Ally McCoist - A Little Respect?

Let me state from the outset that it is the right, and to some extent the duty, of fans to question the team and the manager. Rangers fans pay good money to support the team and like fans of any other team they have every right to debate team selection, tactics, signings and everything else that effects the team they love. So in some ways the recent debate around Ally McCoist and the focus on the performance of the team is a welcome relief from the constant boardroom shenanigans we've had to put up with over the past two years.

Having said that, the debate over the board was peppered with misinformation and the recent discussion and debate over Super Ally has been the same. There is a unique hypocrisy to claiming you are a loyal fan and then performing an attempted character assassination on someone who, no matter how skilled a manager they turn out to be, is a club legend who held the club together through one of the most turbulent periods in its history. If you find that you are prepared to publicly describe a man, who was widely acknowledged as having carried the club on his shoulders during the past two years, as having "sold out" then you better make sure you have something to back up your claim beyond internet rumour and an inability to comprehend publicly available information.

There have been three main examples of where recent discussion around McCoist has moved from normal fan and press examination to something considerably more sinister. Michael Stewart's ill considered rant on BBC Scotland Sportsound was one. The barely concealed vitriol of Glenn Gibbons' recent Scotsman article was another, and last but not least, and the most disappointing of all since it appears to have been written on behalf of a group of Rangers fans, was an article on the Vanguard Bears front page.

Let us first consider Michael Stewart and friends on BBC Scotland last Saturday night. Stewart's opening gambit is to tell us that he's had a run in with Ally McCoist earlier that week over something he had written in the Sun, and what follows certainly indicates that he hasn't taken terribly well to being put in his place by the manager. He's ably assisted by Graham Spiers who decides to break the BBC rule of not commenting on internet leaks by discussing the general content of leaked emails which he wants us to think should be "difficult" for McCoist.

Apparently McCoist is "feigning" not having detailed knowledge of Rangers finances. The entire BBC panel are happy with their original assumption that McCoist must know more about the finances than he's letting on. Nobody wants to challenge it. At no point does this panel, with literally no knowledge of management or coaching at a big club, club finances, or the internal conditions at Rangers for the past two years, consider that McCoist might simply have been working to the, with hindsight, wildly inaccurate financial projections of former Finance Director, Brian Stockbridge. Quite how a discussion which starts with talk of Stockbridge's removal turns into a critique of McCoist is a mystery which will have to remain with the panel.

McCoist, we are told, "knows how to work it". He knows how to "manipulate public opinion". The first caller is inexplicably a Celtic fan who continues the character assassination and is allowed several minutes to object to any, even timid, defence of McCoist.

I could go on. The entire thing is a disgrace. The programme is well into its swing before Stewart is teed up, in a move clearly discussed before the show, to indicate his disdain for McCoist's coaching talent. This is Michael Stewart who hasn't coached a team in his life. Spiers is allowed to state, without challenge, that McCoist's salary is £850k a year - the latest falsehood from a man to whom accuracy is a form of kryptonite.

Stewart has spoken to former Rangers players (unnamed) who have told him "the training is very standard" and "nothing exceptional is being worked on". Standard training! How shocking. Spiers, who has previous on unsubstantiated claims from unnamed sources, tells us that an SPL manager has told him that Rangers "don't play like a very well coached team". We are then treated to some faux outrage about McCoist and his backroom staff celebrating too much over a goal against Dunfermline. Yes, really, they think he shouldn't be celebrating goals too much.

I'm not going to go into a huge amount of detail about Gibbons' article. If you haven't seen it then don't bother. It's exactly what you would expect from a man who cannot hide his hatred anytime he writes about our club. What was most remarkable about his article was not the content, or the malice in it towards McCoist, but the fact that certain Rangers fans were happy to promote the article on social media despite having full knowledge of what Gibbons was all about.

All of which brings us to VB and the article on their front page.

I should perhaps declare that I have previous with some members of VB but I largely ignore their more vitriolic output, even when it is directed at me and others I know. However, this article was so full of drivel, and frankly so disrespectful to a man who has given so much to the club, that it is worthy of comment.

I'll pick up on a few points made by the anonymous VB scribe before moving on to try to lay out some facts about the past couple of years relating to Ally. The article states as fact that "at no point was McCoist working for nothing". This is nonsense. It tells us that Ally's salary was £825,858 per annum. This is wrong. It tells us that Ally's recent offer to take a huge wage cut is in fact a "deferral". Again not true.

In addition to the above inaccuracy we have some pretty shameful language used to describe McCoist. He is a "so called Rangers man". He is "as much a drain on our resources as the people on the board who were branded spivs". Finally, in a show of both ignorance and arrogance the unnamed author tells us that "it appears we have been sold out by our manager".

So let's examine McCoist the "sell out" shall we?

Ally McCoist did work for free for 3 months during administration. He received no salary at all for March, April and May 2012. He has never received a penny of that money back.

His gross annual salary is £750,000 a year. There were no bonuses. If you properly examine the accounts and the prospectus then this is quite clear.

Following the takeover of the club, McCoist agreed to work for a lower wage of £600k for a period of five months. When £22m was raised from the IPO, his representative requested that his wage payments be returned to the contracted value and that those payments were brought up to date for the 5 month reduced period. At no point was McCoist's contract amended or was any suggestion made by the board that the wage reduction be permanent. McCoist did not at any point request an increase in his contracted salary.

During Administration, when he should have been coaching the team, McCoist was constantly meeting with Administrators, the legal representatives of the SFA, SPL and SFL as well as the various office bearers and executives of those three organisations. Following that, he continued to take part in the process of negotiating the infamous five way agreement and the smart money is on the outcome of that being considerably worse had it just been left to Green. All of this was taking place when Michael Stewart would have us believe that McCoist should have been completely restructuring the playing side of the club.

Even as late as November 2012, whilst still on reduced wages, McCoist was being asked, in addition to his football duties, to present to potential investors in London during a two week period ahead of the IPO. All of this was in addition to having to cobble together a squad which had been decimated by administration, to which the vast majority of additions were free transfers and where several of the additions were not of his choosing.

Is his wage too high? With hindsight, yes, but he offered to reduce it in October 2013 and, for reasons known only to the Executives at the time, the agreed cut was not actioned until around a week ago. They seemed more intent on attempting to deflect attention away from their own disgraceful plundering of the club than they were on accepting a genuine offer from someone who cares as deeply as you or I about Rangers.

The idea that McCoist should have offered to reduce his contractual wage when the original financial projections showed only a loss of around £1m for the financial year is ridiculous. It is even more ridiculous when you see the wages and bonuses being paid to others at the club at the time. Why would McCoist have thought the club couldn't afford it? Even when that predicted loss was amended to £7m it is quite apparent that those around McCoist, with a much clearer view of the club finances, were reassuring him that all was well. As recently as October 2013, Stockbridge was still telling everyone that player wages were "sustainable". As soon as it became apparent that Stockbridge, Green and Ahmad had got things woefully wrong and that the club was haemorrhaging money at an alarming rate, McCoist offered to reduce his wage in the region of 45%. Apparently, to some, this makes him a "sell out".

The worst thing about this is that there is a coordinated feel to some of the recent attacks on McCoist and I sincerely hope that those Rangers fans taking part in it are doing so through ignorance rather than complicity. Criticise the manager to your heart's content for things you don't like on the pitch. Debate the team selection. Debate the signings. Moan about under par performances but remember the burden which has been borne by McCoist over the past two years. Ask yourself if anyone else at our club could have done it. Ask yourself if he genuinely should have had such in depth sight of our finances that he was able to contradict our own financial director's forecasts. Ask yourself if you really want the final, high profile employee at the club who has genuine feeling for Rangers, removed for failing to do a job that was never his to do in the first place.

It's an odd situation to see a group of Rangers fans, who normally, often quite correctly, scream from the rooftops about BBC output, suddenly promote Michael Stewart's rant on Twitter and forums. It's odder still to see some of them promote the work of Glenn Gibbons whose previous they are more than aware of. When challenged on this approach we've seen the group in question's official Twitter account inform another Rangers fan to "take McCoist's c##k out your mouth". Frankly it's the sort of thing you'd expect from the most demented amongst the Celtic support.

We've seen PR men, supposedly working for the club, not only look to undermine a potential investor in Dave King but now also attempt to turn fans against our own manager. Clearly some are more eager to believe this nonsense than others. You really have to wonder why.

The time to judge Ally McCoist will be when he's had an opportunity to do his job unhindered. It will be when he's had the opportunity to build a team out of something other than free transfers and young lads. Despite that fact that none of these norms have been afforded to him during his time as manager, he's continued to do his best in trying circumstances and has comfortably achieved the required promotion from two divisions. I fully expect him to achieve the same next season. Perhaps Graham Wallace will show himself to finally be the CEO who will provide Super Ally with the basic tools to do his job and be judged in fairer circumstances. For all our sakes let's hope so. In the meantime, debate away but how about we show our manager, a club legend, some respect and don't lap up the vitriol from elements of the press and dark corners of the internet?