WHAT happened at Alloa the other night was the sort of landslide which might have changed the debate from 'should Rangers sack Ally McCoist?' to 'why hasn't he decided to walk?'

For some time now the fact that Rangers have a manager and a backroom team they are too poor to dismiss has been an embarrassment for all concerned. If discussion about whether he should be removed cannot move forward because of that handbrake - only substantial investment could release it - the focus inevitably moves to the other way he might leave.

More corrosive and damaging now, for McCoist, is the prospect of fans believing that he is staying at the club only because of a lucrative salary. Bad enough to be ridiculed by opposition fans and abused by some Rangers ones for his failings as a manager, but worse if he is perceived to be hanging on because he has a good deal.

That may be a spectacularly unfair interpretation of events but perception is everything and sympathy for McCoist is thin on the ground among supporters. Within a few minutes of losing at the Indodrill Stadium - even that name, new, unknown, obscure, deepened the humiliation - a bookmaker was circulating odds about who would be Rangers' next manager.

This sort of fluff is here today, gone tomorrow fodder but the identity of the favourite was significant in one respect. Stuart McCall (2/1 for the vacancy which does not yet exist, if anyone's interested) resigned last month after nearly four years at Motherwell.

McCoist has done three and a half. McCall had run out of steam and felt he had run out of answers. McCoist, going by what he said in the immediate aftermath of the Alloa game, has not yet reached that point.

"We don't do walking away" was the big line he came out with 22 months ago. It was a rallying message back then, a clarion call which stirred the masses and had the majority lauding him as the one trusted cornerstone at their disintegrating club. They loved the defiance, even the gallusness of it. McCoist stood for those Rangers people who would never desert, who would never give others the satisfaction of seeing them quit or buckle.

But McCoist staying was a relief and a reassurance back then and it was essentially taken as an act of opposition to the board and the owners. There had already been a few on-field slaps in the face for Rangers by then, in terms of their results and performances in the cups and the fourth tier, but there was no groundswell of opposition or hostility.

Essentially what has happened since has been two parallel stories at Rangers: an unchanging, grotesque narrative of boardroom and shareholding incompetence and distrust, during which McCoist has been a reassuring central pillar, and an onfield narrative of chugging progress through the leagues peppered with setbacks and embarrassments, for which any manager must take the lion's share of responsibility.

Rangers comprehensively beat a Premiership team in the Scottish Cup only five days ago but that was sandwiched between two grave results: defeat by Hearts to slip nine points behind at the top of the SPFL Championship, and then the Petrofac Training Cup debacle against Alloa Athletic.

Managers rarely resign in football; McCall was an exception. Most are not prepared to make the financial sacrifice of giving up a compensation payment. It is inconceivable that Kenny McDowall and Ian Durrant would want, or be offered the opportunity, to stay if McCoist was to resign. The three of them come as a unit and would have to agree to leave as a unit (or be paid off as one if the club could ever afford to dismiss them).

McCoist must consider what is best for him, what is best for his backroom staff, and what is best for Rangers, not necessarily in that order. Managers tend to have unshakable self-confidence and trust in their strengths and their methods. Poor results do eat away at their belief, though. Rangers' worst results in the past three seasons essentially have brought variations on a theme: Wednesday's was messing things up from a 2-0 lead with 18 minutes left, against a part-time team with nine men unavailable and others who played after a day shift at work.

In one respect, these one-off indignities maybe can't be called a landslide at all; it is the percussive, cumulative effect of so many of them that have made up minds to the extent that an "Ally, Ally get tae f***" chant boomed from the Rangers support at Tynecastle 13 days ago.

An ever-decreasing number of Rangers fans are still with him and convincing defences of his record have not been plentiful. The support that does still exist for him tends to be unexpressed because a sizeable number of fans will never openly criticise one of their own.

McCoist knows it well enough: thousands of those who have chanted his name for years - and will do so again, when time has passed - currently want him out. They believe his last great act in Rangers' service would be to leave.