IT is wholly understandable for outsiders to see everything at Rangers through the prism of ownership and finance issues.
Saturday, then, seemed a feverish day, even by Ibrox standards, as news emerged that the Rangers board had agreed to accept a £2m emergency loan from Mike Ashley to prevent the emptiness of the club’s coffers from taking them to the brink of administration.
In effectively deciding that the Newcastle United owner would be the club’s lender of last resort – rejecting a similar offer from Brian Kennedy to take on that onus – the development cast Ashley as first among the decision makers at the Championship side.
How the Scottish Football Association react to this when they had struck an agreement with Ashley that he would not have the same influence over Ibrox affairs as he does at St James’ Park, will be intriguing. That said, the fact that Rangers and Newcastle operate within completely separate football borders could make any Ibrox role for the man behind the Sports Direct empire at Ibrox ultimately surmountable.
Then there is the fate of chief executive Graham Wallace. In backing the forever doomed £16m recapitalisation proposal of Dave King, Wallace was always destined to be cooking his own goose, with Ashley’s call for an extraordinary general meeting (EGM) the means by which he will remove the chief executive. The fact that other King backer in the boardroom, Philip Nash, resigned on Friday as Ashley moved in, has left Wallace and isolated figure.
All of this seemed to overshadow what Ally McCoist’s men produced at Dumbarton on Saturday, which, with the draw in the derby, allowed the Ibrox side to move within seven points of leaders Hearts, who have played a game more. Not for those contributing to the comprehensive 3-0 victory, though. And midfielder Lewis Macleod was relaxed about making the point that Rangers players can never be pawns in the financial chess game in which the board is embroiled.
“To be honest with you, it doesn’t really have an affect on us on the pitch, we have just got to go out and win games of football and whatever happens off the pitch, we’ve not really got any say on it or do anything about it,” he said. “As long as we keep winning games on the pitch, that’s all we can do.”
It isn’t a matter of simply ignoring what is going on among the club’s shareholder factions, he maintained though. “We obviously take an interest in it, but at the same time we’ve just got to concentrate on the football. That’s the main thing for the boys in the team. To be honest with you, I don’t really read the papers. You’ve just got to brush it off and concentrate on the football and that’s what we’ve been doing”
They did that with aplomb at the weekend, overcoming an early penalty save by Aberdeen on-loan keeper Danny Rogers from captain Lee McCulloch to overwhelm a side they will face again at the same stadium in the Scottish Cup this Saturday. They did so because of the energy and application from Kenny Miller and Lee Wallace which seemed to infuse a team that can so often fail to find the necessary tempo.
Miller buzzing around simply wearied the home backline, the veteran striker proving the first-half opener when he bashed in a teasing curling left-wing cross from Steven Smith, who repeated the trick to allow Kris Boyd to head in Rangers third midway through the second period. Inbetween times, Wallace ripped apart the Dumbarton defence with a rangy run down the left that allowed him to find the net after a clever one-two with Miller.
The importance of the 34-year-old could not be lost on anyone casting an eye on Saturday’s encounter, and that included Macleod, given a central midfield berth alongside Nicky Law. “He brings a lot to the team and I think you could see that today – he was one of our better players. I thought everyone played well, but he was excellent,” the youngster said. “He brings a lot of quality to the team and it’s good to see him play well. He’s just an all round good player and his movement up front is good. He and Boydy are starting to click a bit more and the way he moves off to get the ball makes a big difference.”
It is easier to see Rangers making an impression in the national cup competitions with Miller and Boyd starting to click and the favourites tag they have for the League Cup quarter-final at Ibrox against top-flight opponents St Johnstone is understandable. Not least because the Perth club’s only win in seven outings came in the last round of the competition, away to Kilmarnock five weeks ago. A semi-final at Hampden would be a considerable prize for a Rangers team that have already ousted Premiership opposition Inverness Caledonian Thistle from the League Cup this season. Macleod sees a last-four place as eminently securable.
“We always think we can beat anyone, whoever we play against. I don’t think there is any point going into a game if you don’t think like that, We’ve been looking forward to the game on Tuesday and hopefully we can beat them. When you play for Rangers you have got to win every game. The fans won’t be happy unless you are winning every game. We will go into the game with the same belief as we did today. It would mean a lot, and it would mean a lot to the fans in particular.”
Any talk other that football chat with McCoist post-match didn’t prove illuminating, because it couldn’t be. “I haven’t spoken to anyone about any off-field issues,” McCoist said. “I spoke to Graham Wallace this morning as we normally do before a game. He phoned me up and asked about the team but there was no other discussion at all. He didn’t mention anything about his own position either. Absolutely not.”
McCoist stated he would not seek clarity over who was in control of the club. “When the time is right and somebody has something to tell me, I will get the information and then relay it on to the team and the staff,” he said. “I don’t think it is my position in this moment in time to do anything other than put a winning team out on the park. Time will tell though. I think we are definitely getting nearer a stage where information will come to everybody. Once that happens we will be in a better position to comment.”