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Fans to the left of him, directors to the right . . .

IN front of him, a Rangers team looking for their 20th successive victory.

Disgruntled Rangers  fans hung banners outside the training ground
Disgruntled Rangers fans hung banners outside the training ground

Behind him, a growing number of disgruntled fans looking for regime change at boardroom level. Ally McCoist will stand on the touchline at Ibrox this afternoon during the SPFL League 1 game against Ayr United, a man seemingly caught in the middle.

Any manager who sides with the fans against his own directors will not last long in the job, but McCoist has always respected the Rangers support's desire to make known their dissatisfaction with the people running their club, even if he, understandably, has kept his own counsel. This being the last home match ahead of the long-awaited annual meeting on December 19, the protests are expected to be particularly feisty, with supporters armed with red cards to hold up in the direction of the directors box during the game. Outside the training ground yesterday, one group of fans pinned up banners criticising the board, before both sides of this increasingly fractious build-up to the agm traded insults via released statements. It is all getting rather messy.

McCoist, himself a shareholder with votes to cast, did his best to tiptoe his way through it all but the suggestion fans could "disengage" with the club should change not be imminent prompted a frown to traverse his forehead. A need to protest at off-field matters is one thing, not backing the team as they look to make their way back up through the divisions quite another.

"I will never criticise anybody's right to object, protest or say what they believe in," he said. "That is one of the things that this country has always prided itself on so long may they do that. Obviously when it starts affecting the support of the team it would disappoint me because all I ask - and all the supporters have given us - is support for the team.

"I would think if you asked any of them, that would always, always be there. They might stage one or two protests to make points. I'm not going to criticise that; they're free to protest in any way, shape or form they like as long as it's legal. But all I would ask them to continue to do is support the team and they have been fantastic up until now."

McCoist would likely have passed the banner-wielding fans as he left training yesterday and he revealed what he would say to them had they pressed him for comment. "I would just ask them to continue to support the team. That is all I can ask them. I would say that the club and the team need the supporters as much or even more than they ever have."

It was not the only issue to trouble the manager. The decision by broadcasters to switch Rangers' game in Forfar next month to a Monday night has irked him too. "I don't think it's fair on our supporters at all. I don't think for a minute that Dick Campbell [the Forfar manager] would want the game on a Monday night either. Sometimes Old Firm fans in particular, but in this case Rangers supporters, are being treated unfairly. Arbroath on a Monday night, Forfar on a Monday night, Stenhousemuir on a Saturday night . . . 5.30pm on a Saturday is not on. We have thousands and thousands of supporters travelling.

"I can totally understand the criticism I've received for calling fixtures off due to international call-ups. But I can look myself in the mirror, look the supporters in the eye, because the reason I've done that is for the benefit of the team. But I do understand the criticism that comes with changing fixtures and the travelling? In this case I'm 100% with the supporters. I do sometimes think our support in particular gets taken for granted."

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