Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Rangers: McCoist The Manager

Now we know.

We suspected, surmised, accepted. But now we've had the official unveiling.

Ally McCoist will lead Rangers into the 2011/12 SPL season.

Probably. Unless someone comes along to buy the club and decides that this is no time for a novice.

"No time for a novice." A line from an ultimately futile political speech.

Yesterday's announcement, the cynic in me screams, owed a lot to politics. This was an essay in deflection.

The good news story to deflect from a club in financial dire straits, a team on the back foot and a incumbent who has, once again, mistimed his departure.

It's a hell of a job for McCoist. This, clearly, was the role he wanted from the moment his career went from ex-player and pundit to ex-player and coach.

One can only imagine what Bill Struth would have made of an ex-chat show host becoming Rangers manager. If Struth could have comprehended what a chat show was.

But Ally's Rangers credentials are good. A novice, but his is a time served apprenticeship at the feet of Walter Smith, a man who can tell a story or three about managing Rangers.

If he dreamt - as surely he must have - about managing his club, McCoist could surely never have imagined that it would be in such straitened times.

The premature confirmation suggests that a takeover is no closer. It might still happen but existing debt and that tax question remain, making the odds on a benevolent knight arriving ever longer.

The team needs an overhaul, key players from Smith's second era are already gone or look to be heading for the exit door. Age has caught up with David Weir, financial necessity will probably spell the end for Madjid Bougherra and others.

Becoming Rangers manager at any time is a massive challenge. In the present circumstances it seems McCoist is about to tackle the north face of the Govan Eiger.

A glance across the city shows another novice transformed from playing hero to manager. Neil Lennon had even less experience than McCoist when he got the Celtic job.

But Lennon has benefited from an extremely effective scouting system and a board that has a firm direction in mind.

Rangers seem to have neither. Many people might have claims on the club, all might have the best interests of it functioning as a going concern at heart.

But vested interests and differing opinions lead to a boardroom tension - if not an internecine war - that robs Rangers of momentum off the pitch.

Even more crucially it seems that McCoist will not enjoy Lennon's number one luxury of weakened Old Firm opposition, a dose of good fortune that has given the Celtic manager time to find his feet.

There will be some in the Rangers support who welcome the appointment, there will be others who bemoan McCoist's coronation.

He is the most available, most economical choice. That's how Rangers have to operate at the moment.

It's impossible to tell how good or bad he will be.

But when Smith takes his leave in May McCoist will have a fairly lengthy to-do-list.

He needs to rebuild his side, he needs to do that on a budget. He needs to try and ensure that the rebuilding process is quick enough to allow him to keep pace with a Celtic side who might - just might - be heading into the new season with the confidence of a newly won treble behind them.

And all that has to be done while coping with the distraction of a club in a state of confusion off the park - a malaise that the courts and HMRC might make even worse.

It's quite a task. Achieve it all and never will the 'Super Ally' tag have been so deserved.

Achieve just some of it and the myriad powers that be at Rangers might still think they've found the right man.

It could be that Rangers are preparing - silently, without fanfare - for a period where trophies are less important than re-establishing financial safety.

If so, then a hungry new manager - we can hardly call McCoist young - with a passion for the club might be exactly the man they are looking for.

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