Rangers are planning a day of celebration, but Ally McCoist is still fretful.
A host of former players will attend today's game against Stirling Albion, as the Ibrox side belatedly celebrate 140 years of history. The intention is for supporters to revel in the occasion, but McCoist has more prosaic concerns. It would be disappointing, after all, if the current team did not perform well in the midst of the revelry.
The manager can at least take comfort from a recent run of consistent form. Rangers have won six consecutive league games since losing 1-0 away to today's visitors last October. That result was chastening, and seemed to confirm the team's difficulties in coming to terms with how to play in the third division. Away games in particular had been bothersome, but there is less uncertainty now, and facing Stirling again is an opportunity for McCoist's team to atone for their display at Forthbank.
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"I don't like using the word revenge, I would never use it, but we were poor against Stirling Albion," McCoist said. "We want to put that right. They're the only club in the league to have inflicted a defeat on us. We certainly don't want it happening twice. I'm really looking forward to the whole occasion [today].
"But one thing we can't do is take our eye off the ball, because the last thing we want is a damp squib. We have to do our business. It's great that some real legends of the past are coming back to celebrate 140 years, but that said we've got to win the game. We know our responsibilities, all of the players and the management."
There was always a sense of perspective in McCoist's reaction to the Stirling defeat, since he spent the summer fighting to secure Rangers' very future. He refused to describe the loss as embarrassing, since he felt that would be disrespectful to Stirling. Instead, McCoist made sure the players understood the performances had become unacceptable.
Outwardly, he changed from wearing a suit on matchdays to sporting a tracksuit, a move which represented an abrupt change in tradition at Ibrox. Rangers fans tend to cherish the club's customs, but there has been no grumbling as the team have begun to find a measure of composure and self-assurance. "I was always confident it would change and we would pick up away points, that our performances would get better," McCoist said. "And they have been getting better, although you're always loath to tempt fate.
"The one thing I knew was that this season would be more helter-skelter than any other, going into games with a squad of younger boys who didn't know each other six months ago. They are still learning and getting to know each other. We've had injuries, but the shape of the team has remained the same and we are feeling more comfortable. We still have an incredibly long way to go and it will be a bumpy road, but we are in a far better place, without getting too carried away."
The young players can still be overwhelmed, though, and the appearance of so many lauded figures from the club's past is potentially intimidating. However, the likes of Barrie McKay, Lewis MacLeod, Ross Perry and Fraser Aird are beginning to make their own reputations and McCoist believes they can rise to the occasion. He wants his players to show "that the club is in good hands and they can follow in the footsteps of those who went before them".
That includes John Greig, who is returning to Ibrox for the first time since he and John McClelland resigned as non-executive directors more than a year ago. The two men were uncomfortable with being marginalised under Craig Whyte, and Greig vowed not to return until the club was under new ownership. Accepting an invite to today's celebration is an endorsement of the current regime, led by Charles Green, the chief executive. "It means everything," McCoist said of Greig's return. "John is synonymous with the football club, he's part of the fabric and the history. When you talk about our football club, you talk about John in the same breath. Greigy will want to come back and say thank you to the fans and meet and greet the players who played with and under him.
"He would want to be part of this 140 years because as an individual he's been probably as responsible for a lot of our club's history as anybody. The fact he's coming back – and it's only my opinion – is because John would probably say he can see we are in a better place than we were six or eight months ago. John's a very intelligent man, so when he stepped away, I knew something wasn't right."