Written by – Jonny McFarlane
I have made it clear in recent posts that I think Ally McCoist’s tenure as Rangers manager should be coming to an end.
Even the achievement of an unlikely Scottish Cup win (although I believe this chance so remote and counter to rational logic it seems silly to even mention it) would not supersede the tactical ineptitude and lack of vision shown by the manager up to this point.
For me, the most pertinent issue surrounding the club is not if McCoist should be replaced, but who should take over.
A new Rangers manager should tick the following boxes:
1. Be competent working with a small budget
2. Have a track record of blooding and improving young players
3. Have a proven understanding of the Scottish game, and ideally have won silverware.
4. Proven ability to handle an intense media environment
5. Track record in producing exciting football
Here is a list of names that I feel could be realistic candidates for the job.
Alex McLeish (Ticks boxes 1,2,3,4,5)
A successful former Rangers manager and a man of immense experience and stature, McLeish would be an ideal candidate to return to Ibrox as manager. Poor spells at Aston Villa and Nottingham Forrest should not detract from a wonderful record with the national team and at Rangers. While his final season was something of a calamity, his seven trophy wins against the best Celtic team since 1967 stands as an enduring legacy of his capability in the job. He proved his tactical nous by developing an elastic 4-3-3 formation that stretched Celtic’s rigid 3-5-2 to breaking point, a feat that had eluded even Dick Advocaat, a world class coach. It’s an old cliché that you should never go back for a second spell at a club but Walter Smith proved that experience in the cauldron of the Ibrox hot seat can be a blessing rather than a curse.
Craig Levein (1,2,3,5)
Levein’s spell as Dundee United manager was as impressive for what came after it as what went before. He left an enduring legacy that saw a Scottish Cup win and third place finishes but more importantly, his time reconfiguring the Tannadice youth set up and the appointment of youth coaching wunderkind Ian Cathro has finally bore fruit with the emergence of genuine technical talent like Souter, Gauld and Armstrong. Despite a very poor period as Scotland manager and at Leicester City, Levein has been a terrific success when located in the SPFL. While Levein’s brand of football was direct and often used a target man it was exciting and high tempo. He always comes across as a pragmatist and his hard but fair demeanour recalls some of the traits of a young Walter Smith. Levein is not a man to be crossed and does not tolerate dissent. This of course, caused him trouble when moving to the bigger egos of the national team but Levein is smart enough to have learned lessons in failure. Where Levein would have to show major improvement is in his relationship with the media which soured massively during the Scotland years, despite an excellent reputation forged earlier at United and Hearts.
Paulo Sergio (3,4,5)
The Portugese, Scottish Cup winning former Hearts manager had a short but impressive spell at Tyncastle. Playing a continental passing game with a pragmatic streak of Scottish steel, Sergio’s 5-1 defeat of Hibs will go down in Edinburgh lore. Handling the media with understated charm and developing the likes of Ian Black and David Templeton, he proved himself to be adept at dealing with powder-keg situations, keeping the team ticking over despite issues surrounding the non-payment of wages.
Having managed Sporting Lisbon, Sergio understands the pressures associated with managing a big club but his record there and, excluding Hearts, has been questionable. This could be down to bad luck but it means that his appointment would be a gamble.
Stuart McCall (1,2,3,5)
Working wonders at Motherwell on one of the smallest budgets in the league and being a Rangers legend makes McCall a compelling candidate. Playing a very modern brand of pace driven counter attacking football, he lead Motherwell to a Scottish Cup Final, second place last year and is challenging a strong Aberdeen this term for the same position. McCall’s work has gone without much fanfare and he seems to be happy to float along under the radar. His work with Gordon Strachan for Scotland will have added to his experience and skill-set in dealing with higher profile players. While this represents a strong case for his appointment, one wonders if he is temperamentally suited to such a high profile position and the intense media scrutiny that comes with the Rangers job.
Billy Davies (1,2,3,5)
Considered by Kris Boyd as a better manager than even Walter Smith, Davies has made a reputation as a technology embracing, tactically astute and intensely well prepared manager. Known for improving players and his fierce dedication to the job, Davies is reputably one of the finest coaches in the British game. He is a die-hard Rangers supporter since childhood and has made no secret of his dream to walk up the marble staircase as manager one day.
Where Davies has a gaping hole in his CV is in his tempestuous relationship with the media. It got so hostile towards the end of his time at Forrest that he was no longer giving press conferences or interviews through any non-club media. The Rangers job is much more high profile, the criticism much fiercer, and the expectations of conduct much more strict. While the prospect of Davies running the coaching is mouth-watering, the sight of him terrifying and alienating the press in equal measure could lead to some extremely awkward situations for club.
Derek McInnes (1,2,3,5)
A shrewd operator who has done a virtually flawless job at Aberdeen so far this season, McInnes has a record of success in Scottish football that stretches back to winning promotion from the championship with St. Johnstone. As a former Rangers player, he understands the club and the expectations. Despite a (perhaps unfair) sacking at Bristol City, McInnes has bounced back and created a very potent and pacey team in a matter of months at Pittodrie. Blooding youngsters with a small but experienced collection of established pros, Aberdeen are an exciting team to watch who thrive on that very modern concept of footballing ‘transition’.
The real problem with appointing McInnes, who has just signed a new contract, would lie in the considerable fee Aberdeen would expect to collect for his services.