Ally McCoist and Rangers: Time for some home truths

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I love Ally. No, really; I love him. Funny, magnetic, still good looking and, of course, one of Rangers best ever players and record goal-scorer. Even so, as a player I think he was actually under-rated and it’s a shame we didn’t really see the best of him at international level or perhaps playing abroad. Nevertheless, a legend he is and a legend he’ll always be.

Unfortunately, as a manager his ongoing performance is less positive. Sure, Ally will point to the unprecedented challenges of the last few years when we examine his managerial record and only the blinkered wouldn’t recognise the onerous nature of some of these. It can’t be easy to switch from off-field duties to on-field ones as regularly as McCoist has had to do so. Doesn’t matter if it’s dealing with a succession of dodgy directors or unimpressive football administrators; combining financial back-office tasks with playing tactics is a tricky job by anyone’s standards. Indeed, there’s a lot about McCoist’s work during the Murray/Whyte/Green farce to admire and, inconsistent performances or not, we’ve won both SPFL2 and 3 comfortably enough and should be well-placed for future promotion. However, I’m sure the manager himself would be the first to admit, neither have we been overly inspiring. And neither is that promotion a certainty.

With that in mind, the substantial reduction in season ticket purchases for our most important campaign yet is worthy of perusal. Of course it may be argued the bulk of the decrease may be attributed to boardroom issues. Many thousands of Rangers fans remain correctly concerned about the activities of our directors and worried about the anonymous beneficial ownership therein. That’s fine. However, there are other reasons and I’d wager several thousand more bears are frustrated with the efforts of the manager and his coaching staff. Again, I’m pretty sure McCoist would (rightly) point to an unbeaten SPFL2 season as well as countless goals and solid wins in the preceding year. He’ll also highlight he’s had no money to buy players while being hamstrung by a lack of scouting and what may appear to be premature sanctions placed upon him and the club by the football authorities. These are valid reasons and I’ll certainly concede them.

Conversely though, there are valid opposing arguments as well. In the season we went into administration McCoist and his team blew a huge lead over Celtic and our early-season European exits from that year remain a huge source of embarrassment. Moreover, our efforts in the domestic cups since our admittance to the lower leagues have hardly been successful. Culminating in a truly desperate defeat by Raith Rovers in the Challenge Cup at Easter Road earlier this year, all too often our fans have come away from games against (supposedly inferior) opposition black-affronted. It’s also fair to say, a few years into the McCoist era; he’s been unable to put a demonstrable stamp on a style of play or long-term strategy for players and fans to buy into. Like Walter Smith before him, McCoist seems to be more of a percentages manager; unglamorous and with a preference for efficiency, directness and defence instead of pace, movement and offence. Obviously, not many people can argue that Smith was a successful (relatively-speaking) Rangers manager but, like many aspects of the modern Rangers, McCoist seems to be simply a faded facsimile of better times.

Now, no-one likes to be negative about their club – least of all this writer or Gersnet. At all times, we ask our contributors and forum members to be constructive in their criticisms. If not, criticism quickly becomes moaning which often leads to division. However, despite that, it’s becoming more and more difficult to justify not gratuitously complaining about a manager (and club) which seems to be floundering in the dark when it comes to its future. For example, while pre-season matches – especially ones on daft artificial grid-iron pitches – are a dangerous place to try and analyse new players and fresh tactics, neither should we ignore the disjointed displays and questionable formations that seem to be all too common under McCoist (and his management team). Thankfully I didn’t stay up to watch last night’s friendly in North America but those hardy bears that did seem angry at what is a dreadful result. Even worse, more and more fans just seem resigned to such results which is perhaps indicative of a fan-base tired of absolutely no leadership from their club. That’s a genuine worry when we consider the previous charisma McCoist had as a player – a quality sorely missing from teams under his management. I’d certainly like to hear his reasoning for the XI the started the game last night.

So, let’s be constructive – what is going wrong? Well, I’ve already provided some reasons; a lack of resources being the most conclusive. Whether it is money or scouting, quite simply it’s very difficult to put in place a footballing master-plan without the proper fiscal and logistical back-up. That’s why, despite the grand words of the, so-far, completely pointless 120 Day plan we’re still buying ageing players with no sell on value. That’s why we’re still adding superfluous defenders who have failed elsewhere and also apparently lack faith in many of the youngsters we expensively produce. Quite simply there is no infrastructure in place at the club to deliver anything other than unimaginative short-term thinking. Yes, the superficial buzzwords and business-speak in the 120 Day Review may sound appealing but the problems above are not new and there’s certainly no visible evidence of the review being put into action. Will a Director of Football or Chief Operating Officer really bring more positive ideas and proposals to the table? What innovations can they really put in place without significant funding to do so? How long do we give such appointments? Perhaps Christian Nerlinger realised this futility when he turned down one of the jobs above – if indeed he really was in serious negotiation.

All these institutional failures tell us why Ally McCoist is in charge. Yes, he’s not good enough; yes, he’s paid far too much; and, ironically, yes he’ll probably still win us promotion to the SPFL Premiership. However, Rangers is a club badly run and without any imagination. It’s run on a short-term basis with only the next 6-12 months (at best) in mind. There’s no investment, no leadership, no engagement and absolutely no evidence of improvement on the horizon. All we have is supporter loyalty and even that, like in the 1980s, seems to be fading with more and more people awakening to being patronised on a week-to-week, month-to-month, year-to-year basis. Not just by those currently in charge of the club but by those that who fancy stepping in. Is there anyone out there genuinely willing to take control of what is becoming an increasingly desperate situation?

Perhaps I’m guilty of being reactionary. Perhaps I’m impatient. Perhaps I’m being unreasonable or unrealistic. I don’t deny that may be the case but at the last count around 20,000 of my kin have the same doubts and frustrations as I do. Yet, after another embarrassing defeat I wake up to the usual excuses from the manager while he says Sir David Murray – one of, if not the, primary architect of the current situation – deserves an apology. If you didn’t laugh, you’d cry.

In conclusion, yes, I still love Ally McCoist. But with every passing day it’s becoming less and less of a logical relationship. Does he even love me back? Or is he just another costly part of a club that takes my support for granted and fails to explain why our future seems so shrouded in uncertainty. I, for one, am sick to the back teeth of all such people deflecting from their own weaknesses. And, until we address our failures and responsibilities head on, we’ll never move forward. The top of Scottish football has never looked so far away. In fact, the oft-talked about journey back is just beginning…