THERE is always a reluctance from Gordon Strachan to get involved in, what he can feel, is gossiping about other football figures. The Scotland manager is resistant to offering any easy soundbites when asked about a difficult position another individual in the game appears to find themselves.
It is no surprise that he chose to tread carefully when discussion yesterday turned to Ally McCoist’s predicament.
The Rangers manager is expected to part company with the Ibrox club tomorrow after last Thursday tendering his resignation. He did not step down from the position he has held for three-and-a-half years with immediate effect, but rather gave his intention to see out the 12-month notice period of his one-year rolling contract – a move the club announced to the Stock Exchange has resulted in his salary returning to its full £750,000 level following the 50 per cent temporary reduction he agreed last season.
Due to the Ibrox club’s precarious financial position, one potential outcome then floated is that he could remain in charge at Rangers for his full notice period. Strachan has experience of that scenario from his time at Southampton. He decided that he wanted a break from football and that he would bring to an end a successful two-and-a-bit years on the south west coast come the end of that season. How his situation resolved itself is instructive to what will likely be the full stop of McCoist’s managerial career. “I was in a position at Southampton where I said to the chairman [Rupert Lowe] that I was leaving in the summer, This was in the September,” the Scotland manager said. “Only he knew, and somebody else knew, but it leaked in about November when Southampton were fourth in the Premiership. I had to leave in February because there was a grey area there and it was such a well-run club. It had become a grey area with the players – who would be the next manager and things like that. Rupert decided enough was enough.
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“But I’m sure most folk would agree that the club [Rangers] is not really sure how it is being run at the moment. I’m not sure it will make any difference [Ally working his notice] but it made a difference to Southampton.”
The difference at St Mary’s proved an intangible for Strachan, but it did alter his daily dealings, and especially with his squad, in a manner that made Lowe bring forward the agreed departure date. “To me it didn’t make any difference, but it seemed that it did to everybody round about me when they knew the manager was moving on,” the 52-year-old said.
“It became different with the players. I couldn’t put my finger on it. They were still great with me and they kept working as hard as they could but there was a bit of a difference there. Whether that will be the same for Ally, I don’t know. The club is in a turmoil anyway. In my situation at Southampton, somebody set the situation off on a spin by leaking that I was going. But at Rangers it is already in full spin at the moment, so I don’t know how it will go from here.”
“That was a difference with Ally’s situation. I was at a stable club. It never changed at Southampton but Rangers is a bit different because there is turmoil in the background. Whether it makes any difference to the players or the staff at that club, I don’t know.”
McCoist has been betraying visible signs of strain. Strachan expressed sympathy for the Rangers manager because he has often been the public focal point for all the goings on at club, from the old version in the pre-liquidation days to the new club that emerged and embarked on climbing the league in the summer of 2012.
“I feel for him because over the last two years he’s been speaking about Rangers Football Club, the financial state of it, who’s the chairman, who’s not the chairman, and the only time you actually speak to him about football is when they get beat. If they are winning, it’s all about what’s happening at the club. Nobody notices [the football]. But when they get beat, he is asked: ‘what about your tactics?’
“I do feel for every football manager, but it’s not going to change. I can tell signs of managers who are stressed, I have been watching managers who have been under pressure in England. I can right away – there are physical signs. Sores on their lips...there’s one at the moment who has two of them my wife will tell me: ‘he’s under pressure isn’t he?’ because she’s seen it.
“With me, I used to get a thing on my nose when I was under pressure. I wouldn’t go out for dinner on a Saturday night. I was talking to Paul Hartley recently and he said the same – he can’t arrange anything because he’ll spoil the night for everybody else who is there. It’s better to just sit in the house. I would imagine it is multiplied in Glasgow but any big, big job will have that stress.”
It is stress that McCoist may no longer be feeling since he will appreciate he appears to be Rangers manager in name only.
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