KENNY McDowall has been playing a supporting role in the Rangers soap opera long enough to become accustomed to the wider cast list around him constantly changing at an often bewildering rate.
In the past week alone, American banker Robert Sarver, Scottish coaching prodigy Ian Cathro and decorated veteran German manager Felix Magath have helped to provide the latest twists in what has long been a head-wrecking plot at the troubled Ibrox club.
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For so long content to remain in the background while former manager Ally McCoist resiliently bore the brunt of being the public face of Rangers as they financially imploded, it is now part of McDowall’s duties as caretaker manager to deal with the regular pre-match media briefings, where the main focus of attention seldom seems to be matters on the pitch.
But whether it is a potential takeover by Sarver, the speculated interest in Valencia assistant-boss Cathro to become the club’s next permanent manager or the sudden appearance of Magath as a shareholder and mooted technical director, McDowall sees no personal value in delving too deeply into the myriad issues surrounding Rangers.
“There is no point,” he shrugged. “You would go crazy if you worried about everything that was in the papers. There is no point in me worrying about anything apart from trying to beat Alloa on Saturday afternoon.
“I am not going to kid you on, this is a big job. It is an absolute honour to be in charge of Rangers, whether it is caretaker or manager or whatever post. At the moment, I am at the helm and I have got to try and get this team winning games and see where that goes.
“In terms of it getting easier, I know the boys well and I have worked with them long enough. It is not as if a whole lot has changed and I have been flung into working with a bunch of guys I don’t know. I know them, they know me and we carry on regardless.
“The players are human beings like anyone else. They read the papers and get to know what is going on. If you choose to, you can get to know as much as you want to know.
“But when they go out and they are professional football players, it is our job to get them concentrating and enjoying their work.
“That is all we can do to get their minds off it, have a bright week, get them up for it and then, come Saturday, it is what it is.
“In terms of having meetings with them to talk about anything happening off the pitch, I don’t think that does anything apart from highlight there is stuff going on. We go the opposite way if we can.”
Initially informed to anticipate taking charge of the first team until the end of the season following McCoist’s departure on gardening leave last month, McDowall has received no further indication from the Rangers board as to his position at the club.
He is also uncertain of any additional changes to the playing staff under his command, following the sale of prize asset Lewis Macleod to Brentford for £850,000.
“I haven’t been told anything different. I just carry on,” he added. “We are in January now and in the hands of the gods regarding players leaving. I can’t control that, the board can’t control that. If clubs come in for players, you can’t stop them.
“It certainly won’t be my decision. But I think the board will keep me informed, because I will notice if a player is not there the next morning at training!”
Rangers have also been linked with possible loan moves for some of the younger players at boardroom powerbroker Mike Ashley’s Newcastle United but McDowall has no expectations of fresh faces to work with in the second half of the season.
“I have not been told there is anyone coming in,” he said. “Like any other coach or manager, it would be good to add a couple to the squad if we could. But, in the current climate, I appreciate the financial situation.
“I will carry on with the group I have got. They are a good group, they are sitting second in the league and are pushing and we will keep doing that.”
Today’s trip to the Indodrill Stadium in Alloa forces McDowall and his players to confront the memory of one of the most humiliating defeats Rangers have suffered, in last month’s Petrofac Training Cup semi-final. Despite leading 2-0 with less than 20 minutes remaining, Rangers crumbled to a 3-2 loss which many of their supporters regarded as the tipping point in terms of McCoist’s position as manager remaining tenable.
“It’s probably as disappointing a result as I’ve experienced,” admitted McDowall. “I can’t remember us ever throwing away a lead like we did in that game.
“On the night, if the players were guilty of anything it was of sitting back. When it got to 2-0, they sat back. Alloa had nothing to lose at that point so they were flying forward, which you tend to find at this level.
“Sometimes you need to ride the waves and, if it means getting over the line by a goal, you need to defend properly and be tough.
“I think the players have a point to prove to themselves on Saturday. They let themselves down on the night and also let down our support, who back them wherever we go. I am sure they will want to fix it for them as well. A bit of personal pride would come into it.
“It is not just us who have toiled at Alloa this season. One or two have had a tough time there. People might talk about the synthetic pitch, which is an excuse if you want it. But both teams are playing on it so I would prefer to just get on with it.
“It’s about building confidence now after a rough spell. I have got a good group of boys here and I have got to get them going, motivate them as far as I can. But Walter Smith always used to say to the players when he was in charge that the motivational side has got to come from within.
“A coach or a manager can motivate so far but it has got to be self-motivation as well to win, to do things and to achieve.”
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