McCoist insists Rangers have broken no rules in bid to sign up Sandaza

FRANCISCO Sandaza will be the centre of attention at McDiarmid Park this lunchtime as he lines up against the club who have formally offered him the chance to play for them next season.

As he returns to the club where he began his senior career, Rangers manager Ally McCoist is aware of accusations the timing of his move for St Johnstone’s leading scorer has been designed to unsettle the player.

But McCoist is adamant the SPL title holders have acted with complete propriety in their pursuit of Sandaza and insists his relationship with counterpart Steve Lomas has not been damaged by the events of the past week.

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“I feel for Sandaza in the circumstances, of course I do, but everyone has to sit back and accept that we are not doing anything wrong,” said McCoist. “The rules are there to be abided by and everyone at the moment is adhering to the rules.

“We have to make St Johnstone aware we are going to make the lad an offer of a pre-contract. That’s the way the system works. Is it ideal? No, I don’t think it is ideal and I think Steve will probably be a little bit more upset than I would be. I can totally and utterly understand that.

“I spoke to Steve this morning. We have offered the player a pre-contract from May. His agent is back in Spain after a transatlantic flight so I’ve not had a chance to catch up with him.

“But I’ve told Steve we intend to offer him a pre-contract which we have done. Indeed the agent said he’ll be talking to the player after the game on Saturday which probably myself and Steve would agree would be a good idea. Steve was the same with me when I spoke to him today as he’s always been and that’s first class.” McCoist remains uncertain whether Rangers could yet sign Sandaza during the current transfer window with the Perth club understood to be seeking a fee of around £300,000 in that event.

“Could we try and get him now?” added McCoist. “I don’t know because I don’t know how much St Johnstone would be looking for. I don’t know what their chairman Steven Brown would want, so that’s a conversation Craig Whyte will maybe have with him.”

Asked if Rangers would need to sell a player before he would be able to purchase anyone for a fee this month, McCoist replied: “No, I don’t need to, but it would probably help.”

American midfielder Maurice Edu remains the subject of interest from Sochaux with McCoist denying claims the French club had been encouraged to bid for the player by Rangers without the manager’s knowledge.

“I obviously enquired about that,” he said, “and I’ve been told it is not the case. Of course, it can’t be the case. There was a second bid for Maurice rejected by our club on Thursday which I was obviously very pleased to hear.

“Since he’s come to the club Maurice has been an integral part of the team’s success. I’m aware of the financial restraints at this club but like every other manager I don’t want to let our better players go. I talked to Maurice about it on Thursday and he is completely settled. He’s really happy here. I can assure you of that.”

Rangers have an opportunity to return to the top of the SPL for at least a couple of hours today if they can win their early kick-off in Perth ahead of Celtic’s home match against Dundee United. McCoist is content with the way his team have responded to their Old Firm defeat at Parkhead on 28 December which saw them fall two points behind their great rivals at the summit.

“I’m loathe to say we’re back on the road we want to be on but our last two performances and results have been good,” he added. “The performance against Motherwell was good and then we were on a hiding to nothing against Arbroath, but went about it well. We scored goals and could have scored more. Those games have been encouraging and we’re certainly heading back in the right direction.”

Neil Alexander will make his first SPL appearance since 2010 for Rangers today after first choice goalkeeper Allan McGregor suffered a thigh strain in training. Alexander’s only previous first-team outing for the Ibrox club this season came in the 3-2 League Cup defeat at Falkirk in September.

At St Johnstone, Lomas is keen to recruit, aware successive losses to Motherwell, Aberdeen and Celtic last month were due to being without adequate cover for his frontline players.

“We’d like to bring in one or two, because I do believe if we get injuries it can affect us,” he said. “For the three losses on the spin we had five players out.

“It would be to add competition. I’m putting a couple of things to the chairman [Steve Brown] and then it’s down to the chairman to decide.”

Today’s match will be Lomas’ tenth in charge, his first was the 0-0 draw with Rangers at Ibrox. He was full of praise in assessing his side since his arrival as successor to Derek McInnes.

He added: “They’ve been fantastic. The honesty and work ethic of the boys can’t be faulted. As a manager it’s great. I’m thoroughly enjoying it.

“If the lads give a performance like we did at Ibrox, we’ll give Rangers a game.”