NOTHING could fully prepare any of those involved in the Rangers story of the past few years for the unyielding chaos that has engulfed the club.
But, as Kenny McDowall moves from the sidelines to fill Ally McCoist’s central role in the saga, he at least has an inkling of what is required to try to cope with times of uncertainty and managerial change.
“I think Turmoil United want to sign me,” observed McDowall. It was a brief moment of levity yesterday in what from McDowall’s perspective was otherwise a sombre briefing with reporters following his appointment as caretaker manager of Rangers.
As well as standing alongside McCoist throughout the trials and tribulations of his Ibrox tenure, McDowall has previous experience of upheaval in the technical area from his time at Celtic.
A highly successful coach of the Parkhead club’s reserve team for a decade before he joined Rangers as first team coach under Walter Smith in 2007, McDowall was temporarily promoted to the front line by Celtic in 1998 following Wim Jansen’s rancorous departure as manager.
“Eric Black stepped up as caretaker manager when Wim left and I was made Eric’s assistant while Celtic looked for a new manager,” recalled McDowall. “We took the team to Holland for pre-season. So I have experienced something like it before, although I was only assistant. All these experiences help you in life.
“This is turmoil now for me at Rangers. It has been a bumpy ride of late, for the past three years really. Ally has done a fantastic job in keeping the place intact.”
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McDowall was clearly emotional yesterday, his voice close to breaking on occasions as he reflected on McCoist’s exit late on Sunday night, just over a week after he had tendered his resignation to trigger a 12-month notice period.
“I didn’t know Ally was resigning until it came out in the papers, believe it or not,” said McDowall. “He was obviously thinking long and hard about doing it. When he decided to do it, he just did it and it was a surprise to me as much as anyone else that morning.
“But I fully expected him to be here for the year and do the notice. As we are all aware, it didn’t happen like that so we have to get on with it. Am I surprised? Not really. But I need to take it forward. I need to be professional and do the best for the team and carry out the duties that I have been asked to do.
“I spoke with Ally on Sunday and he said to me he had been called in [by the board]. He said to me: ‘Kenny, they are going to explain when you get there. I’ll speak to you later on’.
“And that was it. I still didn’t know what was coming. Ally said: ‘They’ll explain to you what they want to explain to you’. So we left it like that.
“An awkward situation? Tell me about it. First and foremost, Ally is my mate. He gave me the job as assistant manager in 2011 which he didn’t need to do. Walter brought me in as coach in 2007 with Ally as his assistant at the time. I think everybody just had it as a given that I was going to become his assistant.
“But Ally could have picked anybody. He has a lot of mates from the great Rangers teams that he played with. He could have given it to any one of them and I wouldn’t have thought any less of him. But he came to me and asked me to do it. So I have huge respect for him for that alone. So for me to be sitting where I am, I have just got to try and be as professional as I can and carry out the duties I have been asked to do. But I am saddened.
“When you are involved in football, you have got to do what you do. You get opportunities in life, some are good and some are bad. I am finding that with myself at the moment. I’ve been asked to do a job. I’m a professional guy, I’ve been in this game a long time. I’ve worked for a lot of great people.
“I’m here because the top man, Walter Smith, brought me here. I was then working with Ally and in my eyes he was a fantastic manager as well. I owe it to them to step up and do it for them as much as anything. And that’s all I can do.
“Working with Ally and Ian Durrant, we obviously set out on a mission to get the club back to where it should be and that’s not changed any. So the calls that I’ve had from people in the past day or so have just been telling me to get on with the work and do the job and don’t worry about what people are thinking. That’s peace of mind for me, because I am a loyal guy and it means a lot to me that people respect my loyalty as well.”
McDowall’s first assignment as manager comes against Hibs at Easter Road on Saturday as Rangers resume a Championship title race in which they have little room for further error.
“I can only control what happens on the football side of things,” he added. “I’ll try and get the players motivated and back into winning ways and to beat Hibs.
“We are football guys and that’s where we feel we can be in control, working with the players and setting formations out and trying to win games.
“I can’t control anything else other than the football side and then the players have got to go out and actually win the game for you. You can set up tactics and organise them and train them as much as you like, but you need them to do their bit come Saturday.”
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