Ally McCoist today begins what is likely to prove the most important campaign he will ever face in football management. Having returned to Glasgow from a short break, the new Rangers manager must show he is ready and able to take over the reins from Walter Smith.
Like anyone starting out in football management, his first season at the helm could make or break him. Enjoy a successful campaign and it could be the beginning of a highly successful career in the dugout... fail to do the business and he might never recover.
McCoist will have to sit down with new owner Craig Whyte and ascertain exactly what the budget is for the forthcoming season. It has been suggested the new manager could be provided with as much as £10m this summer to revamp his playing squad ahead of the new season and he’ll need to need to trash out the financial perameters he’ll be working within.
That, of course, will also dictate how strong a hand McCoist has to play when it comes to agreeing new deals with existing members of his playing squad entering the final year of their current contracts.
Midfielder Steven Davis is a player Rangers are desperate to keep. The same goes for Steven Whittaker, while youngster Greg Wylde is another who’ll become a free agent this time next year if an agreement can’t be reached. Goalkeeper Allan McGregor, who still has two years of his deal still to run, has also intimated he’ll be happy to sign a new, improved contract.
Much of McCoist’s defensive plans could centre on whether he convinces Madjid Bougherra to pen a new deal. He is another who is entering the final year of his contract and has hinted he will see that out before moving on a Bosman next summer.
That is something the Ibrox club will have to avoid and unless they can agree a new deal with the Algerian stopper, McCoist might be forced to cut his losses on the best defender at the club for the sake of the £2m they could bank for his services.
Then there is the issue over David Weir’s future. At 41, there is no doubt his best years are behind him, but he once again played a remarkable amount of first-team games and the captain’s experience might be vital with more comings and goings expected than in previous years.
Having suggested he might be tempted to keep going, McCoist will have to make a final decision after weighing up the pros and cons of offering Weir another year.
And he will also have to make a call on whether it is a wise move to table a cash offer to Aberdeen to Richard Foster. The full-back performed well and provided cover for a number of positions during his loan spell last season.
Up for grabs
Having taken over from Walter Smith, McCoist will have different opinions on certain players within the Ibrox squad. That is likely to mean one or two of the current squad could be moved on to make room for new arrivals.
James Beattie, who failed to make any kind of impact at Ibrox last season before being shipped off to Blackpool on loan for the second half of the campaign is, as things stand, set to return to Murray Park for the beginning of pre-season training next month.
McCoist is unlikely to see him as a viable option to lead the line next season and therefore will attempt to move him on in a cut-price deal as there are likely to be English Championship clubs willing to take a chance on him.
Maurice Edu has also been linked with a move to Turkey and, after a difficult campaign, in which he found himself coming in for stick from the club’s own supporters, selling the American internationalist might be an option.
The scouting department at Ibrox have been virtually redundant in recent years with no money to spend on new faces, but that is about to change.
McCoist knows he has to prove himself in the transfer market and show he has a good eye for a player. He has recruited John Brown and Neil Murray to head the scouting department, and his former team-mates have been all over Europe in search of talent.
There is also the option of trying to re-sign some of the players who arrived on loan last season such as Kyle Bartley, Vladimir Weiss, El-Hadji Diouf and David Healy. Bartley would be a decent short-term signing as he performed well and there is a need for defensive options.
The others, though, would either cost too much or did not feature enough to merit a return. However, there is no mistaking that McCoist needs to recruit.
A new defender, possibly two, are required. He could also do with another option to play out wide and still needs someone to partner Nikica Jelavic in attack.
Kyle Lafferty finished the campaign well, but there are spells when he doesn’t contribute enough and that is why another attacker is a must. It would take at least three of four new signings to get Rangers to a level McCoist would be happy with ahead of his first season at the helm.
(18 in total) Allan McGregor, Neil Alexander, Steven Whittaker, Kirk Broadfoot, Madjid Bougherra, Darren Cole, Sasa Papac, Steven Davis, Kyle Hutton, Lee McCulloch, Maurice Edu, Steven Naismith, Jamie Ness, Gregg Wylde, James Beattie, John Fleck, Kyle Lafferty, Nikica Jelavic