Off-field remains off limits
Mccoist insists that he has‘enough to worry about’ with form on the pitch
IT seems almost inconsequential to discuss the various on-field challenges facing Rangers in the coming weeks given the turbulence behind the scenes. Ally McCoist and his players, however, feel they have little option but to focus on their own little role in the grand scheme of things.
McCoist, in particular, is sufficiently switched on to be fully aware of the latest maneouvres in the boardroom, including Dave King’s stalled attempts to gain a foothold back inside Ibrox. The manager had already addressed the media ahead of this afternoon’s SPFL Championship match away to Dumbarton by the time news came through of Mike Ashley’s proposed bail-out, Brian Kennedy’s counter-offer, another statement from King and the resignation of finance director Philip Nash. It remains a chaotic scene.
McCoist, though, insists his focus is solely on trying to win football matches. His players are the same. Rangers continue to plough forward in four competitions and cannot allow themselves to be distracted by the background chatter, even if it may eventually come to impact on their own financial wellbeing.
“I will remain as hopeful as I possibly can be [about the long-term future of the club] but I certainly won’t react until there is something to react to,” said McCoist. “We’ve got enough pressing matters to concern us on the football side of things. It’s not been difficult to focus on that as we’ve got a very receptive squad of players. They don’t talk about off-field stuff and in press conferences when they’ve been asked they’ve said they only concentrate on football matters.
“That’s the perfect answer – for me if not for the media! That means they are totally focused on the job in hand.”
Not unlike their great rivals across the city, this has been something of a stop-star t season for Rangers. Momentum at times has been broken up by poor results but McCoist hopes that, perhaps this time, his team have turned the corner for good. Since losing to Hibernian at the end of last month, they have opened October with three straight victories.
“You’re always loath to say [they’re gaining momentum] as you can get a swift kick two minutes after saying it,” he added. “But I’m really pleased and happy with the squad we’ve got and how they’re reacting to the various challenges and competitions.
“We always knew the quality of opposition this year would be far greater and we wouldn’t go through the league like we did last year. Apart from looking at the league table and not being happy with it – even with a game in hand – we have to say we’ve been reasonably happy with the reaction to the defeat by Hibs.”
For the first time in three years, Rangers are facing a challenge to their supremacy. Hearts’ unbeaten start to the season suggests they have what it takes to push for the title but McCoist believes his players will stand up to the pressure.
“We have got good mentality, a good strength of camaraderie and a good spirit,” he added. “It is just carrying it out. There will be fixtures where we will play out of our skin and not win, that is life. And there will be fixtures where we won’t play particularly well and sneak a 1-0.
“But the mentality might be the
Dumbarton have already drawn with Hearts at the Bet Butler Stadium and will relish their status as underdogs for the visit of another of the big guns. Last week’s visit to Tynecastle, though, resulted in a 5-1 defeat so Ian Murray must lift his side’s spirits for this latest test.
In contrast, Ally McCoist can reflect on his team’s 6-1 defeat of Raith Rovers and an easy midweek win over East Fife. Chris Kane is a likely absentee for Dumbarton, as they bid to inflict a first away league loss on Rangers for two years. McCoist is again without Cammy Bell and Marius Zaliukas. Last season No fixture Prediction Away win same in both games. I think we have got it, absolutely. I don’t think there is any doubt that we have got a good mental strength within the squad for the challenges ahead.”
A victory for Rangers today would close the gap on Hearts before their match at Easter Road tomorrow. An Edinburgh derby is usually a mouthwatering occasion but not everyone will be tuning in.
“I probably won’t watch the derby,” said Fraser Aird. “Chelsea are playing Manchester United so I’m looking forward to that. I think that’s a better game to look forward to. I have a few mates that play for Hearts and I always go and check their results.
“But if they are playing on the TV and there is nothing else on, I’d probably go and watch Coronation Street before I do that.”
SWITCHED OFF: Fraser Aird says he won’t be watching the Edinburgh derby claiming he’d rather tune in to Coronation Street.