Sometimes I read a story which is nothing less than a comedic masterpiece. A story so ridiculous that you check the date on the newspaper to see if it is 1st April. A story which takes reality and twists it through 180 degrees, creating an alternative universe of the wonderful humour of Monty Python, or Chris Morris’ Brass Eye. A story which makes you realise that the person quoted has a career on the biggest stages performing comedy.
Today I read such a story…
This morning’s Scotland on Sunday has the story which explains why Rangers league performances have tailed off recently, culminating in yesterday’s goalless draw with Stirling Albion.
Can you guess what that explanation is?
Is it that the players have lost motivation playing against those of a far lower quality, especially when the title is almost sown up?
Is it that the players are jaded as a result of all of their efforts this season possibly being for naught, as they may only be in the third tier of Scottish football next season, if there is reconstruction, rather than … in the third tier if there is not?
Maybe the cold weather affected them?
Perhaps they were down-hearted by the Scotland defeat on Friday, meaning that they see their chances of playing in the World Cup in Brazil fading fast?
Or, and don’t laugh, could it be that the richest football club in Scotland, with what is the second or third highest wage bill in Scottish football (depending on whose figures you believe), and which can easily afford monthly losses of £1 million as a result of its new and robust financial structure, does not have enough resources? No. That would be ridiculous.
Anyway – what did Mr McCoist have to say?
“I told you at the start of the season that we needed players.
“I’m not going to change my tune on that. We had seven or eight players out. I’ll probably go down in history as the only Rangers manager who has struggled to fill a bench. That’s where the club is at the moment.
“We spent Friday morning looking at our youth players – not because they deserved an opportunity, but because we needed to fill a jersey. I’m not sure too many Rangers managers have had that problem, but that’s where we are. We just have to get over that line. We have to win the title and get a team that will win the next title.”
“There was the option of putting Lee McCulloch on attack but he has made the defence a lot more solid in recent weeks. If I can take a positive, we’ve had a couple of clean sheets in the last two weeks, but in terms of making chances and taking them we are miles short.”
Mr McCoist’s team is playing in SFL3. The SFL has rules about how many players over 21 that can be registered. Rangers have, as far as I am aware, a full complement. The fact that they had a number of players unavailable is something that happens, and of course one of those players is suspended by the club.
The official Rangers website states that the Rangers starting 11 had seven players aged 22 or younger.
Guess what the make-up of the Stirling Albion team was?
Five players aged over 23.
One 23 year old.
Five players under 23.
Their bench included a 21 year old, an 18 year old and a 17 year old.
Stirling Albion is not, as far as I am aware, a football club where its first team squad are full time players. Its youngsters will definitely not be full time.
Rangers operate a state of the art training ground, with high quality coaching and training staff, and all of its players train full time.
I suspect that the annual wage of Rangers goalkeeper Neil Alexander or of Lee Wallace, or Lee McCulloch would pay the entire annual wage bill for Stirling Albion, with change left over.
Rangers have a team, even where restricted, with international players. Stirling Albion does not.
Rangers have a top UEFA rated stadium, so we are told, with a crowd of loyal fans behind them, who have refused to “walk away” despite the events of the last year. That was not enough to drive the team forward.
Mr McCoist helpfully tells his young players that he was considering them to play, not because they were good enough, but to fill the bench! An interesting form of negative motivation perhaps? Clearly he cannot mean that. That would be an admission of failure, wouldn’t it?
As far as “filling a bench” goes, it was never an issue until the 1960s, as substitutes were not allowed until then. For much of the time since the bench was only two or three players strong. So he is correct to say that, with a five man bench to fill, few previous managers have had the problem. This is also, of course, the first time Rangers have played with a restriction on the numbers of players they can register (although they can have as many under 22s as they want).
It was disgraceful of the SFL to impose this restriction on Rangers when every other SFL team could register unlimited numbers … hang on … correct that … all 29 other SFL teams do work under the same restriction.
When asked about a banner complaining about players tweeting, not training, Mr McCoist said:-
“I am a fan of training. I would reassure the fans there is no problem in terms of the amount of training and the level of training. That hasn’t changed in 20 years. The important thing is getting players ready for a game. As for tweeting, it baffles me.”
I am sure that Mr McCoist is having a joke in everything he says above.
If he is serious then, with the greatest of respect to him, one would wonder why he is still in charge.
The most damning of his comments is, I suspect, the reference to the amount and level of training not having changed in 20 years.
There have been huge advances in how athletes train for sports over that time. Under Jock Wallace the training regime included running up and down the stadium steps, and running up and down sand dunes at Gullane.
Now training programmes are specifically tailored to individual players – to their body types – to their state of fitness – to the areas where training is needed. Diets are rigorously assessed to ensure the maximum and most efficient intake of food to allow the most effective use of energy during a match.
If Rangers, despite the state of the art training ground and despite the array of coaches, trainers and consultants, have not changed their training routines in 20 years … maybe that is where the problems lie.
All in all, and on balance, I cannot believe that Mr McCoist means any of what he is quoted above as saying. If he did, then he might as well ask Mr Green for his P45 right now.
Clearly too it is not intended to be taken seriously. If it was, then the press might point out some of the inconsistencies in the statement, wouldn’t it?
(And at far less length and far more snappily than I have done).
Of course Mr McCoist’s situation poses various problems for his Board. He is a great figure in Rangers history, being their all-time leading scorer, as the Share Prospectus mentioned four or five times.
He was a rallying point for his team and its supporters in the days of administration and of the takeover, by announcing that he would not “walk away”.
He is a shareholder, owning around 1 million shares.
He has led his team almost to the SFL3 title, but I am sure that, when the season kicked off, nobody thought that it would not have been sealed by now. (To be fair I suspect most observers thought Celtic would have won the SPL by now too).
So, on reflection, Mr McCoist must be joking, and I thank him for giving me a smile on a Sunday morning.
Posted by Paul McConville