Ally McCoist has high hopes of a Rangers treble

Lee McCulloch has a good laugh during Rangers' training session at Murray Park. Picture: SNS
Lee McCulloch has a good laugh during Rangers' training session at Murray Park. Picture: SNS
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IT IS certainly not the kind of domestic treble Ally McCoist ever envisaged he would be pursuing as Rangers manager but he believes his team may yet have three trophies in their possession at the end of the season.

Winning League One, which they currently lead by a massive 23 points, has long been a formality for Rangers. They are also odds-on favourites to lift the Ramsdens Cup on 6 April when they face Raith Rovers at Easter Road in the final.

The reality for McCoist and his players, however, is that claiming those prizes will simply be met with a collective shrug of the shoulders throughout the rest of Scottish football. If Rangers are to gain any wider credibility for their on-field efforts this season, it must come in the Scottish Cup.

They face Dunfermline at Ibrox tonight in the opening tie of fifth round weekend, hoping to reach the quarter-finals of the tournament for the first time since McCoist took charge.

While he is not making any bold proclamations about his team going on to lift the silverware at Celtic Park on 17 May, McCoist does believe they are among the genuine contenders to do so.

“I’m not going to sit here and say we can’t win the Scottish Cup or that we won’t win it,” he said. “Of course I’m not. We want to win it and we’ll be doing everything we can to win it.

“I think we would need a bit of luck to win all three competitions we are involved in. You’d have to say we have a very good chance of winning League One and we have a really good chance of winning the Ramsdens Cup, because we’re in the final. So the Scottish Cup is the one which isn’t just as clear cut.

“We would need that bit of luck, but most teams, if not all, need to carry that to win a cup competition. Anybody can win a cup, absolutely anybody. I don’t think there is any doubt that Celtic are the favourites to win it, as they are in all domestic trophies at this moment in time.

“There are other strong teams in the top flight. At Aberdeen, Derek McInnes is doing a fantastic job and there are one or two teams I would still reckon would probably be a bit stronger than us in the top flight at the moment. That is not to say that we couldn’t go on a good run and do well in the Scottish Cup. That is the aim and the target.”

McCoist’s assessment of Rangers’ prospects in the competition is not shared by Owen Coyle. The former Bolton and Wigan manager, on Scottish Cup promotional duty earlier this week, insisted the Ibrox men would not rank in his top five contenders to win the trophy.

“I don’t mind being sixth favourite to be honest with you,” smiled McCoist. “I don’t know how often Coyley has seen us but he is entitled to his opinion. He didn’t even say if we were sixth favourites, right enough – I hope he ranks us in the top 16!

“To be honest, we tend not to look at too many opinions from other people. The game’s all about opinions, of course, but once you start taking other people’s on board it can take you off your track and we can’t do that. We’ve got our own thoughts and we’ve been working hard all week.”

Rangers have beaten Dunfermline twice in League One this season – 3-1 at Ibrox at the start of November and then 4-0 at East End Park at the end of December.

“A home tie is all you can really ask for,” added McCoist, “and it’s also against a team we have beaten twice this season. But they performed well against us in the game at Ibrox in particular and, reading one or two of the quotes from the Dunfermline camp since, they feel they were unlucky.

“You would expect Jim Jefferies to have them fired up for this tie, but so will we be. When we won 4-0 at East End Park, it was one of our better performances this season and we will settle for nothing less this time. This is a great opportunity for us to get into the last eight of the cup.”

Rangers were comprehensively beaten 3-0 by Dundee United at Tannadice at the same stage of the tournament last year but McCoist is optimistic they are equipped to progress further this time.

“I’m hopeful we’re better prepared than a year ago,” he said. “Obviously we’ve got nearly an entirely new squad with the additions we’ve made. I’m hoping that one of the important changes is that some of the boys have got experience and success at cup level.

“You look at Cammy Bell, Jon Daly, Ian Black and Lee McCulloch who have all had varying degrees of cup success. Last year I didn’t feel we were as strong.

“I feel we are stronger now and I’d be very hopeful that would give us a better opportunity to go on a cup run. But you need to take every tie on its merits. We’ll have to earn the right to get into the quarter-finals. If we can win on Friday night, it obviously takes us a step closer.

“I don’t think we’re at the stage yet where we’re one of the teams everybody would fear in the quarter-final draw, being honest with you. Celtic would be everybody’s favourite to win it, so they would be the team most people would want to avoid.

“At the same time, with the semi-finals being at Ibrox this season, if we can get through I don’t think many teams would want to come to Ibrox to play us. That is the incentive for us. That said, there’s absolutely no way we’re underestimating the difficulty of the tie against Dunfermline.”