Run down the touchline at Gayfield and there's the risk of being hit by waves, spray, driftwood, seagulls, maybe even a flying haddock. There's the ever-present danger of hypothermia, supposedly, from running around on the football ground which is closer to the sea than any other in Britain. Arbroath do all of this every second week without anyone making a big deal about it, but it's all held up as a matter for great fun when a major club has to contend with it all. Fewer images are stronger in lower league Scottish football than that of bracing, gale-strewn, North Sea-lashed Gayfield.
"If it's windy the way it's been the last couple of days, wee Flecky could end up in Norway," said Ally McCoist yesterday with a characteristic grin. McCoist played at Gayfield on several occasions and his predominant memory is the temperature: always cold. Tomorrow, he will be there for his first Scottish Cup tie as a manager. He used to take charge of Rangers for cup ties as assistant to Walter Smith, but this time the responsibilities and pressure are entirely his. Even with a handful of senior figures out of the tie, Rangers should be far too strong for the team sitting second in the second division. Any tie in Arbroath has the potential to be awkward, though.
"This is what the cup is all about," said McCoist. "It's about Auchinleck going to Tynecastle and us going to Gayfield and how you handle that. It can't be anything other than a positive reaction because if Arbroath sense any feeling that we're not up for it, they'll come in for the kill. We have to show them we're equally up for winning.
"We've had Arbroath watched a couple of times. They have been going well, although they've dipped a wee bit. We've got to go up and treat it in the manner it deserves. We'll be alright if that happens. But we have to look back at the League Cup for the lesson that some of the away days can be very nasty if you don't treat them with the utmost respect."
McCoist's only cup tie as manager so far was a startling defeat in the Scottish Communities League Cup at Falkirk. "I can assure you we will do that in terms of team selection and the way we'll approach the game. I hope some of the boys will have learned from the Falkirk game, because it was a massive blow to everyone. Losing the goal in the last minute was especially hard to take. Sometimes a wee kick doesn't do you any harm, as long as you learn from it. It'll be a very strong team."
As strong as it can be, in other words. Nikica Jelavic has recovered from a groin problem and should be fine to play, but Rangers have their problems. Steven Davis and Lee McCulloch are suspended, Steven Naismith is out for the season and Kyle Lafferty for at least six weeks, Steven Whittaker will see a specialist on Monday about whether he needs surgery on a groin injury, and Kirk Broadfoot is also injured.
There may be too many absentees for comfort for McCoist, but they still ought to be fine if he gets their mentality right. "In an ideal world you want a home draw. We've got the complete opposite: we're going to a place that'll be an eye-opener, but that doesn't do anyone any harm. Nothing matters other than winning the game – nobody will bat an eyelid if we win, but by God they'll bat eyelids if we don't."
Jelavic may never have had to contend with conditions quite like Gayfield, but the same cannot be said for everyone in the Rangers squad. Jordan McMillan has played there before, with the Rangers youth team. McMillan is likely to start at right-back – he came off the bench against Motherwell at Ibrox on Monday – and the 23-year-old has worked his way into McCoist's thoughts to the extent the manager yesterday described him as a "key member of the squad".
McMillan has been at Rangers forever without ever holding down a place in the team, yet there is currently the offer of a three-year contract for him. McMillan has rejected that so far, but McCoist is optimistic that an agreement will be reached. "I'm hopeful he'll re-sign. We'll sit down with his representatives. He's turning into a key member of the squad. It's an important six months for him. He has all the tools: he's quick enough, he's got two good feet, maybe it's time for him to impose himself and hopefully it's at Rangers that he does it. John Fleck is the same. The plan was to get him out on loan, whether it was to Sheffield United or Blackpool or wherever, just so he could get games, but the circumstances have changed and he'll get an opportunity here."
McMillan has no wish to leave. "I'm happy to be here, I'm a Rangers fan so I want to stay at the club. My agent has dealing with it. I've been offered a deal and we're still discussing it. Rejecting the deal [so far] isn't about finance, it's about football. I need to know I'm going to be involved here. If I'm not, there's not much point in being here. I'm at an age where I have to be playing games, but there are opportunities now because of injuries."
And Gayfield? "I've played at Arbroath before for the Rangers youth team. The weather was horrible and a few of the boys will get a culture shock on Sunday."