ALLY McCOIST had two main tasks in the summer. He had to sign practically an entirely new team for the League One campaign and he had to instill a winning mentality in those new recruits.
With Rangers at the halfway point of the season, it seems he’s succeeded at both.
Rangers face Stenhousemuir this afternoon in a rearranged game which McCoist would rather not have played now, with his side having been involved in a hectic festive schedule of four games in 11 days.
They have won 17 out of 18 league games so far, rattling in 65 goals in the process and already more or less sealing their inevitable title coronation. But that blip on Boxing Day, 1-1 at home to Stranraer, and this week’s poor 1-0 win at Airdrie were greeted with dismay by fans. Far from irking McCoist though, that reaction is exactly what he’s been trying to explain to his summer recruits.
He said: “You are trying to ingrain a winning mentality into them because that’s what our club is all about, you need to win games, simple as. As I say to them, at other clubs if you win two then lose or draw one, that’s acceptable because it’s the norm, what they have become used to and are accustomed to.
“It’s certainly not a criticism of other clubs but, at our club, it is certainly not that way at all. You are expected to win the game. Some of the players have come from clubs where they haven’t had that pressure on them in every game, but I think results would tell you they are handling it pretty well, in fact better than pretty well, but they can’t take their foot off the pedal because you saw the atmosphere here at Airdrie, you saw the atmosphere at Dunfermline on Monday. The atmosphere at away grounds in particular is hostile and like a cup-tie one. You have to be on top of your game and ready for a battle.
“In the summer, I wanted players with a great degree of talent that would bring the team and club on but you have to get guys that have a strong mentality. Guys like Richard Foster had been at the club before and knew the drill and big Jon Daly, who is a great leader.
“Boys like Nicky Clark and Nicky Law, you hope they keep progressing and continue to learn at the club. We are delighted with where we are but we will not underestimate the long journey we have ahead.”
That draw against Stranraer ended the possibility of a 100 per cent record – something McCoist insists was never a realistic prospect.
He said: “I remember Arsenal going through a season undefeated, which I thought was outrageous. We are certainly not Arsenal and, bearing that in mind, we will look no further than the next game because, once you take your eye off the ball, then that’s when accidents happen.
“But momentum in sport is vital. We had a wee hiccup against Stranraer when we lost the goal in the 95th minute and everyone thought the momentum had been wiped out but we weren’t of that opinion at all. The most important thing is we get together as a group and continue our momentum. I believe we have picked it up again by winning at Dunfermline and Airdrie.”
Rangers could face the likes of Hearts and Dundee next season in the Championship and, although they will be expected to breeze to another title, McCoist said: “You better believe it will be more difficult. The majority will be full-time teams. Whoever comes down from the top flight, whether it’s Hearts, you don’t know. Dundee might go up, they might not. I was at Hamilton v Morton the other week and Hamilton are a good team.
“That winning mentality and getting it ingrained how important it is to win games of football for Rangers is vital.”