25 June 2013

Ally: you can't have everything in the aisle

Pic from rangers.co.uk

by Iain Nicol | Guest Contributor

32 players.

That’s how many we currently have in our squad, even after removing players with expiring contracts, Goian and Bocanegra. That’s how many we had when our manager, Ally McCoist, told us again today that we need more “bodies”. 

Not players – “bodies”. (I suppose that’s about all you can describe Craig Gordon and Andy Webster as, but that’s probably another discussion for another article.) 

Last season, it was widely reported our annual wage bill was somewhere in the region of £7.5m. Now, comparing that to Rangers sides of the past, that seems relatively low. Compare it to our opponents, every other team out with Celtic in Scotland and our current level of income, however, and you see the true picture: - financial lunacy. With the upheaval and uncertainty of last summer, a bit of leeway can be given to the club, but only on the presumption that we’ll get things right next time around.

Let’s take a closer look at some of the better SPL sides’ wage bills in comparison with ours (all figures taken from 2012 PwC Annual Review of SPL).

· Motherwell - £3.5m

· Inverness - £2m

· Dundee Utd - £3.8m

· Rangers - £7.5m

We were totally outclassed by Inverness and Dundee United – losing both games 3-0. We managed to beat Motherwell 2-0 in what I can confidently state was our best performance of the season.

Ally’s answer to the serious lack of quality last season was, quite rightly, a need for new players (only after fully exhausting the ‘no pre-season’ excuse, of course). Where his logic began to fall down though, was the constant stream of new contracts offered to players he continually told us weren’t good enough. This isn’t a new phenomenon with McCoist either – in fact it draws alarming similarities to his first season in charge.

In his first months in charge of Rangers, McCoist sanctioned new contracts for Gregg Wylde & Salim Kerkar and also sanctioned the signing of Matt McKay. We started the season with Sasa Papac at left-midfield. We also went on to sign Sone Aluko and Mervan Celik – although that never dulled the chances Lee Wallace received at left-midfield as the season progressed.

At right-back, we handed Steven Whittaker a new contract, had Kirk Broadfoot, signed Juanma Ortiz and had Jordan McMillan in reserve. That never stopped Kyle Bartley and Ross Perry being played there though – nor did it stop McCoist’s public pursuit of Enar Jaager (another right-back). This eventually led to the departure of Jordan McMillan, who seemed justified in his decision.

Let’s remind ourselves of the first statement on this article then; 32 players. Does it look like Ally has learned any lessons from his past dealings? Our current squad numbers, coupled with his continually-stated desire to bring in even more, would suggest he hasn’t. It all leads to one conclusion: Ally McCoist should not be in charge of transfer policy for The Rangers Football Club.

This argument is presented from only one perspective too – financial. I’m sure if you assessed the historical quality of his signings, you would reach a similar conclusion. So, what are the alternatives?

Well, the most obvious answer would be to bring in a Director of Football and a highly-skilled and highly-qualified Head Scout. This is something I’m a strong supporter of anyway, and this is just one of the obvious reasons for hiring them. If we’re looking at the salary Ally McCoist receives (£700k), it’s not too difficult to assume you could essentially fill all three positions (Manager, Head Scout, Director of Football) for that level of money.

Another alternative would involve the implementation of a squad structure, tiered wage system and strict wage budget for the squad. This would, most likely, require a firm hand from executive board members like the CEO and Financial Director – but, is asking them to do their job too much to ask? I certainly hope not. As things stand, this is the most readily achievable solution. I don’t think it’s unrealistic to expect something resembling order at Rangers.

In such a system, the structure and finance can be quite easily determined – even for people like me. Basing our spending on being able to compete with the best-of-the-rest, a logical spend for the first team playing squad alone would be around £4m. This allows a tiered structure, as follows:

· 12 experienced first team players; six players at £7k per week, six players at £3k per week

· 12 young players, predominately from Auchenhowie, at £1.5k per week

That, in my opinion, strikes the perfect balance between prudency and having enough quality to entertain fans. Even Rangers should be able to win Division Two playing attractive football with those levels of investment. That level of investment should also allow us to be competitive in cup competitions too.

Now, having had this debate on forums, the number one argument for the current level of spending at Rangers seems to be “we want to win the cups” – although I share that dream, for me, that’s an unrealistic target as things stand. My counterpoint is normally just one question; would you sacrifice another title to Celtic just so we can win a cup in the next couple of years? Because, let’s face it, that’s really the question here. That’s what it all boils down to. 

We’re supposed to be rebuilding the Club and preparing for our return to the top-tier. We want the transition to be seamless. We want immediate success upon our return. All fair demands – all achievable with sound planning. Is it then, realistic for Rangers to spend vast sums of money now, trying to win a League Cup or Scottish Cup, when it will almost certainly hamper us somewhere down the line? As far as I’m aware, our resources are finite. 32-man squads with more players to come doesn’t sound like we’re giving much consideration to our eventual return, if you ask me.

Don’t get me wrong though, I’m not suggesting for one minute that Rangers should ever stop trying to win every competition we enter, far from it. I’m merely suggesting that we prioritise. Is our long-term success more important to us than our short-term success? No. Of course it isn’t. Spending half of what we are now still makes us the biggest spenders in the country outwith Celtic. Spending twice what we are now is still less than half of what Celtic are spending and, for that reason, it’s unrealistic to think that adding guys like Ricky Foster for several thousand pounds per week will do much to improve our chances in a cup competition.

Barring a takeover by another advocate of the recently-failed benefactor model, we’ll be out of money by Christmas. That isn’t me making a doomsday prediction, that’s me demonstrating how far beyond our means we’re currently living. There’s nobody at the club with the know how or balls to fix the problem. We have an interim-CEO determined to make it permanent – why would he want to upset fan-favourite Ally McCoist? We have a Financial Director, who’s currently struggling to distance himself from the Green-regime – why would he want to upset fan-favourite Ally McCoist?

I feel sorry for Ally at times, because he’s not had the same chance to manage the club that previous managers have had. His public mentions of the £10m promised by Green were bordering on embarrassing. He was evidently upset that Green was trying to mislead him and the fans, and was clearly still upset by the lack of signings made last summer. Ultimately, Rangers aren’t here to satisfy Ally McCoist – Rangers are here for us.

We need somebody to sit Ally McCoist down and explain our situation to him. He doesn’t need experienced cover in every position. He doesn’t need to spend every penny the club has. And he certainly doesn’t need to hand new contracts to every player already at the club either.

We can only watch and hope that these issues are resolved over the course of the summer.