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Spiers on Sport: the Ally McCoist question just won't go away

Ally McCoist always will be a hero to the Rangers support, and deservedly so, given his prolific playing days at Ibrox.

These days, though, McCoist is judged in very different circumstances, which only makes it all the more painful for some Rangers supporters.

Criticising a club legend, as Aberdeen fans once discovered when Willie Miller began to toil as their manager, comes close to being a blasphemy.

McCoist is embroiled in this ongoing Rangers saga, doggedly soldiering through the divisions with his team until the top flight is finally reached, presumably in May 2015.

On top of that, he has other roles to fulfil. He is a politician, a diplomat and a peace-keeper as the anger swirls around Ibrox, whether to do with the team, the boardroom, the out-of-control costs, whatever.

And in places like Station Park, Forfar, where McCoist's Rangers toiled to their 2-0 win this week, the grim chores go on.

There is no doubting McCoist's quality as a person. Stephen Aitken, the Stranraer manager, told a story about McCoist waiting inside the Ibrox tunnel immediately after their 1-1 draw in December, and shaking hands with each Stranraer player following their gutsy performance. In this context, McCoist has a real class about him.

But here's the painful bit…what is his judgment like as a manager? Is he culpable in this continuing mess at Rangers?

Some people have criticised him for recurring misjudgments in siding with every Craig Whyte and Charles Green who has arrived on the scene at Ibrox, though I'm not sure this is entirely fair.

McCoist may have felt embarrassed by the public U-turns he subsequently had to perform in relation to these two characters but, really, what else could he have done? He was actually highly circumspect at first with Whyte, before throwing his weight behind him.

In their opening weeks and months together, can a football manager come out and offer frank opinions about his boss? I doubt it.

McCoist's recent salary of £830,000 is also held up by some as evidence of the great wrongs going on at Ibrox, and there is certainly merit in this.

Such a sum represented a ludicrous remuneration for anyone charged with guiding a Rangers team in the fourth tier of Scottish football past an assortment of part-timers.

Nor can anyone be enamoured with the foot-dragging that appeared to go on - either on McCoist's side or that of the board - in finally pegging his wages back by 40%, as has now been agreed.

Yet this is also a symptom…surely no-one would actually "blame" McCoist for taking such a salary? It was confirmed to him - foolishly - by Charles Green.

Was McCoist really expected to say: 'Mr Chief Executive, I've taken a long, hard look at this, plus I have a hunch of future troubles at the club, and I only want half of this amount…?'

Just about every human being on the planet takes his money.

But in the dressing room? On the pitch? This is where McCoist attracts most of the criticism aimed at him.

His team's football looks regularly laboured, grinding and unattractive. It's as if Rangers, caught in the lower regions, cannot decide whether to meet brawn with brawn, or to believe in themselves and play to a higher instinct.

Ask Rangers fans today if they feel pleased with their team's style of play, and most give a negative response. And only one man is to blame for that - the manager.

It has been said before, and it is worth repeating, that McCoist has also lacked a certain courage, in choosing to go with tried, tested, former SPL stalwarts in his team, rather than creating something new, via youth, and organically growing a Rangers team from scratch.

For some there is a stodginess, a lack of imagination, in seeing players like Ian Black, Lee McCulloch, Nicky Law, Jon Daly and others roll up to Ibrox, when the club had a golden chance to elevate itself with its crop of young players.

The batch of youth players on the club's books last season appear to be making little headway under McCoist and his coaches. As this month of January has shown again, McCoist regularly fills his team with eight or nine ex-SPL players or other seniors, with only Fraser Aird and Lewis Macleod wedging themselves in.

Could it not have been different? Could McCoist, at such a low level of football, really not have been giving youth its chance, nurturing a young Rangers team towards its Premiership fruition?

Yes, such a policy would require greater risk - of course a team of McCulloch, Black, Law, etc is going to climb remorselessly through the divisions. Younger players would be more vulnerable, perhaps more inconsistent. But it was a minor risk which, to many, seemed worth taking by McCoist.

He is an Ibrox legend, who has his critics these days among the faithful. It is intriguing that, while his team flies high in League One in Scotland, McCoist just cannot quell the doubters.

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