HOW soon is now?
When it comes to Rangers these days it is anyone's guess. Ally McCoist expects to find out shortly the extent of his budget for the forthcoming campaign in the SPFL Championship but putting an exact timescale on when that might be is a job probably best left to those who like to read tea leaves and gaze into crystal balls.
As the board of directors and Dave King continue to slug it out through a succession of increasingly barbed statements, McCoist, a glass half-full kinda guy, is waiting patiently for news to arrive about what it is exactly he will have at his disposal. There was some clarity last night with the announcement that the findings from Graham Wallace's 120-day review will be made known on April 25, but the potential ramifications are unknown - hardly ideal when you're a manager attempting to have targets secured as quickly as possible.
Loading article content
The club has made offers to two potential Bosman signings - receiving a conditional 'yes' from one - but until there is an updated diagnosis of Rangers' financial health then everything remains on hold.
That applies also to the five players out of contract at Ibrox - Kyle Hutton, Emilson Cribari, Steve Simonsen, Andy Little and Chris Hegarty - who remain in the dark about their futures, even though McCoist did say that there had been discussions among the staff about those players. "We have made a lot of decisions that we are just waiting to implement," was how the manager put it.
Rangers' battling, if ultimately fruitless, performance against Dundee United in Saturday's William Hill Scottish Cup semi-final would seem to weaken McCoist's argument that he needs to upgrade his squad ahead of the step up to the second tier but a raising of standards for a one-off tie has not been enough to deter him. "It showed myself and the staff that we can compete with a top-flight side," he added. "What I don't know is whether we'd be good enough to do it on a regular basis. I'd still like to strengthen the squad and make it a little bit easier."
McCoist, whose side take on Forfar at Ibrox this evening, said it was a "concern" that possible targets could end up signing elsewhere as Rangers dally but he remained confident the picture would crystallise soon.
"I'm already looking ahead to next season," he added. "There's no doubt, without the other circumstances, you'd be more confident in what you could do in terms of signing players. But those circumstances have dictated that we can only be ready to go when we get the nod. I've been told by Graham that I'll know what the budget is soon.
"I'm obviously bursting to get moving. I'm not writing this one off because we have five games to go, which could see us going through a league campaign unbeaten. That's the target. But I have to do my job.
"I'm looking at pre-season, I'm looking to strengthen areas of the squad and the team. I've spoken to two players and there are others out there. But it's difficult because I can't talk to them and then say: 'I might come back and speak to you again'. I have to be honest with them and we need to get moving. Players will have to look after themselves, because they have livelihoods and families. But until we can offer them anything, we just have to wait and be ready to go."
The prospect of season ticket money being diverted away from the club into a separate fund - as advocated by King - would naturally impinge heavily on McCoist's budget. It is a row that the manager hopes to stay out of.
"It's right to say if season ticket money was withheld, it would affect the budget. But that's something Graham has to answer. I don't dictate the budget, that's his job. The statements from the board and Dave haven't affected me. I can only prepare the players as best I can for the last five games and try to strengthen the squad for next year."
Simonsen's mistake at United's third goal on Saturday led to the goalkeeper being pilloried on social media. His decision to close his Twitter account on the back of the abuse was welcomed by his manager. "With social networking sites at the moment you leave yourself open to all sorts of abuse from individuals perhaps who wouldn't normally give the time of day to," he added.