Tom English: McCoist reflecting Green’s bluster

Ally McCoist pictured at the AGM. Picture: PA
Ally McCoist pictured at the AGM. Picture: PA
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‘McCoist is still buying into Green’s version of events, which is amazing’

FROM the podium of the Rangers agm last Thursday, Ally McCoist sang the praises of the players who stayed behind after the club went into administration, saluting the likes of Lee McCulloch and Lee Wallace while aiming a pot-shot at those who left – or who “headed for the hills” as he put it. That cutting remark might have played well with the fans, many of whom will never forgive some of those who left in the summer of 2012, but it was such a one-eyed view of things.

You’d have thought that the Rangers manager would know that by slamming the “opportunists” he is basically aping a line first peddled by Charles Green, whose word counts for nothing at Rangers anymore.

“Opportunists” was Green’s word for the players who refused to transfer their contracts to newco Rangers in 2012. McCoist didn’t name these guys last week, but then he didn’t need to. Steven Naismith was one of them. The Everton player was in the papers that very day talking about how it pained him to move on from Ibrox while explaining how he felt he had no other option. It’s fair to say that the Rangers fans weren’t exactly receptive or sympathetic to their former player.

Steven Whittaker was another. And Allan McGregor. There were others but the ones Green took umbrage at in the summer of 2012 were those he could have sold for a million or two but ended up getting nothing for when they exercised their rights under employment legislation and left, rights that Green sought to deny them while claiming he had the law on his side. He was wrong about that. He was wrong about a lot of things.

McCoist was wrong, too. It was understandable to praise McCulloch for staying, but at the age of 34 was there really anywhere else for him to go, anywhere that would have paid him a salary somewhere north of £12,000 a week? He’s been a terrific player for Rangers but let’s not pretend that he was awash with alternative opportunities when all of this was kicking off.

In Wallace’s case, did he have another choice? Maybe there were clubs in for him and the news never got out. Maybe he rejected offers to go to England because he truly wanted to work his way back up the divisions with Rangers rather than test himself in the Premiership or the Championship. Maybe.

The Rangers manager can praise who he likes but carping about those who “headed for the hills” misses the point entirely. Rangers could not afford to keep them, that’s a fact. They couldn’t afford the wages. Green was always wanting to get rid of them because they were going to cost him too much money. Them staying was never a remote possibility. Green did not want them to stay. What he wanted was money. A couple of million for Naismith. A couple more million for McGregor. Maybe a million and a half on top for Whittaker and whatever else he could get in a fire-sale of the best players. And where was all the money going to go? To the beleaguered creditors? Into the coffers of the club for re-investing? A part of McCoist’s supposed 
£10 million transfer war chest down the line, perhaps? Or maybe he would have found a different home for the millions.

At one point during that saga, Green spoke of his anger at potentially seeing these players securing “handsome signing-on fees from other clubs, while Rangers get nothing”. He painted them as money-grabbers. This was Charles Green at his pot-calling-kettle-black, brass-necked best. Green was desperate to sell the players and when it became apparent that Rangers were, under law, entitled to no compensation the narrative suddenly changed and the Naismiths and the Whittakers and the McGregors were branded greedy and disloyal as they “headed for the hills”.

McCoist is still buying into the Green version of events, which is amazing given that the Yorkshireman is such a discredited figure at Rangers and one who made McCoist’s life at Ibrox extremely difficult. Apart from paying him more than £800,000 a year, that is.

The players who exited have been portrayed as the avaricious and unfaithful and yet they have always come across as straightforward characters who, unquestionably, performed well for the club. Green said at the time he would seek damages for breach of contract and would look for compensation from any club he suspected of offering inducements to these players to breach their contract, but there were no contracts to breach. It was more bluster from Green, but the bluster still survives to some degree and McCoist reflected it last Thursday at the agm with his veiled criticism of those who left.

It should not be forgotten that along with the rest of the Rangers squad these players had already taken massive pay cuts from just after the point of administration in February 2012 to the end of the season in May, some of them operating on 25 per cent of their normal wage. They did their bit by their club. They made a sacrifice and they shouldn’t be slated for not wanting to continue making a sacrifice in the prime of their footballing lives.

Naismith’s version of events has it that he never met or spoke with Green, that he never received any information about his vision of Rangers’ future or who was behind his group. He didn’t know what division Rangers would be in and didn’t know what capacity Green’s group had to restore order at the club. He didn’t know anything except that some clubs in England were expressing to his agent that he had a family to think about. And that the TUPE employment regulations were on his side.

In late June 2012, Naismith said a few prescient things. “How can I push forward into a new company that I don’t know anything about or any person involved in it? That was part of my thought process and led to my decision. I have concerns about who is in charge of the new club, definitely. You need to know what business you’re going to be part of. If you don’t, it’s inevitable there will be problems.”

Naismith’s fears were well-founded, as surely everybody at Ibrox would agree. McCoist chief among them, you would have to think. So maybe it’s time he revisited this whole episode and started looking at it through the eyes of his former players rather than through the prism of his former boss. McCoist has said before that he understood why the supporters would never want to see the Naismiths and the Whittakers and the McGregors back at Ibrox, even as fans. That’s unfair on the players and this mistaken attitude is one more remnant of the Green era that needs to be looked at again – and purged.