After a turbulent start to 2012 that saw Glasgow Rangers plunged into administration and ultimately relegated to the Scottish Football League Division 3 as punishment, manager and club legend Ally McCoist can now see the light at the end of the tunnel. Whilst admitting that there is still a lot of work to be done, plans for a quick return to Scotland’s top division have been drawn up and are being executed against. Part of this plan was revealed yesterday by Chief Executive Charles Green as Rangers formally announced that it intends to float its shares on the AIM market in London in an effort to raise up to $25 million. If successful, Green will use the new money to reinvest into the clubs infrastructure as well as making a portion of it available to McCoist for player acquisitions.
Unfortunately the Rangers manager will have to wait until the end of the SFA’s year-long transfer ban imposed on the club for a variety of offences. The ban, which runs from 1st September 2012 until 1st September 2013, was announced in early July 2012 and gave Rangers only 8 weeks build a squad that would last them until after the ban finished. McCoist’s task was made even harder after a majority of the Rangers first team refused to move to the 3rd division, leading to a mass exodus of players. Out of the 22 players that left for new pastures, key losses included the departure of international stars like club captain Steven Davis, goalkeeper Allan McGregor and striker Kyle Lafferty along with rising stars Rhys McCabe, Jamie Ness and John Fleck.
There was some good news however as seasoned professionals Lee Wallace, Neil Alexander and Lee McCulloch agreed to stay at Rangers and help them fight their way out of the lower leagues. Added into this a crop of younger players committed themselves to the cause, with defender Ross Perry, midfielder Kyle Hutton and versatile striker Andrew Little all agreeing new contracts. But McCoist knew he needed to strengthen and bring more players in. He promoted a host of youngsters including Fraser Aird, Barrie McKay, Lewis Macleod and Robbie Crawford to the first team from the youth team but knew that they lacked experience so looked towards the transfer market to find this.
The Rangers boss did manage to make some impressive captures, persuading former Hearts midfielder Ian Black and striker Kevin Kyle to sign on free transfers. They were joined by Northern Ireland internationalist Dean Shiels and Scottish winger David Templeton as well as foreigners Emilson Cribari, Sebastien Faure, Francisco Sandaza and Anestis Argyriou. His vision was firmly fixed towards the future, creating a squad of blending youth and experience that would be able to compete at the highest levels of Scottish football and get Rangers back to the SPL and eventually into Europe.
Forward thinking for the club is the best approach but failure to understand the main task in hand, gaining promotion from the 3rd Division has led to a rocky start for McCoist and his men. Whilst success at home on the quality Ibrox pitch has been easy to come by, Rangers have struggled on the road and in particular at grounds where the surface is anything less than perfect. Draws away from home against Peterhead, Berwick and Annan as well as a defeat at the hands of bottom club Stirling Albion has thrown a spanner in the works and highlights problems within McCoist’s squad. Whilst there is no doubt about the quality of players that he has managed to bring in, doubts are surfacing about their comfort levels at playing on uneven pitches against rock hard seasoned Scottish professionals who have toiled in the lower leagues for a majority of their careers. These players don’t hold back and make up for a lack of natural ability with commitment and dedication to every tackle. It’s a whole new world for the Rangers players, used to playing on groomed pitches and against passing teams in the SPL. Former Rangers players, such as Derek Ferguson, are now questioning whether McCoist should have brought in some players from Divisions 1 and 2 who know what it is like to play in the lower leagues and understand what to do to get the results needed and gain promotion from the 3rd division. Whilst it may not have produced the attractive football the fans crave, it potentially could have made the task at hand of getting out of this league easier for their club.
That said, McCoist is stuck with the squad he has and needs to help his players to adapt to the conditions they are faced against. If they are to achieve their ambition and get back to the SPL, McCoist knows that he needs to get his squad playing as one, regardless of the opposition and surface, and get the points needed to gain promotion. He will lean heavily on his backroom team and on club captain Lee McCulloch for help but the responsibility will lie firmly on McCoist’s shoulders. Time will tell if he can change things at the club and get them firing on all cylinders once more and back on track towards the SPL.