When not if: the inevitable fate of Super Ally
It's one of the first things you notice - the hair greys, thins, the face takes on the greatest punishment.
Even Obama, the impossibly cool, youthful and vibrant hope for and of a generation and a people, hasn’t escaped intact.
Pressure does that to people in high-profile jobs: it prematurely ages, adversely affects the health and can be the ruination of many a good man (and woman).
Closer to home, Tony Blair looked a different man by the time he quit and to use a more suitable example, recall the difference in Alex McLeish in the short period between him sitting in the Clyde Auditorium at the Club AGM and only a couple of years later and the wreck of a man he had become before the burden – for both Alex and the fans – was taken from his considerable shoulders.
Being the manager of a football club which is nothing less than an institution - built on success and bringing with it the constants of expectation, continual scrutiny and often unfair and improbable bordering on unrealistic demands and hassles - is not for everyone, but the rewards if you succeed - and the bare bones of the financial remuneration even if you don’t – are such that we shouldn’t lose perspective and start feeling too sorry for those who take on the challenge. And the fact of the matter is that, regardless of ability, achievement or longevity, every last one of those who accept the responsibility will fail and the time will come when a change is necessary or forced upon them.
Sinatra couldn’t hit a note by the end, Olivier couldn’t hear: Mere shadows of their former self. And lest we forget, even Bill Struth got too old and found his time was up.
Although he’s a legend in his own lifetime, Super Ally is of course no Bill Struth.
He’s his own man, won’t see fifty again, and has accepted the responsibility and the challenge. And, sadly, has been found wanting.
Those who suggest he should be sacked – whether that’s tonight, tomorrow, or in a suitable fashion post-haste – perhaps have the correct answer but the working is almost entirely wrong.
Others who wonder whether it might be honourable and acceptable for him to offer his resignation at least have a little more feeling for the situation but it seems unlikely that Ally would do this after the trials and tribulations of the past eighteen months or so. Why go now? Charles Green won’t hesitate to make difficult decisions but there’s a time and place and this is unlikely to be the moment.
That said: there’s a limit to what we can expect or demand of anyone. And it’s very difficult to make the case, based on the available evidence that Ally McCoist is or will become a top manager.
There’s no shame in that. The idea that not being a great manager in some way diminishes the impact of a stellar playing career is largely short-termism and ultimately more than a little perverse.
The majesty of The Wizard of Oz isn’t hampered by the execrable ‘prequel’ I suffered through this Friday night with my daughter, anymore than the (often literally) terrifying Return to Oz was felt to make a mockery of the 1939 masterpiece. No sequel or reboot actually ‘ruins’ the original. It’s still the same. It’s not been changed.
The videos, goals, cups, medals, memories are still there and will remain, unless George Lucas purchases the SPL rights and inserts Hayden Christiansen.
But in focusing on just the manager – and make no mistake there’s barely enough curse words in the English language to do justice to the way we’ve defended this season or those alleged to be responsible for that care and duty and there’s room aplenty for forensic discussion of the entire playing staff and those who have to be given a chance to grow, have to look at themselves and ask if they can improve, and those who likely are better off being sold or sent to work clearing the streets of litter and weeds – we’re also in danger of if not ignoring then sidestepping a bigger issue.
Namely, how seriously are we taking this?
To take but one example: We have a tremendous training facility. Do we have tremendous coaches? Are they adequate coaches? How many of McCoist, McDowall, Durrant and co would attract serious interest from clubs we might arrogantly expect to be in our general ‘let’s-assume-we’re-back-in-the-top-flight’ condition?
Further, here’s a simpler one for you: would even any of the SPL sides (from first to one above relegation) want to take on these gentleman? If not, why not, and if not why is this case?
In fairness, and it’s both significant and yet still underplayed, actually managing a Club like Rangers is difficult in many respects but the standard of coaching, player development, fitness and footballing philosophy shows next to zero correlation with the expected level one might reasonably assume from a Club of that size, stature and resources.
It’s not heretical to wonder aloud if the footballing plan for the next few years and beyond is as well-considered as one would like. The idea presented via the constant yapping in the press and official media of filling up, year-on-year with foreigners from exotic locations, Bosmans and those with next-to-no resale value isn’t ideal, to say the least. The true opportunity presented by the terrible events of the past year and a bit is to fundamentally alter the way the Club is run, to effect change in the way the team plays throughout the age groups, and to re-think and refine the way the philosophy or grand plan of a sporting institution is developed. It takes time, money and expertise to go with such a vision: if you can see any real sign of that this season then you’re either drunk or a liar.
(Copy and paste here a set of typical fan complaints and have people guess the year)
Drum roll, please...
Set-pieces are generally dire.
Fitness levels appear to the untrained eye to be (let’s be charitable) variable.
Players are as a matter of course played out of position.
And Plan B is recognisable only as someone players listen to on their headphones.
It’s a charge-sheet familiar to fans in many sports, throughout many leagues, in very many countries where football is the chief source of sporting misery amongst the masses.
Now add in the fact that we are currently playing in the third division, against part-time players. Don’t roll the eyes at the tales of butchers, plumbers and exotic dancers (surely there’s one) because you’re not sitting comfortably in your summer deckchair enjoying a glass of (insert hideous vomit-and-sawdust apple sponsor) and this is the reality: Ally and the management team, the experienced internationals and admittedly hastily-assembled collection of players and promising youth players, are being outperformed, on a regular basis, by these dreamers and ditch-diggers.
To be out-fought by a team of lesser quality but greater motivation isn’t a shock. See every cup competition where teams take it seriously from year X to the present. To be outplayed by a collection of men for whom the game is literally a hobby isn’t palatable. For it to happen more than once (we’re now up to a generous handful if not more) is disgraceful.
Talk post-match of strengthening the squad, making the first eleven better, suggests there should be a moratorium on managers being allowed to address the press after a defeat.
This squad needs a lot of things (inspiration, better training methods, better self-discipline, attitude, FIFA servers to go down, Nando’s bankruptcy etc) but to offer such feeble and inappropriate excuses after such a reverse suggests a lack of self-awareness bordering on breakdown. Annan Athletic did not outplay Rangers today because we have a weak squad. But pressure does that to people.
The culture at Rangers needs reinvigorating. We’re led to believe that in terms of promoting the brand, protecting the image, and seeking out new ways to make a £, $ or € we will leave no stone unturned and allow no mischief-making to derail plans or to constantly undermine the Club. Maximise the potential. Bravo. Clap. About time and all that jazz.
At the same time we have to accept that this season has been a disappointment on the park. Even allowing for the difficulties can we honestly say that it has been acceptable? We knew we’d win the league. When Ally lifts the trophy this spring is that it? We accept this is how it has to be and await the next campaign, job done? Will we be happy to entrust the same people with a little bit of money and the same approach as we enter whatever the next tier is finally to be called. Can that really be the level the support demands, expects and will tolerate?
Ignoring for a moment the bampots who want him sacked and the fast-asleep brigade who would sooner sell a child than be considered among the real bampots who wish to depose the legendary figurehead, the majority in the middle have one question to contemplate, and one which Charles Green and co will also have to consider: should Ally McCoist be manager of this Club next season and beyond?
When, four or five years from now, I see Super Ally on the television discussing the action from the first half of a Rangers away fixture in European competition am I going to look upon him as a horrific blast from the past: Of course not. I hope he has a smile on his face. I will never forget what he has done for this Club and nor will any fan of The Rangers with access to the memories and footage of his playing career or his incredible strength and dignity he demonstrated as the Club faced the most testing of all struggles.
He was and is a great man: A fine footballer, a wonderful personality. He was my favourite Rangers as a small lad. That’s more than enough.
But that, I think, should suffice.
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