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McCoist: I'm keen to start planning for next season, but we need to solve Ibrox issues first

THE league title now secured, there are still cup ties to ensure Rangers' gaze does not drift too far from the immediate future.

Ally McCoist admits frustration that other clubs will be able to steal a march on them this summer. Picture: SNS
Ally McCoist admits frustration that other clubs will be able to steal a march on them this summer. Picture: SNS

It is maybe just as well. Ally McCoist would like to begin planning for the summer and the forthcoming SPFL Championship season but uncertainty behind the scenes is denying him that privilege.

The Rangers manager has not yet spoken to those among his squad whose contracts will expire in a few months, and has made enquiries with just one potential Bosman signing at another club. Aware that time is marching on, McCoist revealed a concern that other clubs, including likely division rivals Hearts, may be in a position to get some early business done while Rangers twiddle their thumbs, awaiting the findings of chief executive Graham Wallace's 120-day review due next month.

What Wallace will recommend is anybody's guess but the chances of him throwing open the vault and telling McCoist to spend with gay abandon seem slim indeed. A period of streamlining would appear the most prudent approach, something that may greatly hinder the manager's wish to freshen up his squad for the season ahead.

"It's pretty difficult to plan as you don't know what the scenario will be in terms of the budget, scouting, finances and things like that," admitted McCoist. "We're planning things like pre-season but we need to get moving in terms of the squad, player changes etc. I had a meeting with Graham [yesterday] and there will be more meetings next week.

"There's nobody more aware of the severity of the situation than myself. We're really keen to get organised and get moving on things. I've spoken to one [potential Bosman signing] and that was a good while ago. I can only take advice from Graham and the board. But our fans need to know once we get the go-ahead we'll get moving.

"It would be a concern [if other clubs are better placed to offer contracts] as we want to be ready to go and get operating right now. But we still have problems which are needing to be solved within the infrastructure of our own football department and our club. There's no use jumping ahead if things need sorting out and stabilised in terms of the infrastructure of the club."

The prospect of four matches between Hearts and Rangers in the second tier of Scottish football is something that McCoist is looking forward to, although he was keen to stress he did not envisage it being a mere two-horse race. "I've seen Hearts a couple of times and they have done well in those games," he added. "They won an Edinburgh derby I saw and I watched them draw against St Mirren. They could have won that game.

"Hearts are Hearts. They will be a very difficult team to beat next year. It will be interesting to see what happens to them long-term, in terms of their financial situation. But it looks as though they are going to come through that, which is the most important thing. They won't want to be in the Championship for two seasons, far from it. They could invest in the summer too - 100%. Gary [Locke] will want to strengthen his squad in the summer."

"It's won't be just Hearts, though. You look at who gets promoted, the possibility of another team coming down and Dunfermline coming up. It won't just be two teams in it. The general consensus is that it will be a really competitive league."

Having won the League 1 title with eight games to spare, the aim for the remainder of the league campaign will be to remain undefeated, starting with Dunfermline Athletic at Ibrox tomorrow. McCoist may use these matches to experiment with his line-up but only if he feels there are fringe players who deserve a crack.

"We want to keep the unbeaten run and we want to give some boys a chance - but they have to earn that too. There's no point putting lads in that don't deserve it, but the under-20s have been doing well recently. I saw them again on Tuesday. At the same time, we are undefeated in the league and we want to keep that going. Winning 26 and drawing two is a decent return and we want to keep it going."

It would be only natural for Rangers' thoughts to have already started to drift towards Monday night's William Hill Scottish Cup replay with Albion Rovers, with the financial reward for progress almost as important as the silverware itself.

"I think [doing well in the cup] would affect our budget," added McCoist. "If we can get through Monday night then it sets us up for a great home tie against Dundee United although after last Sunday's draw there are no givens. I wasn't aware just how much it's worth but if it's over £1m that's a lot of money to our club."

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