Ally McCoist accepts Celtic will be worthy winners
Rangers manager says Ibrox crisis can’t deflect from rivals’ efforts
CELTIC will be worthy champions this season, Ally McCoist believes. The Rangers manager knows there may always be questions about what would have happened in the league race had his side not been deducted ten points for going into administration, but he believes that should not detract from the achievement of his club’s arch-rivals, who need only a point at Kilmarnock today to claim their first title in four years.
Rangers were only four points behind Celtic when they were docked those ten points after owner Craig Whyte put them into administration on 14 February. That event had an evident effect on results, as Rangers lost three out of their following four league matches before recovering to beat Celtic 3-2 last month.
But McCoist accepted there was no point in trying to isolate one factor as decisive in the championship race. Instead, he said that the league, unlike cup competitions, was invariably an accurate guide to form.
“I think in everybody’s eyes they should be seen as worthy champions if they get a point tomorrow,” he said at Murray Park yesterday. “We’ve always said that the best team – 99 times out of 100 – will win the championship. That’s what normally happens.
“Anybody can win a cup and history has proven that. Generally speaking the best team wins the league, and I certainly don’t think for a minute that Celtic will be anything other than worthy champions if and when they win it.
“There’s a lot of ifs and buts in the ten-point deduction. Absolutely. But take nothing away from Celtic in the slightest.
“I would have liked us not to have lost the ten points and had another go, but that’s ifs and buts and there’s no use in looking back now. If and when Celtic get their point they’ll be thoroughly deserving champions.”
Even if Celtic lose at Kilmarnock today, they can still be champions by tea time if Rangers then fail to win at home to St Mirren. That Ibrox match could be played in a curiously deflated atmosphere if Neil Lennon’s team are already celebrating the title, but Rangers captain Steven Davis said his team were determined to maintain their form as much as possible both today and for the remainder of the season.
“We have to focus on ourselves and try to finish the season as strongly as possible,” Davis said. “Everyone in the dressing-room has found it difficult.
“This is not the kind of position you expect to find yourself in when you come to a club like Rangers. It has been a learning curve for everyone.
“Everyone just wants to see what is going to become of everything that is going on and see what way the club is going forward. Your head was maybe all over the place when the situation first came about, but we have had enough time to get used to it. We know where we are at between now and the end of the season.”
Inevitably, though, no matter how magnanimous their manager may feel towards Celtic, the Rangers players will continue to wonder about what might have been had they avoided that ten point penalty. “Celtic went on a great run and there is no taking away from that, but we were just four points behind when we went into administration,” Davis continued.
“Losing the ten points was a big blow. We lost games that I don’t think we would have lost had we not been put in that position.
“Celtic have gone on to win the title and I can’t take anything away from them. It’s hard to win any league, but I’m sure they got a massive boost through what happened to us. If it was the other way round, we’d have received a massive boost had they been deducted ten points.
“It was a hammer blow to us to get that and we had a bad run of results after we went into administration. It would have been good to see how it would have went had the gap stayed at four points back then.
“There would have been more pressure on them to get results as well as ourselves. It has been a difficult end to the season because we have usually been involved in going to try to win trophies, but the Celtic result was a big lift for everyone.”
While McCoist has had a solid understanding of Rangers’ financial predicament thanks to regular updates from the administrators, the playing squad may have taken longer to come to terms with the situation. “It seems there is more unfolding every time you pick up the paper and it’s getting worse than you thought,” Davis added.
“Without doubt, the situation is worse than I thought and I think that goes for everybody. I could never really see the club going under and I don’t think that will happen, but there is no doubt it could potentially be a difficult few years.”
Having grown up as a Rangers supporter, Davis understands the fears of the club’s fans that a new owner might choose liquidation as the way out of administration rather than a Company Voluntary Arrangement (CVA). For that reason, he said he sympathised with those supporters who plan to demonstrate against the liquidation threat during today’s game.
“I think every Rangers fan would take that approach,” he stated when asked if he thought a CVA had to be the aim. “I don’t know what the plans of the three bidders are and which ones might want to potentially liquidate. But as a Rangers fan, you want to keep the history of the club intact.”
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