Same set­ting, dif­fer­ent times for Mccoist, cri­sis man­ager

Writes Hugh Mac­don­ald

The Herald - Herald Sport - - Clydesdale Bank Premier League -

NSPI­RA­TION comes in many guises and Ally Mccoist does not have to ven­ture far for any in the midst of a tur­bu­lent sea­son for Rangers. “I’ve got a photo of him on my desk and I was look­ing at it this morn­ing,’’ said the Rangers man­ager yes­ter­day, on the 17th an­niver­sary of the death of Davie Cooper, his friend and team-mate. “There’s not a day goes by when I don’t think of Coops. It’s for peo­ple like Davie, Jock Wal­lace, Mr [Wil­lie] Wad­dell, Mr [Wil­lie] Thorn­ton and guys like that we have to get through this low pe­riod in the club’s his­tory.’’

A trib­ute, too, was paid to Cooper by Neil Len­non, the Celtic man­ager, who said at his news con­fer­ence: ‘‘I never came across the guy and he passed away too early. But I thought he was a bril­liant player and a class act. Peo­ple like Jimmy John­stone, Jim Bax­ter, Hen­rik Lars­son and Brian Lau­drup do tran­scend the bar­ri­ers and earn the re­spect of both sets of sup­port­ers. I’d put Davie in that cat­e­gory.”

This pleas­ing unity will evap­o­rate on con­tact to­mor­row. The man­agers will di­verge dra­mat­i­cally when they step out on to Ibrox. The task for Len­non is to mar­shal a side that may just be one vic­tory away from a Cly­des­dale Bank Premier League ti­tle. Mccoist, in con­trast, is the leader of a club that faces a myr­iad of prob­lems off the field and an awk­ward one on it. Rangers are one de­feat away from an his­toric fourth con­sec­u­tive loss at Ibrox.

The Rangers man­ager is not one who needs to be mo­ti­vated be­fore an Old Firm match, but he might just have to be en­cour­aged as he faces a Celtic team that has not lost in 21 con­sec­u­tive league matches.

His op­ti­mism may be height­ened if he casts his mind back to the bright af­ter­noon of Septem­ber 18. Celtic took a half-time lead at Ibrox and were sub­se­quently bat­tered to a re­sound­ing 4-2 de­feat. Rangers were on top of the league, CVAS were merely a glint in an ad­min­is­tra­tors’ eye and most peo­ple in Scot­land thought EBTS were a type of sweetie.

“Light years away,’’ said Mccoist, re­flect­ing on a time when he man­aged a foot­ball club rather than an un­fold­ing fi­nan­cial cri­sis. ‘‘It’s bizarre. In many ways it’s strange to think it was the same sea­son. Yes, it was def­i­nitely a dif­fer­ent time. That par­tic­u­lar game I couldn’t be­lieve we went in at half time 2-1 down. And I re­mem­ber ask­ing the boys for a re­ac­tion and, ar­guably, the sec­ond half per­for­mance might be as well as we have played all year.”

It may be the best Mccoist has felt, cer­tainly in foot­ball terms, all sea­son. The dis­ap­point­ments of Euro­pean ex­its had been dis­pelled by a vig­or­ous, vi­brant per­for­mance.

Six months on he still can smile, but it has been a de­mand­ing pe­riod. ‘‘I do not re­ally know how to de­scribe it, but it has cer­tainly been an ex­pe­ri­ence. Cer­tainly, some­where down the line, we will have a bot­tle of beer and look back on it and say: ‘What a six months that was’.

‘‘I have prob­a­bly had more ex­pe­ri­ence in the last six months than any man­ager in world foot­ball. I just hope that I can take from it, learn from it. It goes with­out say­ing that you will make mis­takes and, of course, I have. But in terms of the whole ex­pe­ri­ence, if there is an­other man­ager or coach who has gone through some­thing sim­i­lar then I would love to sit down and have a chat with them.’’

Mccoist, who has spo­ken with prospec­tive own­ers Paul Mur­ray and Brian Kennedy this week, now faces the task of con­sol­ing a sup­port that has been dis­mayed by the fi­nan­cial prob­lems and de­jected by the per­for­mance of the team.

Rangers will win no tro­phies this sea­son, but to­mor­row’s match car­ries its nor­mal tar­iff of crit­i­cal im­por­tance. Mccoist will pick the vast ma­jor­ity of the side that beat Celtic in Septem­ber. Steven Whit­taker and Sasa Pa­pac will re­turn to the start­ing line-up, while Kyle Laf­ferty, who per­formed so strongly in the 4-2 vic­tory, may have to be con­tent with a place on the bench.

The prob­lem for Mccoist is that he has no ad­e­quate re­place­ments for two of the three play­ers he can not pick from the team in Septem­ber. The ab­sence of Gregg Wylde, whose of­fer of vol­un­tary re­dun­dancy was ac­cepted by the club’s ad­min­is­tra­tors, can be tol­er­ated, not least as Mccoist hinted that Sone Aluko will re­turn to the team af­ter be­ing a sub­sti­tute at Tan­nadice last week. How­ever, Steven Nai­smith and Ni­kica Jelavic have been stripped from the side through in­jury and a trans­fer and they added both a tech­ni­cal ex­cel­lence and a sharp­ness to Rangers. Mccoist has there­fore to com­pen­sate for the loss of his two best play­ers at the start of the sea­son and hope for a resur­gence in form from his third, Steven Davis.

The Rangers man­ager has al­ways been pos­i­tive and it would be no sur­prise to see him play with a 4-4-2 set-up against Celtic, as he did in the fix­ture at Park­head on De­cem­ber 28. Lee Mccul­loch and Andy Lit­tle will be the two strik­ers with Laf­ferty, an­other re­turn­ing from in­jury, com­ing off the bench to play up front at some point. Aluko, Davis, Mau­rice Edu and Lee Wal­lace would form the mid­field, with Whit­taker and Pa­pac flank­ing the cen­tral de­fence of Dorin Goian and Car­los Bo­cane­gra.

The in­clu­sion of Whit­taker and Pa­pac could be seen as a gam­ble but Mccoist, frankly, has few op­tions and he knows ex­pe­ri­ence plays a cru­cial part in Old Firm matches. “There are cer­tain in­di­vid­u­als who can hack it play­ing for the Old Firm but tak­ing it to an­other level, it’s only cer­tain in­di­vid­u­als who can star in these games,” he said.

‘‘I’ve loved the Old Firm matches as a player, in many ways I lived for them. It’s like a drug. I don’t know if you en­joy them, but it’s some­thing you look for­ward to be­cause you need them. I en­joyed them far bet­ter as a player be­cause I was out on the pitch and I could have an in­flu­ence on the re­sult.’’

He is con­demned to be an ob­server to­mor­row. The past six months may have been a blur. These 90 min­utes will make it look as fran­tic as a still life.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.