Tom English: ‘McCoist’s words were a scare tactic, a device that was meant to heap pressure on the SFA’

SOME amount of claptrap has come spinning out of Rangers in the past week, some hysterical pronouncements about how the club might die as a consequence of the transfer ban placed upon them – and if not death, then maybe relegation.

Oh yes, this heinous punishment that provoked Ally McCoist to vent his spleen on Tuesday evening could see all of the senior players depart Ibrox, a mass exodus that would leave them vulnerable to the drop to the First Division. This was an assessment that Walter Smith agreed with later in the week. Kids can’t be expected to keep Rangers in the SPL, he said.

First of all, there is no evidence that points to the transfer ban possibly equalling the death of the club or even putting the club at risk of dying. “This decision could be the final nail in the coffin,” said McCoist the other day, presumably while trying to douse the fire that had caught hold of his trousers. It was a ridiculous remark that has, alas, been picked up on and has led to some ludicrous headlines wondering if today’s Old Firm encounter could possibly be the last.

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Let’s look at the fallout from the SFA’s judicial panel’s decision, not so much the disgraceful “Who are these people?” rant by the Rangers manager but the reaction from the key players in the bidding process, Bill Miller and the Blue Knights.

Since the transfer ban was handed down, have we heard Miller saying that he is now unable to carry on with his bid as a result? No. Have we heard him say this transfer ban fundamentally changes the dynamic of his interest in the club? No. Miller doesn’t agree with the ban and it is his intention to contest it but, if it stands after an appeal, then he’ll live with it, should he become the new owner of the club. It will last one for one season. Rangers didn’t sign anybody for two seasons under Walter Smith and yet still managed to win the league.

Have we heard a repetition of McCoist’s emotive language from the Blue Knights? No, we haven’t. Again, they’re not happy with the ban, but they’re not walking away either, they’re not adopting this fatalistic attitude that McCoist adopted, this histrionic toys-out-of-the-pram response that only served to fuel the outrage of the zealots and bring them thundering to the door of the three-man panel who sat in judgment on them.

McCoist abhors violence and intimidation and yet he sees absolutely no link between his words and the deeds of the nutcases who sought to intimidate the “Hampden Three”. He stands by everything he said on Tuesday, a view that makes you think that the Rangers manager’s brain has turned to marshmallow.

“Once we start giving in to the lunatic fringe then we’d be as well just packing up our bags,” said McCoist on Friday. “If we for a minute give in to this, then it’s absolute madness. People hiding behind computers and all that stuff? Do me a favour. You know it and I know, these people are absolute numpties to a man or a woman and we shouldn’t be giving them any time of the day.”

As McCoist well knows, people hiding behind computers can, and have, become people who jump the wall at Tynecastle and attack a fellow manager or people who try to terrify other people by sending them bombs in the post, two of these “numpties” now locked up for five years apiece.

“Numpties” doesn’t quite cut it, does it? “Numpties” is a word you might use for cyber idiots, of which there are many, but it’s not appropriate to the two dangerous animals who have just been sent away for a five-year stretch, a pair of warped minds who thought it would be a funny idea to put McCoist’s name on the back of the package containing one of the devices, as if the Rangers manager had sent it himself.

McCoist’s choice of words –“giving in to it” – shows either a dangerous naivety or a shocking defiance about the nature of the threat from some of these people. As we know – as he knows himself – they’re not all content to sit in their underpants in their dingy flats banging out the bile on their computers. Some are prepared to go further and McCoist’s refusal to temper his language on Friday – three days after his initial rant – was disturbing. Strathclyde Police might be well advised to have a word in his ear. The Scottish Football Association might want to wait for the heat to go out of the situation before they comment, but comment they should.

Miller’s still hanging in there and so are the Knights, as is Brian Kennedy who doesn’t seem to have batted an eyelid about a transfer ban that “could kill the club”.

Another thing, this assertion that Rangers could well be relegated if the ban hits home. Firstly, that is wild speculation. Even if Rangers lose all of their senior players – which they wouldn’t – they’d surely still be well clear of relegation fodder.

It was a scare tactic, a device that was meant to heap pressure on the SFA, a comment that was inevitably going to lead to fury among the support, a display of victimhood that showed you what kind of weird place Rangers are in right now.

None of what McCoist said last week stacks up. He talks about a “moral need” for Rangers to be punished but protests when that punishment doesn’t suit him. He talks about demotion to the Third Division as, perhaps, being the correct moral outcome but what does he think Third Division football would do for their senior players or their ability to sign new ones? Would the senior players be willing to put up with lower league stuff for three seasons? Would transfer targets contemplate a move to Ibrox if they had this long wait before they got back to the SPL? The punishment he gave credence to – demotion – would be infinitely harder on the club than the one delivered by the judicial panel on Monday night.

Of course, McCoist speaks of demotion while knowing that it will probably never happen because of the “special case” that Rangers are. The SPL can’t afford to kick them out, that’s the rationale. The league would implode. Sky would leave the scene and clubs would fold.

But, you know, these are pivotal days in the history of the SPL and you have to wonder about this question: if another club’s finances and very existence are so dependent on Rangers remaining in the SPL what kind of club are they – and do they deserve to survive? That’s a debate for another day.

For now, we have the last Old Firm game of the season. There will be more of them, despite the garbage we heard last week.