For the past year, Rangers have been subject to the registration embargo, an imposition that has prevented Ally McCoist fielding all of his summer recruits. With restrictions on the number of trialists that can play before the embargo expires at midnight tonight, it has created an artificial start to the season with the majority of Rangers' prospective signings spending matchdays in the stand, ineligible to take to the field.
From tomorrow, however, they will be free men once more, It means that this afternoon's SPFL League 1 match against East Fife takes on added significance. It is the last day for the likes of Stevie Smith and Richard Foster to watch from the stands and also the final opportunity for those who have started the season to show they deserve to hang on to their jerseys once McCoist has his full squad to choose from.
It is a nice position for the manager to be in. There is an argument that a club like Rangers should not need such a spread of resources to win the third tier of Scottish football but McCoist wonders aloud whether a lack of competition for places last season was one the reason for the team's inconsistent form. He is excited by the idea of having the option of flooding his team with eight new signings but also challenged the incumbents to show they deserve to hang on to their place.
"I firmly believe that if you're in the team and playing well then you deserve to stay there," he said. "It goes without saying that we've brought in good players who will benefit the squad but if you're in the team on merit you've got to try to stay there. Competition for places is one thing we didn't have last year. Whether that was the reason for the lack of consistency I don't know. It might be in your mind that you're going to play every week, which can't be a good thing. But certainly this year we feel we've got boys in the squad, when they're not playing, will push the boys that are."
The Scottish Football Association has elected to close their transfer window this evening, rather than extending it until Monday to acknowledge the deadline falling on a weekend. Had Scotland followed the lead of England, Germany, Italy, France and others by allowing the clubs to do transfer business for a further two days it would have afforded Rangers with the chance to sign players on Sunday and Monday, thus calling into the question the effectiveness of their embargo.
McCoist had been unaware of the potential loophole but admitted his surprise. "It's unbelievable," he said, of a decision that the SFA claimed was taken because Saturday is a "working day" for them. "It would be worth asking why they went against UEFA because it is a little bit strange not to go with the other associations. If we'd had those extra two days it might have changed things for us."
Kenny Miller falls into the category as someone who could, in theory, have been signed had the window been extended. McCoist has spoken about the possibility of bringing the striker back to Ibrox for a third spell and plans on revisiting that possibility in January. "I just feel a player of that type would be great, for Nicky Clark especially. A lot of people might wonder why [we are considering signing Miller] but we feel that a player like that would help us on the training pitch as much as anything else.
"He's under contract, and has just extended it another six months, so that avenue is closed to us at that moment in time. But we'll re-assess it in January. You could make a real argument that he's the best striker the country's got at the moment so it would be ridiculous of me not to pursue it if we could."
McCoist confirmed Herald Sport's story that he is considering a salary reduction as part of the club's cost-cutting reduction. He also welcomed the investigation by Craig Mather, the Ibrox chief executive, into an email apparently sent by one of the club's media advisors denigrating John Greig and hoped the man voted the Greatest Ever Ranger would be back at the club soon.
"I wasn't aware of the email until this morning," McCoist said. "It would be wrong of me to comment on something that Craig is going to have a look into. That said, he's the Greatest Living Ranger as voted by the fans and I think the world of John and what he's done for me and the club. I'd love to see him back. I've said all along John Greig, Sandy Jardine, Walter Smith . . . that's the line right through the club for me."