Off-field re­mains off lim­its

Mccoist in­sists that he has‘enough to worry about’ with form on the pitch

The Herald - Herald Sport - - SPFL CHAMPIONSHIP - GRAEME MACPHER­SON

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

Team news

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.”

Pic­ture: SNS

SWITCHED OFF: Fraser Aird says he won’t be watch­ing the Ed­in­burgh derby claim­ing he’d rather tune in to Corona­tion Street.

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