Another summer of uncertainty awaits Ally McCoist.
It will be less traumatic than the weeks spent trying to keep his club and his team together earlier this year, but there will still be difficulties for Rangers to overcome. The registration embargo ends on September 1, so the manager will have to persuade free agents to commit to the club before then, as well as having to sell the virtues of signing up for the project of trying to return Rangers to the top-flight. "It ain't ideal, that's for sure," McCoist said.
Rangers intend to sign players on pre-contracts next month, which they believe they can do under the terms of the registration embargo since the individuals will be out of contract in the summer and so free agents. They would then be registered to play on September 1, having missed the first month of the season. Under Scottish Football League rules, clubs can play trialists, but McCoist has not yet fully explored the options.
Resourcefulness has been a vital requirement. When pre-season training began, with the club still in the throes of administration, only six players turned up on the first day. Stability was eventually restored, and leading players were even recruited since Ian Black, Dean Shiels and Fran Sandaza all signed on free transfers having spent last season in the Clydesdale Bank Premier League.
They were lured by the security of well-paid and lengthy deals, which McCoist hopes will cover the three years that would be the minimum it takes Rangers to climb back up to the SPL under the current league set-up. Discussions are ongoing regarding reconstruction, though, so McCoist cannot even be certain which division his side will be in. There is, at least, the encouragement that some were previously keen to make the move.
"We're looking at every possibility and eventuality," McCoist said. "That has to be done meticulously – I'm sure there are one or two people who will tell us if we make [a mistake]. As long as it's all legal, I will handle the side of selling the club. The fact our average home attendance is in the region of 48,000 would indicate it shouldn't be too difficult to sell home games to people.
"They'd have to accept there is a rebuilding issue with the club, as part of a longer-term project. I'd still hope Rangers would be enough of a pull to attract quality players. Ian Black and Dean Shiels were two of the best players in the SPL and it gave me a boost that boys like that were still willing to come here. Hopefully, that's an indication that we can continue to get that type of player."
The recruitment policy will be shaped by the embargo, but McCoist will also have to manage the introduction of new players into a squad that includes a number of youngsters. The likes of Lewis MacLeod, Chris Hegarty, Barrie McKay, Fraser Aird and Robbie Crawford have benefited from regular exposure to first-team football, while Ross Perry, Andy Little and Kyle Hutton would consider themselves established figures.
The latter has not played as often as he would have liked, following the arrival of Black and the emergence of MacLeod, but his performance at Montrose suggested he is maturing as a midfielder. There was a time earlier in the season when Hutton was not sure that he had made the right decision to remain at Ibrox, but dealing with that situation has been essentially to his development.
"I was concerned at the start of the season," Hutton said. "It was a tough time for me. But I had a lot of people around me who kept saying the right things to me [and] I had some good conversations with the gaffer. He gave me good feedback and assured me I was always in my plans. It was a big contrast between playing Manchester United in the Champions League [two years ago] and not playing in the third division.
"You do think of [leaving] when you are not even making squads. Everything goes through your mind. But I realised I was right to stay. I just needed to apply myself in the right way. I'm getting in the team now and getting good feedback from the gaffer, Kenny [McDowall] and Ian [Durrant]."
There are still adjustments to make. Hutton played in the first division during a loan spell at Partick Thistle, but that did not wholly prepare him for the physical nature of the games in the bottom tier. As a powerful midfielder himself, he does not complain about some of tackling he has faced, but it has taken time to come to terms with what opponents can get away with.
"I got a good wee elbow at the weekend," Hutton said. "Some of the challenges I have seen are crazy. Blacky ended up getting a big scar down his chest. At corner kicks you are getting nudges and kicks and punches. It is harder. In the SPL games there are cameras everywhere. Now we have dropped down the leagues that isn't the case and players get away with more. They take full advantage of that. You just need to get used to that."