IRN-BRU SFL PHENOMENAL THIRD DIVISION MANAGER OF THE MONTH - ALLY McCOIST (Rangers)
When you have had a footballing career as glittering as Ally McCoist’s, you would maybe think that winning the IRN-BRU Phenomenal Manager of the Month Award for the Third Division would be no big deal.
Well if you do, you would be wrong, for McCoist was delighted to be chosen after his side’s six game winning run last month and to him, the Award means more than just recognising a fine run by his men.
McCoist explained: “I see this award as marking the end of one chapter and hopefully, marking the start of another chapter.
“It was certainly an unbelievable 2012 in many ways and the vast majority of it was not good in terms of this football club. However, out of that madness and disappointment came an opportunity within The Scottish Football League.”
McCoist continued: “That opportunity gave us the chance to rebuild for which we are very, very thankful for.
“After being voted out of the SPL, it was mooted that we would play in the First Division and, we would have accepted playing there, as all we wanted was an opportunity to play football. However, the more the fans thought about things and the more the people at the club thought about things, the Third Division was the right place to go.
“It was the right place for us to rebuild from and thankfully, the SFL has allowed us to do that.”
It would not seem feasible that a 61 times capped Scotland player would form a strong bond with a former submariner that is also the Chairman of a Third Division part-time club but that is exactly what happened back in July as Rangers’ fate was discussed.
McCoist said: “One of the biggest memories of the whole debacle we were in from 14th February last year was that in the meeting with the SFL clubs back in July, we were welcomed in. I will never forget Tony Ford of East Stirling welcoming me and everyone from the club. He was the first person to welcome us to anything in a long time. A great gesture by a great man and something I on behalf of the club will never forget.
“So despite everything I have won in my career, this IRN-BRU Award absolutely means a lot.”
McCoist explained his view further saying: “I have been asked the question about the award already and in many ways, I feel the question should be asked back the way about why it should not mean as much as something else.
“It means a lot as it is a reward for you and your players for the success they have seen during the month of the only division we are playing in. People might want to compare it to the SPL award I won last season and say it is a lesser league but you can only be judged, and hopefully rewarded on, what you are capable of winning.
“I am very grateful for it as it is recognition that you are doing something right.”
Young Ibrox midfielder Lewis Macleod beat his Manager to an IRN-BRU SFL Award by a month after picking up November’s Young Player of the Month accolade and the 18-year-old and his young colleagues were given praise by McCoist.
The Ibrox boss said: “He may have won his award a month earlier than me but I was delighted for him as he has been fabulous. In fact, Lewis and all our young kids have been great especially in very difficult times.
“People have to remember where we were at the start of the season. We had six players at Rangers Football Club for pre-season training – that is all we had. Thirty six hours before we played Brechin in The Ramsdens Cup, we did not have a licence to play. We had no real pre-season as we had to cancel two pre-season tours.”
McCoist added: “We had players that would be leaving, and others that were on trial, so we started with a makeshift team. People have perhaps forgotten all the aspects we faced and players sometimes do not get the credit for the way they have handled things.
“Of course, it took a bit of time and the first three or four away games were a bit of a shock to our system. The sides we were playing were flying and fair play to them for the way they went about things but the best way to compliment Lewis and the other young players is by saying that they have got to learn the first team situation well.”
Their Manager added: “That does not mean we will win every game from here on in but we are better prepared for the challenges we face in away games. Home games have been handled more carefully.”
The youngsters are learning their trade in the same manner McCoist did when he was a teenage striker at St. Johnstone back in the early eighties.
The Ibrox boss said: “That is a fair comparison, in fact it is a one hundred percent accurate comparison. I wasn’t at a club that is the size of Rangers but I was Lewis Macleod in terms of being a 17-year-old and playing against Berwick Rangers.
“I was signed by them as a 16-year-old and in terms of being a young player and learning in the first team, I have been there and worn the T-shirt. We had a good team with John Brogan, John Pelosi, Drew Rutherford, who is sadly no longer with us, Jimmy Morton, Andy Brannigan, Rab Kilgour, John McKay, Tam McNeil and Johnny Hamilton.”
The Perth players made a lasting impression on McCoist who added: “These guys were great with me and I could tell you the line-ups and the substitutes from the games I played in because they were so important to me. That was my growing up in the game and travelling up there by train every week on my own helped me grow up as a person.”
Playing for St. Johnstone gave McCoist an early platform to show off his penchant for goals and he brought it to a national audience back in March, 1981 with the aid of wintry weather that had gripped Scotland.
McCoist explained: “St. Johnstone played Berwick and a whole lot of games were called off but Muirton was in its usual terrific condition and our game went on. Scotsport had a set of cameras at Perth Ice Rink to cover a curling tournament so as we were still on, they sent them over to film our First Division game.
“I scored four times in a 6-2 win and that certainly helped my profile.”
Six months later, McCoist was at Sunderland in the top division in England and he joked: “Here I am back playing Berwick again.
“That game was special to me when I look back on my career.”
As for winning more IRN-BRU SFL Awards, McCoist said: “I would think that as a team and individuals, we are in a different scenario to most sides as the consensus is that we should be top of the division. I can understand that.
“If we are fortunate to win the title, we may not be presented with Young Player, Player and Manager of the Year Awards as some people may see it as doing only what is expected.
“The really important thing is to win the Third Division Championship but it would be nice for the people at Rangers to be involved in more award ceremonies.”