THERE are plenty who say Ally McCoist has failed to get the best out of the players assembled by Rangers on the second-highest wage bill in Scotland, but he cannot be accused of failing to defend them.
The business review released by chief executive Graham Wallace on Friday read like a description of a messy and unremitting haemorrhage, with the conclusion that Rangers had burned their way through £70m in 18 months and had only £3.5m left in the bank. They must now make redundancies. In the scattergun of blame which has been spread around over this, some of the buckshot has been aimed at McCoist and his players.
The manager took questions at length yesterday for the first time since Wallace's review. Had those figures dismayed him? "Dismayed is one word I'd use. 'Staggered' would be another," he said.
The figures are more than simply numbers on a financial report. A small number of staff will have to lose their jobs to help slash the costs as Rangers face a hand-to-mouth future, at best, pending the start of season-ticket renewal money coming in. How much there will be of that will be evident only when it is clear how many regular fans are paying up as usual, and how many are withholding money in a show of opposition to Wallace and the rest of the board of directors.
Those within the football department maintain that the players' budget is £5.6m per year, which on a turnover of £19m amounts to a wages-to-turnover ratio of slightly under 30% (the figures in Wallace's review are £10.4m on "first-team payroll costs" over 18 months to the end of December last year, which amounts to a higher figure, but only slightly).
"We do not want to see anybody lose their jobs - nobody," said McCoist. "It would be terrible. And it would be probably even worse because we've managed to come through a couple of years and - you would have thought - gotten over the worst of it. But that might not be the case seemingly.
"If people at our club lose their jobs because of that ridiculous sum of money that's gone then people should be held accountable. There's no doubt about that. Absolutely no doubt. How can those responsible be held accountable? I don't know."
Who did he mean? "We can all have a guess, of course we can. But I don't know. I don't know contracts, I don't know who did this or that. It's just not my department. But it's definitely not down to a Jon Daly or Dean Shiels, boys who have been given a contract and are doing their best to honour it.
"Looking at our wages-to- turnover ratio, I think it's below 30% which would be the envy of any club in Britain, possibly Europe. I just checked all the English Championship clubs and last year the lowest was Blackpool at 53%. So I will not accept the players getting any blame whatsoever attached to them at all.
"They effectively did what any player would do and that's try and get themselves a deal to suit them and their family. The people who gave them those deals saw fit that it was okay for it to happen. So I don't see why my players should receive any stick in this at all.
"You know what, they might be responsible for [the squandering of nearly £70m] but by that much . . ." he held his thumb and forefinger an inch apart. "We brought in nine players who didn't cost a penny in transfer fees. We brought nine players in on a wage bill which came down from the previous year."
McCoist holds views which do not sit easily together. He is appalled at the prospect of some of his colleagues having to be made redundant and at the gross waste of money in general at Rangers post-liquidation in 2012. Yet he continues to believe fresh investment will be required in his playing squad to be surer of securing promotion from the SPFL Championship this time next year. Nor was he unrepentant, yesterday, at the signing spree last summer which landed Rangers with - according to Wallace's review - players the club should have known it could not afford.
"I told them the boys I wanted to sign - and they went and got them. That was it." If he had known then what he knows now, would he still have signed them? "If I was told I could, yes."
n McCoist was speaking as Rangers yesterday handed over £75,000 to four charities on behalf of the Rangers Charity Foundation. Learning disabilities charity ENABLE Scotland, The Prince & Princess of Wales Hospice, Erskine and SSAFA, the national armed forced charity, all received donations.