Ally McCoist Is The Last Of The Uncertainties At Rangers

GLASGOW, SCOTLAND - MAY 07: Ally McCoist and Walter Smith of Rangers react during the Clydesdale Bank Premier League match between Rangers and Hearts at Ibrox Stadium salutes his supporters on May 7, 2011 in Glasgow, Scotland.(Photo by Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images)

With Ally McCoist the only doubt remaining at Ibrox, Celtic must hope that the last few years do not go down as a great missed opportunity.

Only in hindsight can we judge a truly great team, and unless the future is replete with rose-tinted spectacles and hallucinogenic drugs, the Rangers team of recent years under Walter Smith is unlikely to go down as such. But the benefit of perspective is already becoming apparent when looking back - they just might have proven themselves to be one of the most important in Rangers' history.

In a sense, Rangers had a near-perfect squad to withstand the lean years. They boasted a number of players who ticked all the boxes - reliable, consistent, versatile, determined, and loyal. Combined with an excellent mentality, Rangers were able to win titles, prevent Celtic from establishing SPL dominance, and crucially, gain Champions League resources without which the club could have sailed perilously close to ruin.

Now, the long-awaited takeover has brought new investment. The transfer budget, a bounty compared to the recent past, looks like being wisely spent. Their first XI has been bolstered by proven, inexpensive signings, added to an existing setup that, while severely limited, has many good points. Securing Steven Davis to a new long-term contract may prove to be their best signing, the Northern Irish dynamo emblematic of Rangers' determination and know-how. A big season, too, will be expected of Nikica Jelavic, who showed periods of true class last year. In addition, a silver lining of making do with such a tiny squad was the rise of some of the club's youngsters, such as Jamie Ness and Gregg Wylde.

There is, however, one man that does not sit at ease with a new era of stability - Ally McCoist. The Scot may have served his apprenticeship under a true master, but that is no guarantee of a successful step up - just ask Carlos Queiroz. Though he is possessed with a detailed knowledge of the club, he represents a great uncertainty for Rangers.

If McCoist does go on to uphold Smith's legacy, there will be much reflection at Celtic Park. The past few years will represent something worse than simple failure - they will be seen as a great missed opportunity, a chance to kick Rangers when they were down, push them closer to financial ruin, and instill a winning habit. Tony Mowbray's revolution proved to be too severe, and though the long-term legacy may prove to bear some fruit, the timing was poor. That, and Lennon's team failing to achieve the consistency required, could cost Celtic dearly. In cold hindsight, the upheaval was unnecessary and dangerous - as SPL veterans were shipped out of Celtic Park to flounder in Teesside, Rangers trusted theirs and were rewarded. The opportunity to deal a significant blow to a wounded animal was missed.

There is still promise at Celtic Park, however. They have a good side, who should improve this season as the players gel and gain experience. Though they must know that the Rangers side of this season represent a far more formidable foe than of the past, they will also know that Rangers have lost one of their greatest weapons in Smith's experience. McCoist is the glaring weakness, the great unknown in which doubts can take root. Only one thing is for sure - the margins of failure and success in such an even battle are minute, and the appointment of a club legend from within will be proved at the end of the season to be a success at one club and a mistake at another. Over to you, Messrs Lennon and McCoist.

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