Motherwell will turn up at Ibrox this afternoon able to claim a victory over Rangers before a ball is kicked. The club sitting third in the Clydesdale Bank Premier League will take the place in next season's Champions League qualifiers which would normally have gone to Rangers. Their financial meltdown has left a string of victims among other Premier League clubs, but not Motherwell. They haven't been owed any money by Rangers and instead they will have the fun of capitalising on the Ibrox side's collapse by making their debut in the biggest club tournament of all.
Ally McCoist will not begrudge them that, and not only because the man in the away technical area this afternoon will be his friend and former Rangers team-mate, Stuart McCall. "It's an incredible achievement," said McCoist of Motherwell's elevated position. Their record against the Old Firm has been dire this season – seven league games, seven defeats – but they have lost only four of their 29 matches against all the others. During the week McCall said Motherwell had made it into the Champions League by default, because of Rangers' descent into administration, but McCoist did not repeat that view.
"It is very magnanimous of Stuart McCall to say that but at the same time they are there," he said. "We could argue about the pros and cons but Motherwell are in the Champions League. As gutted as I am for us, I just think it's fantastic for them. The real way to look at it is look at their points tally. They have 61 points, which is miles better than their best.
"I think Stuart has had an outstanding season with his players. They have a relatively small group, which can be a good thing. If you carry luck in terms of injuries and suspensions it can really work for you. Stuart and his team have been fantastic."
From administration to the Champions League is a journey Rangers intend to make themselves in due course – Motherwell's own insolvency event was a decade ago – but it seems a million miles away for McCoist. He is in the earliest stages of building a relationship with the man who he wants to be his new boss, Bill Miller. What did he think of him? "He's a straight talker. He is very forthright, I don't think he would be scared to upset people. But at the same time I think he is aware of the delicacies of the situation and the views of the Rangers support. He is a successful businessman with a proven track record.
"I spoke to him after the Dundee United game in midweek. I then spoke to him again on Thursday night and will speak to him again today. You can only take people at face value – and the irony is not lost, because I haven't seen him yet. But the gentleman sounds absolutely spot on. Personally, I will be happier when I see the look in his eyes, and I would imagine he would be exactly the same about me.
"He is very keen to meet and I share that opinion. As soon as we can meet, the better. I think he might be hands on, having spoken to him, and that's no bad thing. He has called me or tried to contact me five minutes after a decision has been made back here, whether it is the SFA or SPL or whatever. He calls me right after a game, so he knows what's going on. That might seem a small thing but he has got his finger on the pulse and knows what is happening. He had a good conversation with Sandy Jardine, too, and he wants to speak to people who have a feel for the club and know the club. He is reacting to things and he is wanting information. He does not claim to know everything about Rangers or Scottish football but says to me that he wants to learn, he wants to be successful, and he wants to help the club."
Did he indicate that he wanted to help McCoist? Had he guaranteed that he was his preferred choice as manager? "He hasn't come out and said it, but I would be very disappointed – after having the conversations I have had with him – if that was not the case. He has been very forthright in his views and demands of what he wants from me, in terms of opinions and so on. So I would be hopeful I will be manager under Bill Miller but, as I say, there are no guarantees.
"I don't have any problem with the fact there wouldn't be millions and millions to spend. I have given him my opinions on things like that. But if you are asking everyone within the club if they want it to be run as a successful business, and it meant not spending millions of pounds on players, I think they would take that."