar goalkeeper, who then watched wild efforts by Templeton and Andy Little sail high and wide.
It wasn’t until eight minutes from the end that they grabbed their equaliser. Templeton delivered the cross, Little glanced his header against the crossbar and Fraser Aird, a half-time replacement for Andrew Mitchell, bent to nod in the loose ball.
That, according to received wisdom, should have been that for Forfar, but as the tie moved into extra time, and Campbell removed his trademark bunnet, it was Rangers who were sweating. Some 25 minutes into the added half hour, with a penalty shoot-out looming, Swankie settled the issue with a header that looped into the far corner.
It was the first time in Rangers’ history that they had lost to Forfar, but in McCoist’s view, there had been mitigating circumstances. He insisted that, come September, when he had a full complement of players at his disposal, normal service would be resumed.
For his sake, it had better be. On the 21st of that month, they are back at Station Park on league business.