THE hamfisted managerial manoeuvring at Rangers was laid bare at Easter Road yesterday. Yet the 4-0 goal trouncing should hardly have been a surprise. When the Ibrox club’s ABA (anyone but Ally) approach to running their team affairs resulted in Kenny McDowall stepping up as Ally McCoist was shuffled off on his gardening leave last weekend, the acting manager – who accented the “acting” – made it plain what the club would be getting.
“It would be wrong of me to sit here and say I’m going to change because anything Ally McCoist has done has been with my blessing,” McDowall said on Tuesday of the approach he would take to an ailing team. It hardly inspired confidence with Rangers having lost – in humiliating fashion in the Petrofac Cup semi-final – and drawn to Alloa, and been whipped by Queen of the South in the past six weeks.
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McDowall was true to his word yesterday in sending out the same team against Hibernian that had registered an uninspiring 2-0 win at home to Livingston the previous week. He patently has been placed in a position with which he is uncomfortable, but which he has taken on because to refuse to do so would cost him a salary believed to be approaching £220,000.
And so we are back to cash again, the root of all evil at the Ibrox club. Rangers are allowing McCoist to stew at home because they do not have the funds to stump up the £750,000 that his severance package would cost. The need for £8 million fresh investment through a share issue early next year means they could do no more than shuffle their existing coaching staff, with McCoist’s assistant, Ian Durrant, demoted to the U-20s from where Gordon Durie has been elevated to assist McDowall, alongside player-coach Lee McCulloch.
The Ibrox power brokers could not have seriously believed that these coaching contortions would bring a fresh impetus from a squad so beaten down by their circumstances they seem unable to raise a gallop against younger, thrusting sides. Yet, whatever fate lies in store for McDowall, he maintained he still has major memories to cherish.
Part of Walter Smith’s staff that claimed three straight titles and reached the 2008 UEFA Cup final, the past two-and-a-half years in the post-liquidation Rangers, he admitted, have been a “nightmare”, often only leavened by McCoist’s presence.
“People are bored with it now,” he said. “But we’ve had to eat, sleep and drink it and it’s the love for the club and the desire to get it back to where it should be that has kept us going. Myself and Durranty have been there every step with Ally, the same goes for big Jim Stewart. We’ve been with him and, at times, trying to keep him upbeat, but he kept everyone else upbeat. For that he is an absolute star.”
McDowall became all starry-eyed when he recalled being hand-picked by Smith and McCoist to leave his post as Celtic reserve-team coach to join them in the reconstruction job they then embarked on. “I’ve had a great journey so far. I can’t have any regrets with what I’ve done up until now. I finished playing earlier than I’d have liked. But I was lucky enough to fall into the coaching side of it. St Mirren gave me a great start and here we are.
“This is not exactly how we planned it to be. Ally gave me the job as his assistant when he didn’t need to. I can’t tell you how good a time that was. We had unbelievable success as well. I knew Ally from playing against him, but not socially. It was the same for Walter. But we just hit it off instantly. The same goes for Durranty who was part of that group. We had a fantastic backroom team…how did we get here?”
By fulfilling the terms of his contract, essentially. “Anyone who knows me will know that I’m a loyal guy,” McDowall said. “That’s why I’m saddened that it’s me sitting here and not Ally. I spoke to him before accepting the role. On Sunday evening, when we got the call to drive to Ibrox, I spoke to him briefly. He told me this is the way [chief executive] Derek Llambias and [director] Sandy Easdale wanted it and I had to respect their wishes. They informed me of the changes that would be made to the coaching set-up and I had to tell the boys. I have a duty to carry out here. It would have been easy to quit but someone had to carry on what we’ve started. Ally told me I had to do it. The best tribute they can give Ally is by getting promotion. That’s still the aim.”
The plain fact is that it is inconceivable there will not be further changes to Rangers’ football management before that happens.
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