Yet again it has not been the best of weeks for Ally McCoist and Rangers with events off the field of play dominating the headlines.
Everyone was aware that Chief Executive Graham Wallace was investigating areas at Ibrox where cost-cutting measures might be introduced – but somehow the notion of a 15 per cent reduction in players’ wages has produced sensational headlines and wild speculation.
For the Rangers manager the immediate priority is tonight’s league fixture against Forfar Athletic at Station Park – as McCoist acknowledged.
“I just hope and pray that the players in the dressing room won’t be affected. They don’t deserve to be going through what they’re going through,” he said.
“Hopefully morale won’t be affected because they’re a good group of boys.
“They have been really terrific.
“They’ve been getting criticised recently when they’ve only been winning 1-0 and 2-0. That’s how far they’ve come.”
Forfar currently lie fifth in League One with 25 points from nineteen games – but have been impressive in recent weeks, having won their last two games and scoring eight goals in the process.
Rangers have not impressed on two previous visits to Station Park this season, suffering their first-ever defeat to the ‘Loons’ back in August 1-2 in a League Cup-tie and scraping an unimpressive 1-0 win on League business in September when Andy Little netted the only goal of the game.
More recently Rangers were overwhelming 6-1 winners at Ibrox with Nicky Clark netting four but conditions at the Angus ground are hardly ideal – the artificial pitch is one intensely disliked by visiting players whilst on both occasions when the Ibrox men have been there in recent months the wind played a major role in proceedings.
Clark, however, is absent with a fractured foot that will keep him out of action for approximately ten weeks.
The loss of the striker is a blow as he has scored ten goals against Forfar in the past 18 months, including six last season for Queen of the South.
Ian Black is suspended for this evening’s game as indeed remains Arnold Peralta meaning that Lewis MacLeod and Nicky Law will almost certainly line up in central midfield with Little and Fraser Aird on the wings and Dean Shiels partnering Jon Daly up front.
Forfar Boss Dick Campbell has been around for a long time and with experienced players in defence like former Celtic goalkeeper Rab Douglas and central defender Darren Dods the home side will be difficult to break down.
McCoist acknowledged the challenge tonight’s fixture represents.
“Dick as usual will be well up for the game,” he said.
“Forfar have had a couple of great results recently and without doubt have given us really tough games on their own ground.
“We felt we played really well against them last time at Ibrox but going up to Forfar is a completely different environment and a completely different game. I can sense the lads within our group are anticipating a really tough game on Monday.”
Meanwhile, the departure of Andy Mitchell from the club is one that has been the subject of some regret from many Rangers fans.
The Northern Ireland Under-21 internationalmay have played just eight competitive first-team games for the Light Blues – yet won ‘Man of the Match’ awards and as well as captaining the Ibrox Reserves to the league title last season was regarded by many as the best right-back at the club.
McCoist, however, preferred the experience of Richard Foster and Sebastien Faure – neither of whom have been particularly impressive although to be fair the Frenchman’s best position lies in central defence.