WHAT goes on the line for Ally McCoist in the next week is the one drawn in the sand for him by erstwhile Rangers chief executive Charles Green.
Back in August an almighty spat was created between the pair when Green claimed, in comments reported on the August day the Ibrox club subsequently crashed out of the League Cup away to Forfar, that it was not enough for the Rangers manager simply to win the League One title that the club subsequently breezed.
Now this afternoon’s Ramsdens Cup final against Raith Rovers allows McCoist to make good on the requirement laid out for him by Green, who stepped down from his consultancy role at the club shortly after the incident that moved McCoist to call the Yorkshireman an “embarrassment”. On Saturday, meanwhile, Rangers have a Scottish Cup semi-final at Ibrox against Dundee United that gives them the opportunity to move within one game of becoming the first third tier club to win the oldest competition in the country.
Two cups and a league would represent the returns Green considered were entitled to be expected of a team with the country’s second-largest wage bill. Such an assessment is of no interest to McCoist, as he prepares for the biggest week for the club in the near two-years since this present incarnation was created post-liquidation. Asked about possible lingering irritation, he said: “The comment or the man?” Before adding: “I don’t really take anything Charles says now with anything other than a pinch of salt. I thought that comment at that particular time was particularly unhelpful. I think he probably had his own reasons for saying it. I just think the club is in a better place than it has been for a couple of years.”
Winning two cups would not give McCoist the satisfaction of “sticking one to Green”. “No, because I never think about Charles Green,” the Rangers manager said. Asked to do so, in as much as to consider why the businessmen might have made the trophy ultimatum, McCoist chose his words carefully. “I think he was… what’s the best way to describe it… I’m not sure he was the biggest fan of the staff here. But you’d have to ask him that. But he’s over in France now riding his horses, or whatever he is doing.
“[What he thought of the coaching staff] didn’t make it any more difficult than it was at the time, though, because it was already extremely difficult. That particular game [the Forfar League Cup defeat] we knew was going to be one of our toughest of the season because we couldn’t play any [of our summer signings]. The previous game we could play two, and we played Jon Daly and Nicky Law, but for that cup tie, we just went right back to last season’s team and we always knew it was going to be difficult.”
McCoist smiled ruefully at the prospect that Green would take credit if Rangers are successful on the two fronts they will battle across the next seven days. “He might … [in fact] I don’t think there’s any might about it, I think he will,” he said. “He won’t be receiving any from me, but I think he will claim credit. I think the credit will go to the boys.”
Mischievously, the Rangers manager would have no problem if Green fronted up for the club’s next two games. “I hope he does,” McCoist said. “I’m sure there will be one or two looking forward to seeing him, but I’m not sure [he will].”
Even if McCoist admits his team are favourites for today’s decider at Easter Road in a competition he accepted was “not one of the major competitions”, he understands the pitfalls. Rovers’ last final, the 1994 League Cup penalty shoot-out win over Celtic, is a cautionary tale.
“It shows you they can win the cup,” he said. “That was a Celtic team that had Paul McStay and Charlie Nicholas. That was a good Celtic team who were competing right at the top of the Scottish game. So it would indicate, particularly in cup games, anything could happen.
“I’ve seen Raith Rovers a couple of times and they are better in my opinion than their league position suggests. They’ve got good experienced players – Joe Cardle, Calum Elliot, Lee Robinson was here and the likes of Jason Thomson. They are probably a better team in a one-off cup competition games. They’ve reached the final of the Ramsdens Cup and they beat Hibs in the Scottish Cup.”
McCoist won’t give serious thought to the United semi-final until this afternoon’s hostilities have subsided. In some respects, victory over Jackie McNamara’s side would demand a reappraisal of the torturous team-building that has allowed the Ibrox side to lord it over part-time teams.
Rangers are seeking to avoid a fourth Scottish Cup exit in five years at the hands of the Tannadice team. When the pair met in the competition 13 months ago, United mauled their then fourth-tier opponents with a one-sided 3-0 win
“I think actually what happened last year was bizarre,” he said. “We practised two training sessions, diagonal balls into big Jon [Daly, then with United], and 15 seconds into the game we lost a goal. Jeeesus. Unbelievable. The preparation will be as thorough as it was for that game but I’m obviously happier where we are, happier with our side and our squad.
“We are stronger than last year, but I think they are stronger as well.
“On their day can be the most attractive team in the country to watch and on their day would beat any team in the country. But they are beatable.”
If they are by Rangers, that would be a stick with which McCoist could beat Green.