ALLY McCoist last night urged Rangers supporters to reassess their view of Sir David Murray and said the verdict of the "big tax case" had vindicated the former Ibrox owner and chairman.
Murray remains a figure who divides the Rangers support, with some fans still grateful to him for the nine- in-a-row era but others critical of the over-spending and use of Employee Benefit Trusts which exposed the club to a major tax investigation and resulted in the disastrous takeover by Craig Whyte.
The use of EBTs is still the subject of an SPL investigation into alleged undisclosed payments; the league revealed yesterday that the hearing will begin on January 29 and sit for at least four days. But the First Tier Tax Tribunal's decision in Rangers' favour was welcomed by McCoist.
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"I have always been of the opinion – and I don't care what anybody says – that any mistakes David Murray made were made in trying to do the best for the club. He will tell you himself that he has made mistakes. This has been hanging over him for a long, time now – eight years – and it's a massive part of his life. I don't doubt, although he has never told me, he has had sleepless night after sleepless night. But right now he is entitled to feel very content."
Murray is contemplating legal action over aspects of the tax investigation and McCoist said he supported any attempts by the former owner and others to secure financial compensation for oldco Rangers, albeit any money that raised would be distributed to creditors. "I think they are well within their rights and I imagine Sir David will be in heavy discussion with his lawyers and with his legal team. Certainly, having known Sir David as I have done, I would hazard a guess that he would want justice, as did the rest of Scottish football for the last four or five years, or however long it might be.
"In my opinion, David Murray has kept his silence and kept his dignity until the result came through. He always believed the verdict would go his way and he has been proven right. So I do have a degree of sympathy for the stick and the questions that were put to him without the evidence being 100% known. He'll be absolutely ecstatic with the result and so he should be. But I've also said that the big tax case has had a bearing and an effect on what has happened to the club.
"There's no doubt that the reason that we went into administration was non-payment of PAYE and Income Tax for nine months [under Whyte's ownership]. But the reason people didn't come in and buy the club was possibly because of this massive tax case hanging over us. Some of the madness, and it was madness, spoken about £120m tax bills and things like that actually looks a bit silly now."
McCoist urged the SPL to drop its inquiry into Rangers' EBT use but no sooner had he said so – speaking before the postponement of tomorrow's game at Elgin City – than the SPL announced the January date on which Lord Nimmo Smith's commission will being to sit in judgement. "I would be extremely hopeful common sense would now prevail and they would drop it. I would hope so, but I wouldn't put my last pound on it. I just want this whole chapter shut."
One aspect of Rangers' collapse had been particularly upsetting for McCoist: "I was a bit disappointed, saddened, shocked and surprised at the ill-feeling shown towards the club. I'm a big boy, I can handle it, but I was genuinely surprised at the reaction by a lot of people who perhaps pre-judged the situation. I'm talking about everybody: Scottish football fans, clubs, I just felt there were people jumping in too early about the whole situation. I can understand rivalry between teams but I was surprised at the vitriol over the club. To use the word cheat is possibly as strong a word in sport or in life that you can use against somebody, especially when the case hadn't been heard.
"I'm certainly not going to look back and say 'that was a disgrace, he was a disgrace, we want apologies'. I'm delighted at the result and the way it has gone and we just want an opportunity to move on and move forward. What's happened in the last year or so has sadly set the club back years and years and years."