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Dunfermline 1 Rangers 1: 'I've never looked forward to a break as much', says McCoist

RANGERS did not record a loss, a statement you can't bank on hearing too often these days.

Ally McCoist applauds the travelling support after Saturday's draw. Picture: SNS
Ally McCoist applauds the travelling support after Saturday's draw. Picture: SNS

In an age where share issues, stock market announcements, financial securities, CVAs and AGMs sweep the small matter of sporting prosperity to the side like an irrelevant final reminder, the cost of achieving such extravagant footballing success at a club where financial prudence is the priority is still being counted by Ally McCoist. The Rangers manager's account of the last 10 months need not be lengthy in order to accentuate how difficult a task it has been over another arduous season, the husky tone of his voice told of a man exhausted at a job, in his eyes at least, well done.

For all its successes, and there have been many along the way, this season has been one of the most trying of McCoist's long career in the game. Despite the SPFL League 1 title being sewn up almost eight weeks ago and the unbeaten league campaign which was delivered with a stuttering draw with Dunfermline Athletic on Saturday, the desire of many around Ibrox to stroll to the title with a swagger has at times left those on the pitch flat-footed and overawed by the prospect.

The constant circus surrounding the club's money matters has also proved to be a major distraction for the manager, with yet another fan protest being displayed in the form of red cards at East End Park on the day that details of the 100% bonus to Graham Wallace, the Rangers chief executive, became clear. It is little wonder McCoist is longing for a summer of contentment, albeit a short one.

"I don't think I've ever looked forward to a break following a campaign as much before in my life. I really mean it," he said. "This campaign has had highs and lows, but it has been mentally tough. On everybody, not just me but on the staff and players. This is the first time I've ever really felt as if I could do with a break. So I'll get the fishing rod out and get away with the kids.

"I didn't expect it. I didn't think it would be as mentally tough, which is perhaps a bit of a bizarre thing to say when you think we won the league eight weeks ago. But a lot of the off the field stuff has a mental affect on you and even though you can't get involved in it, you say you won't get involved in it and both parties don't want you to get involved in it, it's mentally tiring."

When historians of the game in years to come look back on Rangers' League 1 campaign, little if any attention will be paid to the match which confirmed their undefeated league run given that the destiny of both teams - the home side had secured a play-off place already - had been decided. But for a matter of record, it is worth noting how ineffectual McCoist's players were against a radically-changed Dunfermline team. Dean Shiels' goal was one of the few moments where Rangers actually registered a shot on target, while a lack of width nullified any threat in the middle from Jon Daly, a man who has banged in 25 goals over the course of the season.

The intoxicating lust for success around Ibrox was summed up by the Irishman, who admitted the players were "obviously disappointed" to have dropped just six points over the course of the campaign. It is a measure of the challenge McCoist faces that he must maintain ridiculously high levels of success on a comparatively low budget to what his predecessors had at their disposal.

The potentially easy ride Rangers have enjoyed over the last two years will most definitely hit a speed bump next season as their arrival in the Championship will surely bring about a sterner test of their mettle and capabilities. Yet Daly is comfortable with the challenges ahead.

"It'll be a very competitive league," he said. "There's a chance of another Premiership team coming down. We're going to have to be on our game every week. We've dropped six points this season and we're obviously disappointed with that so that's football, you want more from every game from every season.

"I've played a lot of games and I'm looking forward to a break. It's physically and mentally tough, probably more so mentally, but that's something the new boys have got used to."

For Dunfermline, the prospect of joining Rangers in the Championship next season via the play-offs is not a proposition which is daunting to them given what has gone before. The Fife club were relegated last season after a play-off final defeat by Alloa Athletic, and Stephen Husband, the Fife side's midfielder, believes that Jim Jefferies' squad are better for the experience.

"We won the semi-final but lost the final. We know what to expect," said the former Blackpool player, who will lead Dunfermline into the first leg of a play-off semi-final with Stranraer on Wednesday. "If we can compete with a team like Rangers, I'm more than confident we can handle it in the Championship."

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