RANGERS manager Ally McCoist has moved to distance himself from Craig Whyte for the first time as he awaits clarification from the club’s owner on their increasingly murky slide into administration.
Since Whyte’s takeover of the Scottish champions last May, McCoist has maintained steadfast public support of the Motherwell-born venture capitalist. As recently as Thursday night, the manager was quoted by Sky Sports News as saying he “absolutely” trusts Whyte.
But McCoist, who empathises with the growing anxiety of Rangers supporters this week as it emerged HMRC forced the club into administration because Whyte had failed to pass on £9 million in PAYE and VAT since taking control of the club, is understood to contend the comment was presented out of context.
Speaking at his weekly pre-match media conference at Murray Park yesterday, it quickly became apparent that McCoist shares the suspicions being raised by many over the nature of Whyte’s stewardship.
While careful to avoid any direct criticism of Whyte, who released another statement yesterday expressing confidence he will be vindicated by the administration process, McCoist was tellingly cool in his response to questions about the owner’s credibility.
Asked if Whyte can continue in charge of Rangers post-administration, McCoist replied: “I can’t really answer that. You would have to ask Craig Whyte that. I don’t know enough of what’s going on with the administration and the running of the club. That’s not a cop-out. It’s a fact.
“I’m the same as everyone else. I don’t know where our taxes have gone. These are all questions that will have to be answered. Then everyone will be able to form a judgement.
“I don’t know enough sitting here to say who should be running the club or whatever. All I know is that we have to regroup and move forward. I haven’t spoken to Craig since the club went into administration on Tuesday.
“We must get answers. The Rangers supporters deserve answers. The administrators have to do their job and hopefully they come up with something. I’ve got no idea if we’ll ever find out why this happened. I hope we do.”
Whyte will be absent from Rangers’ SPL fixture against Kilmarnock at Ibrox this afternoon where many supporters are expected to express their disapproval of his part in the club’s financial crisis.
“I really don’t know if the fans want him at the game or not,” added McCoist. “I’m intelligent enough to know people have varying opinions and emotions on the whole situation. So I can’t comment on any individual’s likes or dislikes, who should be at the game or not.
“I have to be honest with you and say it’s not about the man who owns the club. It’s not about the manager. It’s not about any individuals within or involved with the club. It’s about the club collectively as a whole. That’s the most important thing on Saturday.
“The most important thing is Rangers will be here long after I’m gone, long after Craig Whyte is gone and long after any of us here are gone. I don’t have any feelings at all for any individuals at this moment in time. In the grand scheme of things, I’m just caring about the football club which is ours progressing out of this rocky road.”
McCoist admits he was “very surprised” by the revelation of non-payment of £9m in taxes since Whyte’s takeover, adding another layer to Rangers’ fiscal woes on top of the previously apparent liabilities and ongoing dispute with HMRC.
“I’m the same as all of the staff here,” he said. “To say the least, we were very surprised. But we don’t know enough about it yet, so I can’t really comment any further on it specifically.
“My feelings at this moment in time are of massive disappointment at what has happened. Other than that, I’m trying to control my feelings because I don’t know the full details. I am ignorant of what the outcome might be or of what has caused this scenario. I really am.
“You could say it is mismanagement but you have to go into it in greater detail and discover ‘Where, why and when did this all occur?’ So, my overriding feeling is unbelievable disappointment and concern for the workforce at Rangers Football Club.
“Because, make no mistake about it, there is no-one taking delight in this at all. I can understand black humour. But we are effectively talking about people’s livelihoods here and that for me is by far and away the most important concern that our club is faced with.
“I mean, our football club has been through disasters. Absolute disasters at the stadium in 1902, 1961 and 1971 when people have lost their lives. This is a really low time for the club but I am loath to say it is a disaster because, thankfully, no one has lost their lives. But the most important thing is that we do everything we can to protect people’s livelihoods and protect the name and the future of Rangers Football Club.”
McCoist has been encouraged by his conversations with administrator Paul Clark and says he has not been informed that he will have to choose which of his squad are discarded in the event of any redundancies affecting the playing staff, as seems inevitable.
“That has not been put to me,” said McCoist, “And I’d rather not answer questions about it until it is. The most impressive thing for me this week has been our players. Their concern has never been about themselves, but about the staff at the club. As long as we all keep that attitude, we will be fine.”