Rangers boss Ally McCoist faces his window of opportunity, and the result is crucial
It is not overstating things to state that McCoist’s immediate future and that of the Ibrox club are dependent on the business Rangers do this January.
McCoist has painted himself into a corner with statements such as: “I would like to strengthen forward areas – I feel we need to get one or two in, maybe more if we could.”
Yet he is acutely aware that owner Craig Whyte is also between a rock and a hard place: “I have spoken to Craig and he knows what I would like in an ideal world, but very seldom does that happen.”
Overshadowing everything at Ibrox is the forthcoming tax tribunal decision. One scenario is that Rangers lose the case and if, at that point, Celtic are still ahead in the SPL title race, Whyte might decide that there is no point in throwing more good money after bad, and put the club into administration this season.
Rangers would be docked ten points, and the league title would almost certainly go to Parkhead. Top players would have to be sold but, with the club restructured and McCoist signing fresh new talent, the damage would not be long-lasting.
The alternative scenario is that Rangers win the tax case, Whyte settles the outstanding smaller tax debts, and McCoist and his cohorts sign a couple of inspirational players who guide Rangers to their fourth-successive championship.
In either scenario, signing players who will “animate” – McCoist’s word – the club and its supporters will be crucial over the next 31 days.
As McCoist said: “There is no doubt it is an important window for us. Only time will tell how important. I think we all need a boost. It would be good to sign people.
“There will be activity in both directions. I have been told if players leave I will get some of the money. I would hope that would allow me to buy a player that would animate the support because they need a boost as well.
“If we don’t then we just have to get on with it. I would not be throwing my toys out of the pram. We have good players here and we would get on with it.“
Given the importance of new signings, it is instructive to look at how Rangers conduct transfers and perhaps contrast their methods with their Old Firm rivals.
McCoist’s biggest relationship is with owner Craig Whyte, and they clearly set the tone. Head scout Neil Murray, his assistant John “Bomber” Brown, head of football administration Andrew Dickson and director of football Gordon Smith – a former agent, it should be remembered – all have input.
The modus operandi at Celtic is well established. Lennon and his coaches and scouts identify a player, with the manager always making the final decision on targets, and then chief executive Peter Lawwell, after consulting with the board – i.e. main shareholder Dermot Desmond rather than new chairman Ian Bankier – does the negotiations with agents, whether the deal goes through or not.
At Rangers there appears to be a different way of doing things. “Negotiations are a bit of a team effort,” said McCoist. “There is nothing set in stone. Craig has done some and there are one or two we have done ourselves. The early negotiations with Lee Wallace, for example, were done by myself and Andrew.
“Gordon is here to help me. [He] will come up to me with a list of players. He is very much a factor in helping me and the team.”
The signings by the McCoist team so far have been mixed. Wallace and Dorin Goian have undoubtedly been rewarding, but the same surely cannot be said of Juan Manuel Ortiz, Alejandro Bedoya and Matt McKay – or been-and-gone triallists Sunil Chhetri and Jele Lalpekhlua, for that matter.
In this most important month of McCoist’s fledgling managerial career, it is not just his acumen which will be tested. The whole “team” signing set-up at Ibrox will come under scrutiny. Rangers fans can only hope it is the right approach.
n Rangers v Motherwell, tomorrow, 3pm