INITIALLY happy to take control on a temporary basis, Rangers interim manager Stuart McCall has revealed he is now desperate to make the gig a permanent one.
Brought in to fill the void left by the departures of Ally McCoist and then Kenny McDowall, he has presided over only one defeat since he was installed on 12 March and, although he was powerless to halt Hearts’ rampaging run to the Championship title, he is still hopeful of guiding the Ibrox club back to the top flight via the play-offs.
But he says he has been given no indication if that will be enough to give him the opportunity to manage them there.
“I genuinely believe that if we go up it doesn’t mean to say I will definitely be here next year,” said McCall. “By the same token, if we don’t go up I don’t think it’s a sign I won’t be. I don’t think there are any guarantees either way. People might think if you don’t go up you won’t be there – and if we do you will. But I don’t think it’s as cut and dried as that. I honestly don’t know. But I’m not sitting thinking, ‘will I be here or not?’ I’m more thinking about the play-offs and the next game.”
The next game is a head to head with the champions, at Tynecastle, with second place and a play-off advantage still there for the taking.
Finishing ahead of rival Hibs would cut the number of games needed to secure promotion by two and give them the positive momentum as they head into the knockout programme but to be sure of that they will need to beat Robbie Neilson’s men this afternoon and hope Falkirk can take something from their clash with the Leith outfit.
I have had a taste of it and I’m desperate to have more of it.Stuart McCall
“All my focus is on doing the best for the club,” says McCall. “Listen, at the end of the day if we get up or don’t get up and they say ‘thank you very much’ I have managed a club that has only had 13 managers in its history. So I have been privileged and honoured. But I have had a taste of it and I’m desperate to have more of it.”
Coming in with the mindset that he was simply happy to help out for three months, his short spell at the helm has altered his thinking. He said: “I’ll be honest, when I first came here I thought ‘big challenge, I’ll go in and try to help out’. I knew there were issues with morale and confidence and those things.
“But the longer I’ve been in, the more I feel I am really enjoying it. I would be comfortable and happy if I could stay longer.
“Obviously, there will be big changes in the summer because there are 11 players out of contract. But I’m back in doing what I enjoy, what I love and it’s a great place to come and work in the morning with the facilities and the group we have got.”
While he says there have been no hints about his long-term employment chances, he has been allowed to work away behind the scenes, identifying targets for next season.
“That’s all league-dependent and it’s quite tough because we have 11 players out of contract. But I’ve got the list of all the players out of contract in every division up here and in the divisions below in England and some clubs have a dozen players out of contract. It’s not unusual these days unless you have a real hot property you want to get tied down.”
The players who are currently on the books are, like McCall, still waiting to learn their fate but the manager says that nothing about his own future should be read into the fact they have not been brought in to discuss new deals.
“People can ask, why don’t you offer them a contract? But imagine if you offered one a contract and didn’t offer the other ten. It gets round and you need everyone together.”
McCall has reached his own conclusions about who should stay and who should go and, regardless whether his services are retained, he will share his opinions with the club hierarchy.
“Whether I am here or not, I want the best for the club. Every agent or scout and every dossier I have on players is there and I will give my opinion on who should be here next year.”
But he would still love to be the one acting on that information and knows that promotion will not harm his case.