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Queens in residence but king's ransom not required . . .

REading the online descriptions of the Carnoustie Hotel is relaxing enough.

Derek Young celebrates with supporters after winning the title. Picture: SNS
Derek Young celebrates with supporters after winning the title. Picture: SNS

Most of them detail the 75 ensuite bedrooms, the extensive spa and health facilities on site and, of course, the picturesque landscape of the Old Championship Course which can be viewed from your dinner table. Just the thing for anyone who might be intending to escape from the pressures of life, or an SPFL League 1 match away to Forfar Athletic on a Monday night.

Rangers had taken advantage of the four-star facility before a trip to Station Park earlier this week, a match which ended with the Ibrox side scoring two goals but with their manager on the defensive.

Ally McCoist had previously met Graham Wallace as the chief executive sought to identify where costs could be cut and it would seem that those relating to the first team are under particular scrutiny, since players last week rejected his suggestion of a 15% wage cut. Wallace might have since noted down the cost involved in providing players with a pre-match meal and the chance of a kip before a game.

The decision to stop in at the Carnoustie Hotel earlier on Monday was addressed by McCoist after his side's victory over Forfar Athletic and was justified by the manager as a way in which his squad could maintain their professionalism. "We are still Rangers Football Club and have always attempted to be as professional as we can," said the Rangers manager. "It would be disrespectful just to turn up."

The League 1 leaders won 2-0 and so McCoist was able to argue the benefits of allowing his team to rest a couple of hours before kick-off. They are not the only team to have made the most of things at a match in Forfar, either, since it is now almost 10 months since Queen of the South pulled into Station Park and went nap, too. This happened in the first half of the game which secured the Second Division title last season, the Dumfries side coming to rest on a six-goal cushion so luxurious that it might have come with a mint.

The club would have to bring their own taste of extravagance with them, though, and club directors made the journey north with a bottle of champagne and the hope that officials in Forfar would be able to find somewhere to chill it. The Queens players would also turn up with their own kerry-oot; a crate of beer which was passed around once Brechin City - temporary tenants at Station Park due to problems with their own pitch - had been dispatched.

It would not seem the most lavish way to celebrate a title triumph, but it suited a club which had not looked to the top shelf when assembling its squad either. Of the team which started that win in Forfar, seven players had suffered relegation a year earlier and two of them had been brought in from the youth system.

The Dumfries club would hide such modesty by dropping just nine league points by the time they won the title in March, only for it to be revealed again when the accounts were published. In a campaign which would also yielded triumph in the Ramsdens Cup - after Queens had knocked out Rangers at Ibrox in the quarter-final stage - the Dumfries side had assembled a first-team squad with a budget of £375,000, with the top earners understood to have made no more than £500 a week.

The wages then went down to as little as £100 for the youngest members of the team. "That was with a 22-man squad for the first team, with 10 or 12 young kids who were full-time but were still in education," says Billy Hewitson, who took over as chairman at Palmerston ahead of the club's title-winning season.

"We had a bonus system in place for the squad as well; a lump sum which was paid in two instalments over the year and amounted to £55,000. The decision to stay full-time was an easy one to make too, and we had a good cup run which was a bonus for us. But we kept the whole season within our budget, only going with what we could afford. That's all we spent."

The wages which have been afforded to Rangers players to fulfil a similar ambition this season do not really compare. Of a squad pieced together using a budget of some £6m, perhaps the leading figures are those which appear on the bottom of the wage slips. Lee Wallace and Lee McCulloch are among the highest-paid players at Rangers - both are understood to be on contracts which earn them in excess of £7000 a week - while Jon Daly doubled his wages when he swapped Dundee United for Ibrox in the summer.

These are statistics which appeared only in black and white, but which have since been coloured with plenty of criticism from outside Ibrox. Rangers had signed Nicky Clark from Queens in the summer after a season punctuated by 38 goals but the striker has appeared more readily in parenthesis this term, his last outing coming as a substitute for Ian Black (89).

The Ibrox club have instead chosen to depend on the likes of Daly, McCulloch and Nicky Law for goals this season and it has appeared as though they agreed to a playing budget based on past glories rather than current circumstances.

That view will have been illuminated by the notion of a wage cut last week, although it is worth acknowledging that Rangers' wages amount to only 30% of the club's annual turnover. Last season, Queens' was around 6% higher.Rangers can argue, too, that the squad is not being assembled to get the better of the likes of Forfar, Ayr United and Stenhousemuir, but is instead being put together early ahead of the club's return to the top flight. Until that happens. though, the Ibrox club will continue to give off the impression that they are shelling out for a Rolls Royce just to do the school run.

"There was no need for us to stay over when we played against Forfar," added Hewitson. "A lot of the players don't even like it, the pre-match meals and the overnight stays. They prefer to get there an hour and a half before the game, either by getting on the bus depending on where it sets off or just arriving at the ground themselves at an agreed time. We have kept with that same routine this season and it works.

"All we did was take a bottle of champagne with us [to Station Park] and it was a fair old evening that night and one which we will always remember. The people at Forfar were very good with laying on some stuff as well."

It would seem like four-star service. Even without a view of the golf course.

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