Superlatives and second places don’t tend to be placed in the same sentence when the subject is Rangers. Ally McCoist, though, is happy to break from that convention in claiming that it would be a “great achievement” if Mark Warburton’s side were to earn runners-up position in the Premiership this season.
Even if the Ibrox men are newly promoted, that really shouldn’t be a stretch when their average player salary is close to three times that of third biggest spenders Aberdeen. Yet, McCoist, who guided Rangers pre and post-liquidation before his tenure ended with the club toiling to push on in the Championship, believes it is too simplistic to conclude that spend should determine status.
“Would anyone be shocked if Aberdeen finished second? I think there is too much made of budgets,” said McCoist, who couldn’t make Rangers’ hefty financial advantages count in Scotland’s second tier. “When 11 line up against 11 you don’t think about budgets. You just think about your job. I get it that if you’ve got a bigger budget you should be able to get a higher calibre of player. Of course I understand that. But Aberdeen have been solidly Scotland’s second best team for the last two seasons and I don’t think that’s going to change because they’ve got a good solid base and a good manager. The team knows what it’s about.
“Hearts have done exceptionally well. They went into administration and benefited from going down and rebuilding and coming back up. I always felt that these clubs would certainly be in or around Rangers unless Rangers spent a lot of money – and that Aberdeen would be potentially be better. So it would not be surprising if Aberdeen finished second.”
McCoist is at odds with general belief that it is second or bust for Warburton at Ibrox. “I think some people might think that. I think second would be a good achievement actually but I don’t think it’s second or bust. I certainly don’t think anyone should be losing their job if they finish in the top four.
“My own opinion at the start of the season was I would like to have thought Rangers could compete with Hearts and Aberdeen and possibly be slightly better than St Johnstone.”
That is how things stand with Warburton’s team in the bunch of sides miles off Celtic, and currently deferring to the Pittodrie men.
As much as anything, there might be a stylistic issue as to why Rangers have only won five and drawn five of their first 12 league games this season. McCoist is coy on whether there is too much ball-playing in all areas of the pitch in the approach of the current Ibrox side.
“I understand this, ‘let’s play football from the back’, by all means let’s do that, But there’s a time and a place for it,” he added. “Your job is to defend first. One of the best penalty box defenders I played against was Willie Miller; can you imagine him taking such a chance? The philosophy at Rangers is that they like to pass the ball and that’s fine as long as there is an end product.
“There have been some excellent performances from Rangers this season and some average ones too. I’m not shocked by that because that’s what I thought would happen.
“I know at Rangers it’s about winning every game, I get that, no one more than me gets that. But sometimes you have to be realistic too. This is where Rangers are at the moment.”