THERE was a new hope about Murray Park this week.
Something imperceptibly different was in the air, as thoughts raced unavoidably ahead to the business end of the William Hill Scottish Cup. Suddenly, with Celtic out, other Premiership sides scattered to the wind, and a home tie against Albion Rovers in the last eight to look forward to, there is a growing realisation that this tournament could have transformative power for the club, both in terms of reputation and badly-needed revenue to get through to the summer.
Ally McCoist said the wave of optimism was something he had not felt during his entire spell as manager. Even when a 4-2 win in his first Old Firm match in charge briefly gave Rangers comfort at the top of the SPL, there was a sense of foreboding about what lay ahead.
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"I would dampen expectations, but I certainly would not want to dampen hope because I can certainly feel an excitement since the draw was made," said McCoist.
"I can feel the excitement between the Rangers support, the workforce in here, between the players. There is a real excitement which is fantastic. I haven't had that feeling and I haven't felt that feeling from other people since I took over as manager."
Another man surfing that sensation is Nicky Law, even though the midfielder knows all about the dangers which could present themselves. Albion Rovers, after all, did for his old team-mates at Motherwell earlier in the campaign. "I spoke to Stuart Carswell [the Motherwell midfielder] the other day and he mentioned that game," said Law. "I think Motherwell were poor on the day but they felt they could still have won it. Albion Rovers will fancy their chances, but we're hoping they do think that way and come and have a go against us."
Law's Motherwell side appeared to crumble in a League Cup match at Ibrox last season, and with Rangers likely to play the next two rounds of this year's Scottish Cup in Govan, he feels the supporters could play an equally important part this time around. "That was the first time I'd been part of a Motherwell team which went to Ibrox fancying our chances of winning," said Law.
"I remember the crowd that night were fantastic, they really got behind Rangers and people have said it was like a European atmosphere which gave Rangers a real lift. Were we intimidated by the atmosphere? I don't think we were, I think we just put it down to a really poor performance. But we will need them [the fans]. There's two home ties in the way of us and a final and they will come out in their numbers."
McCoist revealed last week that Law had been the subject of a derisory bid from a Championship club during the transfer window - the fee was £50,000 and the club was Blackpool - but the player said he was happy to stay.
"I spoke to the manager about it briefly," Law said. "And he just mentioned that it was an offer the club didn't think was good enough. I'm loving it here, helping the club back to the top. I spoke to the manager and he told me he had me locked in the same cupboard as Lee Wallace!"
With chief executive Graham Wallace midway through an 120-day audit, player recruitment will be vital to the club going forward and McCoist said that he had put his suggestions for the club's future scouting operations.
"Craig Mulholland and myself have put a paper in front of Graham to have a look at," he said. "It is a document regarding the future of the scouting at the club, but it is at the early stages."