THERE must always be a dividing line in assessing the travails of Ally McCoist. There is no question that he has required to manage the club in extraordinary – and extraordinarily difficult – circumstances. The crass, constant calamities perpetrated by those charged with the governance of Rangers have made his management permanently of the crisis variety.
Yet, by failing to forge a team with any aesthetic value, and – as it stands – any wherewithal to cut a swathe through a whole collection of far lesser-financed Championship opponents, he has only succeeded in inflicting on the club on-field crises to exacerbate the off-field ones. What McCoist expected when he tendered his resignation on Thursday afternoon continues to baffle. Uncharitably, it could be read as no more than a diversionary tactic as his team have been found out in the second tier of Scottish football.
It is understood he is willing to accept a £400,000 pay-off to bring matters to a head. This sum represents the cut in his £850,000 salary he accepted a year ago. Essentially, then, it could be argued he is willing to walk away without the 12-month earnings to which his one-year rolling contract would ordinarily entitle him. Maybe that is his perception of a selfless gesture as the financially-ailing Ibrox club lays off members of staff and scrabbles around to find the £8 million required to prevent them going under. Certainly, whatever else might be said, it must always be acknowledged that he has been selfless with his time, and a delight to deal with, for we in the press.
Ultimately, though, judgments should always be made on McCoist’s three-and-a-half year tenure by restricting assessments to the footballing domain. When that exercise is performed, the question that requires to be asked is: would other managers have made more of the advantages a £6m first-team wage bill has afforded Rangers in the lower leagues? Or, to put in another way, would any other manager have done any less than McCoist has with the resources at his disposal since Rangers started out again in the fourth tier following liquidation in 2012?
It is a struggle to identify one of the 23 signings made in the past two-and-a-half years that could be deemed an unqualified success. It is a struggle to identify instances when alterations of tactics and personnel have materially changed games in which Rangers have toiled. It is a struggle to identify the basis on which McCoist could make a case for himself as a prospering football manager. Not least because of a horrendous trophy-free cup record that is underpinned by three failures in the Challenge Cup, a tournament contested mainly by part-time teams. In normal circumstances, McCoist would have already agreed his severance package and been thanked for his efforts. Of course, there is no such thing as “normal circumstances” down Ibrox way.
However, this point may still arrive, and as early as this week it has been suggested. That outcome would mean McCoist’s last game in charge would have proved to be the 2-0 filleting by Queen of the South on Friday night at Palmerston, a loss which left his team nine points behind a Hearts side who have a game in hand. The match in Dumfries was emblematic of all that has been wrong with Rangers under McCoist as the home side outpaced, out-thought and outplayed their more illustrious Championship counterparts.
Forget all else. Results over the past month alone have been enough to make his position at the club untenable. In that period the Ibrox men have been well beaten by the two teams closest to them in the Championship. Even more unforgivable was that they shipped three goals across 20 minutes away to Alloa to dash their hopes of a final appearance in the Petrofac Training Cup. It was a mortifying experience.
What McCoist did in the league encounter against Cowdenbeath that followed just days after the inept defensive display at Alloa only served to highlight the deep-seated issues over his stewardship. He put out the same back four at home to Cowdenbeath, which meant inexplicably retaining at centre-back Bilel Mohsni, pictured, and therefore Darren McGregor. The late withdrawal of Lee Wallace because of a bereavement did not help, but his unwillingness to drop players who have let him down, and his club, just makes no sense and further fuels fans’ frustrations.
The supporters who want to remember McCoist for his record goalscoring feats at their club, and will always respect him for the figurehead role he accepted as Rangers financially imploded, now no longer want him helming their team.
The notion that it is all too pally-wally with Ally at Murray Park is a charge often levelled against the manager. When he conducted his Sunday press conference on Thursday morning he was adamant that he has not been too close and too forgiving when it comes to his squad.
“Make no mistake about it, there is no way my loyalty is blinding my general outlook on selecting a team to win a game,” McCoist said. “I pick a team to win a game. That is my priority. If players deserve my loyalty then they will absolutely get it. Loyalty will not affect my decision. It goes out the window with anybody if you have to make some decisions to win the game.
“I don’t really accept that I am really friendly with the players. I would like to think there is a mutual respect between us. I am maybe in the dressing room once a fortnight if I am lucky. That is not my domain now. I am not sure friendly is the right word. I have utmost respect for my players and I hope they do for me.
“You can only make changes if you think they are going to better the team. Lee Wallace would have automatically been a change. If there is somebody better then make no mistake they will play. I can assure you if I had Terry Butcher or Richard Gough available then they would play.”
There is a simple riposte to that his detractors would offer up; were these titans available, would McCoist get the best from them?