A LONE piper appeared on the pitch at Palmerston Park ahead of kick-off last night. The skirl the youngster filled the ground with was something of a jaunty number. In the context, it seemed ill-fitting that he didn’t strike up a sad lament for Ally McCoist. Rangers supporters weren’t slow in name-checking a man who often appears in their choruses once the encounter had got underway. That didn’t mean they regaled their manager in song on the day when he handed in his notice. Rather it meant the travelling supporters indulged in their oft-heard refrains about long dead IRA hunger striker Bobby Sands.
What shocked as much as the early afternoon news that McCoist had lodged his intention to activate the 12-month notice period on his 12-month rolling contract, was that by mid-evening in Dumfries this didn’t prove the trigger for the Ibrox support to offer up choruses in support of him. Not once in the early stages of the crucial Championship confrontation were even the most meagre chants of ‘Super Ally’ to be heard. It betrayed just how much the Rangers faithful have lost their faith in the club icon as a trackside presence, following the recent agonies at Alloa and the second tier slippage that left them seeking to eat into Hearts’ nine-point advantage against a Queen of the South team only one place below them. That never looked on with Rangers once more bereft. The first 20 minutes were as buttock-clenching for those of an Ibrox disposition as the last 20 that brought about the three-goal collapse and Petrofac Training Cup loss to Alloa.
As he stood trackside at Palmerston last night, McCoist cut again the helpless, forlorn trackside presence that Rangers fans have ceased to have any feeling for. In that sense, even as a figure who is the polar opposite of the strictly-business shadowy boardroom types they so despise, he has still come to symbolise all that has caused them to become numb at the never-ending farrago down Ibrox way: that is, a man being paid beyond his abilities and paid to a level – in common with players and executives – that could yet cause this post-liquidation Rangers to go the same way as the original club.
And perhaps why McCoist didn’t engender terracing support, quite apart from the awfulness of his team in being taken apart by an excellent Queen of the South side exhibiting the very drive and determination the visitors could not muster for their manager, is that no-one can be even sure exactly why he has taken the course of action he did yesterday. It might be game-playing more than any noble consideration that Rangers need a change in their football management... eh, a year from now. In submitting his notice, he would have known that the club could not release him immediately under the terms of his contract because they simply do not have a bean. If they need to find £8 million merely to keep the club from going under in the coming month, adding a £1m pay-off to bring about McCoist’s parting meantime simply could not appear on their agenda.
The pop-picker at Palmerston was alive to these subplots in blasting Kenny Rodgers The Gambler and Simply Red’s Money’s Too Tight To Mention over the stadium Tannoy. Really, though, he missed a trick in not giving a spin at full-time to The Moody Blues’ Go Now.