There was a measure of relief in his voice yesterday at Murray Park as he contemplated what impact the latest developments in Dave King’s power-grab attempt could have on his own immediate prospects. King is expected to take control of Rangers tomorrow.
“It could very well be [my last game in charge], but I could have said that right from the start: ‘this is probably my last game’,” he said yesterday, after being asked whether taking control of the team for this weekend’s trip to Central Park will be his last act in a tempestuous tenure.
“I have handed my notice in and have 10 months or so to do,” he added. “If I need to be here for the 10 months I have said all along that’s what I will do.”
McDowall has never hidden the fact he was anything other than a reluctant conscript following Ally McCoist’s exit late last year. With the end possibly drawing near for him as well at Ibrox he has given what some interpreted as a valedictory address.
“Nobody knows and nobody will ever know what we have had to endure,” said McDowall. “Ally McCoist has done an incredible job here and will he get credit? I think he will but I don’t think it will be now. It will be in a few years’ time.”
The interim manager is looking to complete his own version of nine-in-a-row this weekend when his takes his team to face Cowdenbeath. It was eight games ago that he took the reins from McCoist prior to a messy, volatile and highly unsatisfactory annual general meeting.
Two of the gentlemen inside the gazebo that morning, director James Easdale and chairman David Somers, have since gone, as an old regime branded unfit for purpose continues to crumble ahead of tomorrow’s general meeting at Ibrox.
“It’s something I am loathe to comment on because nobody knows,” said McDowall, with reference to the likelihood of a new board being in place by this weekend. “Everybody is talking of it being done and dusted but nobody knows. Not really. Until this is all a bit clearer I would not comment on that.”
Despite tendering his resignation earlier this year, McDowall remains in situ. However, he knows that with King and associates likely to take control in the coming days, he could be ushered out. McDowall is preparing to draw a line under an existence he described as a “lonely” one.
“Personally I think it’s a life experience,” he said. “Whether we move somewhere else and carry on time will tell but one thing I do know it will stand us on good stead.
“I like to think I was there for ‘Coisty and I helped to alleviate any burden he had,” he added.
On being asked whether he had perceived any change in McCoist, who is currently on gardening leave, in recent weeks, McDowall revealed he had – because the weight of responsibility has been transferred to his own shoulders. “He’s given it to me!” he exclaimed.
“When you’re trying to get a result and you’re on that touchline, you name your team and let them go you are in their hands for 90 minutes. You are depending on them to get a result.
“It’s your job as the coach or the manager to make sure that they get it with whatever you do during the week. So whatever you have done it all boils down to 90 minutes on a Saturday or a Tuesday and you’re totally in their hands.
“There are so many people you don’t want to let down –especially at a place like this with a huge fan base who travel far and wide to support you,” he continued. .
“So you want to send them home happy because for a lot of them it’s their life. You have a board you need to keep happy. You have to win here – that’s all that is acceptable.”
The bottom line is that McDowall hasn’t done that enough, which is something he accepts. In eight games as interim manager, he has led the team to victory on only three occasions – against Dumbarton, Alloa and Raith Rovers.
They were knocked out of the League and Scottish Cups on successive Sundays, to Celtic and Raith respectively. They have also lost to Hibs twice, which has helped the Easter Road side overhaul Rangers in the league.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, he said there was never a moment when he thought he wanted the role of manager on a permanent basis. He is occupying the role only because of loyalty – and that loyalty, in the first instance, is to McCoist. “I was lucky enough to come here with Walter Smith when he approached me,” said McDowall, with reference to his arrival at Ibrox – unusually, he moved directly from a coaching post at Celtic – in 2007.
“For me nothing could top that. Being invited here by the great man.
“When Walter stepped down people perhaps took it as a given Ally would give me the assistant job, that is everybody bar me. ‘Coisty knows a lot of people and has a lot of ex-team-mates. He could have gone to anybody, especially wee Durranty [current reserve coach Ian Durrant] – they are great mates.
“So that was a great honour for me when ‘Coisty phoned me to say, ‘listen I want you to take [the assistant post].’ That’s why me sitting here is uncomfortable. Although uncomfortable is probably not the word because you get better at it the longer you do it.
“But did I want to be the Rangers manager? No. Am I here through circumstances? Yes. I would prefer it to be Ally because I am a loyal guy and my loyalty is to him. That’s where it doesn’t sit well with me.”
McDowall admitted wistfully he’d rather be in the room next door, “laughing” with Durrant and letting McCoist handle the press chores.
“If the circumstances were different Ally would be sitting in this seat and I would be sitting in the other office with Durranty having a laugh,” he said. “Because that’s what we did.”