Rangers administration: Ally McCoist’s ‘genuine sadness’ at Ibrox exits of Gordon Smith and Ali Russell

ALLY McCoist has expressed his dismay at the imminent departure from Rangers of Gordon Smith and Ali Russell, insisting both men are blameless for the crisis which has engulfed the Ibrox club under Craig Whyte’s ownership.

Smith and Russell, appointed Director of Football and Chief Operating Officer respectively by Whyte following his takeover last year, are the first employment casualties of Rangers’ move into administration and will become redundant at the end of this month. “There is genuine sadness at people losing their jobs,” said McCoist. “Everyone at the club is disappointed about any job losses. Nobody here is saying ‘they should go’, or ‘someone else should go’. That’s not the case at all.

“I would have to say Gordon and Ali have always had the club’s best interests at heart. They wanted to make the club a better club. They wanted to finance deals to bring players in and they attempted to do their jobs to the best of their ability.

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“Only they could tell you if they were allowed to do it or if they were hindered in any shape or form. I can sympathise with what Gordon said in his statement about not being able to carry out the job he was brought in to do.”

There had been a widespread perception that Smith’s return to the club as Director of Football did not necessarily sit comfortably with McCoist but the manager denied having a strained relationship with the former SFA chief executive. “I wasn’t at odds with Gordon,” added McCoist. “We had healthy, competitive discussions. We were not always in agreement with each other but we all wanted what was best for the football club.”

Smith was responsible for sourcing many of the trialists who came and went during the course of the season at Murray Park, many of whom clearly failed to make a positive impression on McCoist. “I was certainly not against trialists coming in,” he insisted. “That is how we got Sone Aluko to the club, after all, and I think most people would agree he has been very good since he joined us. We were never in a position not to keep an avenue open which might bring talent into the club. That’s obvious when you look at the list of players we wanted but didn’t get. That suggests we had to look elsewhere, which we did.”

At the end of another week of damning revelations about Whyte’s stewardship of the club, McCoist said he was “shocked but not surprised” by the confirmation income from Ticketus for future season ticket sales had been used to fund the takeover. But for a man as steeped in the traditions of Rangers as McCoist, it was the less financially consequential but desperately shabby sale of the club’s shares in Arsenal which has depressed him most over the past few days. “There is an awful lot unfolding on a daily basis now and like any Rangers fan I’m extremely disappointed by some of the things,” he said. “Not least the situation with the Arsenal shares.

“That’s a particularly sore one for a Rangers supporter. Something like that is your history, your heritage, not something you think can be sold. Not only that, it’s a great story of the friendship between two great clubs. So that was really sad.”

McCoist, however, remained reluctant to make any direct criticism of Whyte who continues to state his intention of a return to the club post-administration. “I don’t think me voicing any opinions at this moment, pointing fingers of blame, or saying this, that or the other, is going to help anybody,” he added. “With that in mind, I’ll keep my own counsel at the moment.”

McCoist has still not spoken to Whyte since 14 February, the day the club went into administration. Asked if he believed there could be any way back for Whyte at Rangers, he again declined to offer a firm view. “I genuinely don’t know,” he replied. “As things keep unfolding daily, that’s not a decision which will be taken by me. That’s way above me, that decision.” But McCoist did not dismiss the suggestion that Rangers’ failure to sign his top transfer targets last summer may have been as a result of Whyte failing to make credible bids for them. “He is the only man who could answer that,” said McCoist.

“All I did was provide information about the players we were really keen to sign, whether it was David Goodwillie, Carlos Cuellar, Roland Juhasz or Tomer Hemed. He (Whyte) made the attempts to sign them. It was in January that it became more apparent, in terms of signing players. Not getting a replacement for Nikica Jelavic hit home that there was something not quite right. When we were not replacing people, it became evident we had a very real problem.”

McCoist was pictured leaving Ibrox in the company of director Dave King earlier this week as the South African-based businessman contemplates a role in a consortium seeking to take control of Rangers. “I’ve known Dave King for a long, long time,” he said. “But it wasn’t a planned meeting between us, he was there for his own meeting (with the administrators).”