THERE were more names linked with Rangers last summer than signed the US declaration of independence.
Ally McCoist was still settling in as manager after succeeding Walter Smith, but already knew which players he wanted to improve his squad. Time after time, however, he would be left frustrated and disappointed. Targets would arrive for talks, maybe impress on trial, but then leave soon after, often griping that the contract on offer was far from acceptable. McCoist wanted Craig Conway, David Goodwillie, Carlos Cuellar, Roland Juhasz, Tomer Hemed and a raft of others, but Craig Whyte, himself not long in the door, couldn't oblige him. McCoist would simply score the name from his list and move on to the next target.
He kept his frustrations to himself at the time but yesterday there was an acknowledgement that, even that early in Whyte's tenure, McCoist had an inkling that all was not well. Rangers' subsequent fall into administration and then to the point of liquidation has shown he was right to harbour such fears, with Whyte's financial limitations subsequently and brutally exposed.
A year on, and the manager again finds himself in the position of having to acquaint himself with a new owner. If he was initially wary of Charles Green's intentions, then it was largely as a result of who preceded him. "If Princess Di or Mother Theresa had taken over the club I'd have been sceptical about them as well," was McCoist's way of expressing his caution. Like many in the Rangers support, however, he has gradually warmed to the outspoken Green, most notably the Yorkshireman's willingness to do what Whyte couldn't – by sanctioning his transfer requests.
"There is far more dialogue with Charles regarding players and it's probably fair to say that his experience within football clubs has probably given him a better idea of what needs to be done," he said. "The targets we went for last season we didn't get. The positive thing [this year] is that we've gone to get players and we've got them. That's a big thing, as you don't want to mess about in the transfer market. We've still got work to do, but so far it's been going alright.
"I had an inclination [last summer] when we were going for people and not getting them that maybe things weren't all well. There were quite a few – Juhasz, Hemed that went to Real Mallorca, Neil Danns and others – and while you appreciate sometimes you go for players and don't get them, you'd still expect to get at least one or two. Thankfully we're getting them now."
If Whyte came across as an introverted, awkward character, then Green has been the polar opposite. His transformation from a figure initially viewed warily by many in the Rangers support to one whose name is roared to the rafters has been one of the greatest PR successes of all time. It has been a campaign based predominantly on taking potshots at Celtic, the Scottish Football Association and the Scottish Premier League among others, but McCoist counts himself among the converts.
"Our working relationship is getting healthier all the time," he said. "We didn't really know each other before and I'm of the opinion that the relationship between the manager and the chief executive is far and away the most important one at any football club. But we're chatting every other day and in constant contact about players and other things. With Charles, what you see is what you get. He has never hidden the fact that he wants the club to do well so that he can make money. I don't have a problem with that. If the club is doing well, then people deserve to make money."
Green's willingness to be Rangers' mouthpiece has worked well for McCoist. When the club was in administration – with no chairman, chief executive or a board of directors in place – it regularly fell upon the manager to act as the spokesperson. Now he can return to worrying about more prosaic matters.
"I feel much happier and less stressed," he admitted. "It's just back playing football. Training, picking teams, working on set plays and all that kind of stuff that managers and coaches do. That's the biggest relief of the lot."
The next test will arrive this evening when McCoist takes his team to Falkirk for a Ramsdens Cup tie. "We didn't handle it well in the cup there last year, so hopefully we do a lot better this time."