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McCoist: we still need to strengthen squad in summer

ALLY McCOIST is already thinking about next season even if the state of flux that surrounds Rangers means there is little the manager can actually do about it.

The Ibrox side will be crowned SPFL League One champions within the next few weeks, at which point their attention will turn fully to what should be a more taxing challenge in the Championship.

By this juncture of any campaign, most well-organised clubs would have already put moves in place to ready them for the year ahead; budgets would be set, players whose contracts are expiring would have them renewed or be told they were free to go, possible Bosman targets at other clubs would be targeted and offers made.

At Rangers, though, there has been little forward planning. Chief executive Graham Wallace is in the midst of an 120-day review of the club's affairs, his findings eagerly awaited by McCoist as much as anyone else. Throw in the need to call upon a £1.5m loan for working capital and the added threat of season-ticket holders withholding their renewal money until certain criteria are met, and it is perhaps little surprise that Rangers are limping on from week to week, rather than addressing the bigger picture.

McCoist, therefore, is still not sure of just how many changes he will be allowed to make in the summer but there was little sign yesterday that the Rangers manager is of a mind to settle for what he has at the moment.

Even if Hearts, Dunfermline Athletic and one from Partick Thistle, Ross County or St Mirren were to join an already competitive Championship line-up next season, Rangers would still be strong favourites to clinch a clean sweep of titles in all four senior divisions. McCoist, though, felt that would not be the case if he could not sign players.

"I'd like to add to the squad first and foremost," he said. "We've got to strengthen to continue to build - I don't want to start by losing people rather than getting people in. I think the Championship is a lot stronger than a lot of people think. The majority of the teams are full-time. We've played Falkirk this year which was a tough game albeit I thought we deserved to beat them. I've seen a lot of Championship football and I've been impressed with the likes of Dundee, Dumbarton and Raith Rovers. I'd far rather be in a position to strengthen to move forward, not just for next season but for the longer term. Without strengthening ahead of next season there would be no guarantees. It would be very tough."

Emilson Cribari, Ross Perry, Chris Hegarty and Andy Little are all out of contract in the summer and McCoist has yet to discuss the possibility of extending any of their deals. "Not at the moment - and it is a concern in the respect that it's bad manners, because you've got to treat the players correctly. Boys that are out of contract will obviously be looking to re-sign or extend their careers elsewhere. So in that respect, we're duty bound to do the right thing.

"I have been in discussion with Graham regarding players that are out of contract and positions that perhaps need strengthened, so I'd be very hopeful that we can get moving on that. The board are not in a position to say you can do this, but they were very positive and they listened intently and understood my views and opinions on it.

"But I can totally understand they are not in a position yet to say they can go with that or can't go with that or whatever. I have pretty much let Graham get on with his job. We will sit down soon and discuss scouting, sports science, medical, anything. That's absolutely going to happen, but we are not in a position yet to pass on any relevant information about what the plans are yet."

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