Ally McCoist was emphatic when asked about the possibility: “There is double no chance of that happening.”
McCoist, pictured, stated that, while one of Rangers, Hibs and Hearts are the favourites to go up, nothing is certain in the Championship.
“There is absolutely enough quality in the league to have a big impression on the so-called favourites,” said McCoist.
“The likes of Falkirk, Queen of the South, Raith Rovers and Dumbarton – they will have a big say in where the points are going. But I do take the opinion that, rightly or wrong, Rangers, Hibs and Hearts are certainly the biggest clubs in the division. That doesn’t necessarily mean they might have the best teams but, at the start of the season, without having seen everybody else fully, those teams would be most people’s natural contenders for automatic promotion and the play-off spot.”
Having already beaten Hibs, albeit after extra time in the Petrofac Training Cup, last Tuesday, McCoist is preparing for the visit of the other half of Edinburgh to Ibrox today, and knows that a winning start to the league against Hearts is vital.
“I am really really excited about the league,” said McCoist. “There is going to be a real freshness about it. Hearts and Hibs at this moment in time are absolutely buzzing, because they have got a new foundation and a new system, both clubs.
“Looking at the reaction from the Hibs supporters, during the game and at the end of the game on Tuesday, they are well up for the challenges ahead.
“Their team looked well up for the challenges ahead and Hearts I feel will be exactly the same.”
The manager’s message is to watch out for surprises as other players try their best against the big three. He explained: “If I am a player or a manager at Falkirk, Queen of the South or Dumbarton, then it is Christmas, because this is the best league that these boys will ever play in.
“Obviously guys will come and move and hope to progress but, for the majority of the players in the league, it might be the best league they ever play in. So it augurs well for the season.”
McCoist started last season not even dreaming that Rangers would be joined by the Edinburgh clubs in the Championship.
“It was absolutely impossible,” said McCoist, who heard the news that Hibs were relegated while he was in New York getting married. “Part of me still can’t believe it to be honest with you. It sinks in to a certain degree but when you talk to people down south and on the continent, and ex-players, they can’t believe it. One of the boys down south was on the phone to me this morning, from Stoke; he said ‘that is some league you are in next year with Hearts and Hibs’. It is.”
Rangers will face Hearts knowing it is the toughest league match they have faced since starting in the Third Division.
He said: “If I am the Hibs manager or the Hearts manager, I am thinking ‘I have never had a better chance’. Because we are certainly not the team we were seven, eight, nine years ago.
“Absolutely we are not. But it is up to us to prove that we are better than the current Hibs and Hearts side, along with the other teams in the division. That is our aim and that is our target.”
Nothing but the Championship title will satisfy Rangers as they seek to complete the next stage of their journey back to the top flight. A win against Hearts would seem a necessary first step.