05 February 2013

Not Good Enough, Ally.

by Andy McKellar | CRO Deputy Editor

The dust has settled. The post-mortem has been conducted. But quite worryingly I cannot confess that my mood or concerns have improved since our humiliation at the hands of Dundee United on Saturday. That match, coupled with the embarrassment of being humbled at home by Inverness, has confirmed just how far this current Rangers team are from being competitive at any meaningful level at the top of Scottish football.

Serious questions are now being asked of our management team and of the coaching and training that takes place at Auchenhowie. Neil McCann, a pundit in the Sky studio on the day, even went as far as to say that the Rangers players simply did not look fit. That in itself is a major concern for the thousands of supporters who pay good money to watch their team of highly remunerated players perform.

Dundee United were fast, direct and attacked with pace and purpose. In short, they were everything that we were not. We were sluggish, lethargic and the burning desire that we witnessed against Motherwell earlier this season seemed to have been replaced with apathy and an acceptance that we weren’t expected to win the match. The alarm bells should be ringing.

Not that I would ever champion a rag like the Daily Record but Keith Jackson was correct in his recent article which questioned our players, our manager and the recent dire performances that have deflated so many supporters. We can choose to bury our head in the sand and claim that promotion is all that matters. We can point to a large lead at the top of the Third Division. But closing our eyes and pretending everything is okay is going to do more damage than good in the long-term.

Jackson suggested that under the guidance of Ally McCoist we are now truly a Third Division team. He described that as the ultimate insult and queried just why our manager has allowed standards to slide so dramatically under his watch. Some fans may well want to make excuses but we have the second largest wage budget in the country, we have the best training facilities and we play in front of the biggest crowds. Should our sole ambition be to win the Third Division? I think not.  

Chris Graham’s recent article over at The Rangers Standard highlighted what a unique opportunity our club has been presented with in returning to humble beginnings and building our way back to the top. It is a chance to develop a football philosophy, to rebrand and reinvent our great club and to lay the foundations for years ahead. It looks very much like we are going to let it pass us by.

It pains me to say this but I simply don’t feel that the current set-up we have is maximising our potential from the basis of our youth development to our scouting system and of course to our first-team management. There have often been accusations of ‘jobs for the boys’ rather than actively seeking to employ competent individuals who would benefit the club. Perhaps that is a bit harsh but certainly I believe we should be doing better.

Now, let’s get on to the real burning issue here – Ally McCoist. He was a terrific player for Rangers, a great servant and stood firm when we were at our lowest ebb. He will always be a Rangers legend, he will always been fondly remembered for what he has done for our club. That however does not make him a good manager and, like it or not, he must be judged on his ability in the dugout.

Last season seems to have been largely written off due to the tribulations that enveloped our great institution shortly after the turn of the year. Before then however we failed to qualify for either European competition, were knocked out of the domestic cups and squandered a considerable lead in the race for the championship. No matter what way you choose to spin it, that doesn’t make for pleasant reading.

The supporters though were largely willing to give him the benefit of the doubt and allow him to guide our club back to the top of our national game. Our eventual residence in Division Three was probably the perfect opportunity for Ally to adapt to the role as manager of Rangers and to build a team in an environment where the pressure is less demanding than in the SPL. Sadly however the report card thus far contains too many blemishes.

While we do indeed sit at the summit of the Third Division with a healthy lead, we are of course out of every domestic cup competition. Two of those exits were heavy defeats which in all honesty could have been worse and the other was a home tie against Queen of the South. I don’t really find that to be satisfactory at all and I’d like to think that Ally certainly won’t.

The problem though doesn’t just lie in the results. There is no obvious philosophy being enforced. There is no particular style of football. In fact, I’ve been mightily impressed with some of the stuff our fourth-tier opponents have served up and at times they’ve played better football than ourselves.

I envisaged our club blazing our way through the divisions with emphatic style and goals galore. I had foolishly allowed myself to hope for some champagne football and for the birth of a new, slick, attacking style of play. Instead we have been served with sub-standard performances against opponents who train part-time and who earn a pittance of what even a few members of our squad take in salary each month.  

As sad as it is to say it, I just don’t believe that Ally McCoist is the right man to take Rangers Football Club forward. There will be many who strongly disagree with that view and there will be many who believe it to be blasphemous to call into question the ability of the man who won two European Golden Boots during his time as a player. The number of staunch supporters though seems to be dwindling almost week by week as we witness more mediocre football and all too often the results to match.

Charles Green previously claimed that what he knows about football you could write on a mouse’s handkerchief but there is no doubt he knows about business. The worry for our Chief Executive now is that he intends to raise ticket prices next season. How many fans will want to pay an extra £100 to watch the rubbish that we’ve been served up recently? I’m not convinced that we’ll see the same level of season-ticket sales as we did in the summer. That alone should be enough to worry the Yorkshireman.

The pressure is beginning to mount on Super Ally. There is no doubt that there are huge question marks hanging over his head at the moment and this time there is no option but to provide the answers. McCoist turned things around as a player but he must start bucking up his ideas as a manager if he wants to be the man who returns our club to our former glory.

I certainly have my doubts. But I sincerely hope that he proves me wrong.