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Spiers on Sport: the queue of Ally McCoist doubters grows longer

It's a sorry pass to have reached at Rangers when a manager feels there is no shame in being held at home by Albion Rovers and a leading Ibrox player then asks indignantly: "What else do [the fans] want?"

In recent days both Ally McCoist and Ian Black have come dangerously close to revealing they are oblivious to the feelings around their club, and to the gradual welling-up of criticism against this Rangers team.

Rangers are on the verge of winning the League One title, though it is a strange business. Many Ibrox supporters remain thoroughly disgruntled with what they are watching week in, week out.

McCoist is a natural diplomat, which makes it odd that he handled the aftermath of Sunday's 1-1 draw at home to Albion Rovers so clumsily, duly irking quite a number of Rangers fans in the process.

There is not much room for obfuscation here: Rangers, with their vast advantages on every level, should be wiping the floor with a near-penniless, part-time Albion Rovers at Ibrox in the Scottish Cup.

Instead, we witnessed a further, toiling struggle by McCoist's team as - the sheer shock of it - Albion Rovers came to defend in numbers. It all left McCoist fairly groping around for an explanation.

He didn't choose his words well. Having soft-soaped his team's display, McCoist then actually used the word "fantastic" to describe the fact that his team were still in the Scottish Cup. Beyond the Ibrox walls, meanwhile, Rangers fans were venting their spleen once more.

Ian Black's intervention has looked even more peculiar. This player evidently feels little need to endear himself to the Rangers fans - indeed you sometimes get the impression he really doesn't like them - and he only stirred things even more with his comments.

In slightly hectoring, whingeing tones, Black in essence told the Rangers support to stop moaning, and to merely look at their team's dominance in League One.

"We are there to win the league and it doesn't matter how we win it," Black said. Just about every right-thinking Rangers fan will surely disagree with these words.

The doubts about McCoist are stockpiling among the Rangers support. It is a very painful business, given his legendary status at the club, and the years and years of fine McCoist memories around Rangers. But, alas, many supporters now question his managerial ability.

The fact that Rangers are on the verge of clinching a League One title in mid-March is immaterial. It may be harsh on McCoist but, with his full-time, Premiership-style squad, winning the title is a given. There is next to no merit in it.

Far more telling are the dull, grinding performances which Rangers have put in recently, and which have left many pointing a finger at the manager and asking: "Is this really the best you can do with this team?"

Since late January Rangers have hit upon some ropy form. Of the eight games they have negotiated, five of them - against Arbroath, Brechin City, Stenhousemuir, East Fife and Albion Rovers - have produced spectacular groans from the Ibrox faithful.

The recurring allegation is that there is a lack of spark, of imagination in McCoist's teams; that their football is laboured and mechanical and sorely lacking in variety. And when these observations are made, it is hard to spare the manager from the brunt of the criticism.

How secure is McCoist in his job? In the here and now, he doesn't seem in much danger, though that may change as this endless Rangers political trauma finally finds clarity.

Firstly, whatever the doubts, McCoist's record just now does not warrant any sacking. Secondly, at Ibrox itself, with an ongoing struggle for boardroom power involving Dave King, there is too much else going on for a Rangers board to suddenly be preoccupied with a search for a new manager.

In the long term, though, unless there is a swift turnaround in fortunes, it will be surprising if McCoist proves his durability in the Ibrox hot seat. The evidence so far of his time in charge has planted too many doubts for that.

The Rangers fans love McCoist - and always will - but not to the extent that they are prepared to airbrush his failings as a manager.

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