Daly admits to facing dilemma should he score against old club
BEARING in mind he is brave enough to go public in describing Stephen Thompson, the Dundee United chairman, as “a good fella”, there must be a danger of the Rangers striker Jon Daly attracting the same degree of flak from his own supporters as those who used to put their hands up so readily for him at Tannadice.
Thompson has been the central figure in a predictably acrimonious build-up to a William Hill Scottish Cup semi-final that is almost guaranteed to go off like a box of fireworks at Ibrox today and whether he goes ahead with talk of avoiding the directors’ box or not, he is unlikely to able to avoid some degree of character appraisal from the Rangers fans.
Daly is not quite in the same position of being advised to look out the Elvis shades, curly wig and false moustache as he makes his way to the game. The chances are a fair proportion of the United support will remember the six years of fine service he gave them before moving to Glasgow but the Irishman is mindful of the toxic rivalry that has developed between these two clubs in recent years and was unsure if he would celebrate should he score.
With the former Rangers director Dave King adding further fuel to the fire last night by demanding the current board are starved out of office, Ibrox is likely to be a hotbed of big and varied emotions this afternoon but Daly is prepared for anything that might be thrown his way by the estimated 13,000-strong away support.
Indeed, with recent form suggesting Ally McCoist’s injury-ravaged side will have to tap into something floating around in the ether to have any chance of standing up to what is an attractive and exciting SPFL Premiership team, Daly has it in his mind to use any negative energy directed towards him as a positive and motivating force.
“It is part and parcel of it,” conceded the 31-year-old. “I am ready for anything that comes my way. I am sure there will be one or two supporters with something to say but that’s football and it is part of the banter that fans bring to the game. I just hope I can feed off whatever abuse I get, respond to it in the right way and put Rangers through to the Scottish Cup final.”
Even within his circle of family and friends, though, this controversial visit of United to Ibrox for a semi-final is a subject Daly has been unable to escape.
The question of whether he will offer up a public expression of his joy should he find the net against his former club, or keep his head bowed and make a solemn walk back towards the halfway line, is one that keeps popping up.
“I have had a few people ask me that and I don’t know,” he said. “Obviously, I have a lot of respect for Dundee United and a lot of respect for Craig Levein and Peter Houston, the people who took me to the club, as well as the chairman.
“He probably doesn’t get on particularly well with Rangers, but I have got time for him. He is a good fella and I have quite a good relationship with him.
“I wouldn’t want to try to rub anyone up the wrong way, but, obviously, I am going out to try to get myself and my team-mates through to a Scottish Cup final. Who is to say
I don’t know if I would celebrate or not. Who is to say emotions wouldn’t take over if I bagged a 92nd-minute winner?
that the emotions won’t take over if I score a 92nd-minute winner? It is a difficult one. I honestly don’t know if I will or I won’t [celebrate].
“I won’t be going out to wind people because I still have a lot of respect for the club and the boys still there, but I’ll be going out to do everything I can to help the team-mates I have now, the manager and everyone at the club, get a day for ourselves at a Scottish Cup final.”
Rangers have had to add their goalkeeper Cammy Bell, knocked out in training on Tuesday, to a list of absentees that also includes David Templeton, Andy Little and Lewis Macleod, with Lee Wallace, according to McCoist, requiring a “miracle” to recover from a hip problem.
Daly is still confident his team can win, though, and insists the club’s straitened circumstances should not be used as an excuse to give up on dreaming about reaching finals and lifting trophies.
“I don’t think expectation levels should come down,” he said. “It is a fantastic club with great history and it is up to the players to go out there and make sure that expectation level is matched.
“We lost the Ramsdens Cup final last weekend but we can’t dwell on that with a game like this coming up.
“I would imagine the atmosphere will be absolutely red-hot and I hope everyone behaves themselves.”
McCoist has also called on supporters of both sides to be conscious, no matter how inflamed passions may become, of the need to make sure this fixture, arguably the most attractive and intriguing game of the domestic season, does not descend into something distasteful.
“I don’t have a problem with them [United],” the Rangers manager said. “I’ve known Jackie McNamara for 100 years or so and I know Simon Donnelly really well too. I can’t comment on boardroom level, but I would hope there would be no problem and expect no problem.”
Problems seem inevitable for the McCoist and his players on the park, though. Rangers have a huge task ahead of them. A defeat, particularly a resounding one, would almost certainly bring more of the opprobrium that cascaded from the Easter Road stands in the wake of that Ramsdens Cup final loss to Raith
That might be the cue f or Thompson to put the disguise back on and make for the nearest exit.
BRING IT ON: Jon Daly, the former Dundee United striker, says he will feed off any abuse that comes his way.