At the moment he has two lists: one containing the names of players he might sign if a new owner pours money into the club, another if he has to scrape around for new faces without adequate resources.
McCoist confirmed yesterday that he will have to cut his budget “quite severely” if Craig Whyte or a consortium fronted by Dave King and Paul Murray cannot complete a takeover. Another week will end with the club still in Sir David Murray’s hands because no business was done before the PLUS Stock Exchange closed yesterday afternoon ahead of the long weekend.
“I’ve attempted to say to the fans we’re in trouble here, big trouble,” said McCoist, who has four more games as Walter Smith’s assistant before becoming his successor. “If things stay the same I will have to cut quite severely and that’s horrendous.” Had he been told how much will have to come off the wage bill if it comes to that? “I have been told that, yes. I’d rather not say what it is . . .”
McCoist will inherit a squad which is so thin Smith has often felt unable to fill a full substitutes’ bench. He also faces the departure of David Weir, Sasa Papac, El-Hadji Diouf, Vladimir Weiss, Richard Foster and David Healy, whose Rangers deals will all end, while Madjid Bougherra also seems likely to leave.
Trying to rebuild a competitive squad against that backdrop would be difficult enough. Worse still, if no takeover goes through and the Lloyds Banking Group insists that another £1m-£2m comes off the football budget in McCoist’s first season.
“If these cuts have to be made then you just have to look at the squad we’ll be left with and work out how difficult it will be,” he said. “We will always, always, always strive to be competitive. That’s just the nature of our club. But it will be very difficult. I hate to say that because it might sound as if I’m making excuses before I’m in the job.
“It is difficult having a Plan A and a Plan B. I have one list [of potential signings] here and another there . . . and one list is cheaper than the other. I can’t move on either list right now and might miss out on players on both lists. That’s the way it is. It’s not an ideal situation but we know that and have to deal with it.”
At least McCoist isn’t alone with his frustration and uncertainty. What is a Rangers season-ticket holder supposed to make of the club’s situation right now? Renewal forms will soon be distributed, encouraging fans to commit again for the 2011/12 campaign.
McCoist will have to become one of the primary cheerleaders for the marketing drive but he didn’t attempt to pull the wool over anyone’s eyes yesterday. He could fully understand -- and sympathise with -- supporters who might hesitate to commit to a season-ticket without any idea of the quality of player they will be watching.
“The fans want to know the product. It’s like buying tickets for a concert without knowing who you’re going to watch. You just wouldn’t do that, would you? I’m totally with the fans on where they are coming from on this. I’ve no doubt they will come out again but I understand completely why they would like to know the manager’s plans and where the club is going. I’d always encourage Rangers fans to support the club, of course, and season-ticket holders are so important to us it’s unbelievable, but I totally understand where they are coming from right now. I’d obviously urge them to stay with us.
“I don’t think they do realise the extent [of the trouble the club is in]. I don’t want to sit here and scare them with ‘this and that going’s to happen’. I just want their continued support.”
McCoist was diplomatic when it came to what he had said during a meeting with prospective owner Whyte. He had not talked business, he said. “Until the club is bought over it’s not my place to ask the questions. Once the club is bought over I will sit down with whoever buys it and hopefully get a few questions answered then.”
Not only potential signings are made awkward while Rangers wait for resolution on a takeover. Even McCoist’s attempts to evaluate which out-of-contract players he might wish to retain are undermined by not knowing if, for example, he can offer a decent wage and a season-long loan to Manchester City winger Weiss. Ideally he would like to: “I think we are in a position -- certainly not to spend money -- but one where if you have an advantage of having someone who has been here before, you know them and they know you, it would certainly be a plus.”
He confirmed there had been talks between chief executive Martin Bain and Allan McGregor’s representatives over a contract extension, the goalkeeper being rated as such a marketable asset that Lloyds were willing to allow the club to commit to an improved offer. McGregor’s existing deal has two years left but a four-year extension is on the table.
“The fact Allan has said he wants to stay is a great start to any conversation about someone renewing their contract,” McCoist said. “It would be a great boost for us. From the management side we are hopeful it can be done.” He rated McGregor as the equal of two great Rangers goalkeepers from the recent past, his own former team-mates Chris Woods and Andy Goram. “Allan is up there with what we have had in the last 30-40 years.”
For the moment, goalkeeper is the one department where a Rangers manager is as well off as any of his predecessors.
- McCoist was at Murray Park to promote ESPN’s live coverage of the Motherwell v Rangers match on Saturday lunchtime.