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Striking the right balance crucial as Wallace and McCoist plan ahead

At some stage this week, Graham Wallace and Ally McCoist will sit down together for a meeting that will shape Rangers' immediate future.

WORK TO DO: Graham Wallace and Ally McCoist share a common aim as they prepare to discuss the next stage of Rangers' return to the top flight. Picture: SNS
WORK TO DO: Graham Wallace and Ally McCoist share a common aim as they prepare to discuss the next stage of Rangers' return to the top flight. Picture: SNS

The chief executive wants to draw up and implement a football player asset strategy, and that begins with a discussion with the manager.

They have the same aim, for Rangers to be successful on the field, and they need not have competing interests, since McCoist will have no more wish to spend money that Rangers cannot afford than Wallace himself. None the less, the complexities of the process and the dynamic at play will be significant for the club.

By his own admission, Wallace needs to cut the cost base at Ibrox, as well as raising revenue streams. During last month's annual meeting of Rangers International Football Club shareholders, he said that the "cost structure is currently too high for the top division, never mind for the lower leagues", meaning that the business needs streamlined regardless of any commercial uplifts.

This is a sensible and prudent strategy, and one that was critically missing from his two predecessors, Craig Mather and Charles Green. They were both courting public approval, but Wallace is a time-served corporate figure, and so brings the financial and business rigour that they did not apply. Indeed, any drastic cuts ought to have been implemented by Green in the summer of 2012, when the consortium he fronted bought the business and assets of Rangers Football Club plc in liquidation; that was the fresh start.

Rangers need a coherent plan that addresses both short and medium-term progress, which is why the immediate issues Wallace will tackle cannot be considered in isolation.

The extent of the required cost-cutting is unknown, but it is balance that is more important than simply reducing the bottom line. With Rangers potentially returning to the top-flight in 18 months, it would be a false economy to diminish the quality of the playing squad. There are players earning good money who have not contributed this season, either through the form of themselves or others; Emilson Cribari, David Templeton, or injury; Dean Shiels, Ross Perry, Kyle Hutton, but Rangers will also need to strengthen for next season's campaign.

Wallace and McCoist, in their assessment of the squad's strengths and weaknesses, need to find where costs can be trimmed without affecting the strength of the playing staff overall. The manager and his coaches have agreed to take a wage cut, but any overall assessment of Rangers' football department needs to take into account the requirement for a chief scout to be appointed and for the youth development set-up and sports science department to be able to operate best practice throughout. The planning for the next two years needs to begin now, and that will be as much a part of the meeting between Wallace and McCoist as any element of initial cost cutting.

As Wallace has acknowledged, once he has balanced the incomings and outgoings he will draw up a business plan to enable fresh investment to be sought. If Rangers are to return to the status that the club previously held, and which supporters continue to expect, then the requirement is not just to apply some commonsense to the business as it stands, but generate new funding to invest principally in the team.

It is a question of priorities, but every decision made now has an impact in the coming years. That is where Wallace and McCoist need to work together, to ensure a strategy that strengthens the football department in time.

Supporters will tolerate cuts at this period in time, but there remains a sense of the fanbase making its own assessments of the current regime. The inevitable rise in season ticket sales for the Championship will be borne without complaint because fans understand the financial necessity, but also because of the excitement that will come from the campaign to try to return Rangers to the top flight. There will be wariness, though, if there is a perception that the squad is not good enough to take that challenge on.

These are the demands and obligations that every club faces, of course. From the summer of 2012, when a registration embargo loomed and Rangers were in the bottom tier, to last summer, there has been an element of improvisation to the club's signings. Rangers were restricted as they sought to add to the squad, and not least because the manager was never given a budget to work to. The working relationship between Wallace and McCoist is critical, and in a sense they are both under scrutiny; McCoist for the team's performance, and Wallace for the business's. He has already begun a review of every aspect of Rangers' operations, so it is not just the football budget that is being assessed.

Rangers are, effectively, in the middle of the journey back to the top flight. Decisions made in the coming months will determine what kind of force they will be when they do return.

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