Ally McCoist’s untidy exit from Rangers, when it is finally realised, will bring a disappointing end to the former striker’s time in charge of the Glasgow giants.

McCoist has handled the difficult position with all the grace, dignity and winning mentality you would expect from a club legend. He has been far more than the ‘safe pair of hands’ some thought he would only turn out to be when he stepped in to the breach back in 2011, charged with helping Rangers get back on their feet following the financial meltdown.

McCoist has generally been able to justify the Scottish football betting odds, as he’s managed to successfully guide Rangers from the bottom up to the second tier in the last three years. He’s done it without too much moaning and groaning despite having his hands tied in the transfer market. He’s also usually had to work with ongoing internal disputes, power struggles, yet more allegations of financial mismanagement and then, belatedly, poorer-than-expected results on the pitch, such as losing to Queen of the South.

But the way he is now making what could be a drawn-out exit from Ibrox leaves a bad taste. Some are even calling it an undignified departure for a man who should be held up as a beacon of hope and a stellar club legend who has given his all, both professionally and personally, to try and help get Rangers back to where they belong.

The fact that some Rangers fans have voiced their opposition to McCoist’s team selection and some of the tactics he has adopted in recent weeks is disappointing, as he continues to try his best in what is clearly a difficult environment for the manager to be working on a daily basis.

Rangers have relied on the 52-year-old in their time in need and it will rank as a shame when he does eventually depart, whether that is at the end of the season or at some point over the next weeks and months after it emerged he had tendered his resignation. 

Just why exactly the man who scored more than 250 league goals for Rangers is now on the verge of leaving Ibrox remains somewhat of a mystery, although it is no surprise that a club that has had such a complicated recent past off the pitch should see their manager depart in less than straightforward circumstances.

McCoist has reportedly lost the support of the Rangers board due to this season’s less-than-impressive form. But they have also admitted they do not have the funds to pay the manager off in full so he is more than likely set to stay on for the rest of the season. Although, the way things have developed at Ibrox over the year it wouldn’t be a major shock if there are more twists to come and McCoist does go earlier.

The problem Rangers have – if they needed any more – is that it is unlikely anyone new coming in would do a better job than McCoist and, while up-and-coming coaches may fancy a spell in the spotlight in trying to prove themselves, experienced managers are not expected to be banging down the Ibrox door in the search of taking over.

McCoist’s exit is on the cards, even if it could be prolonged. But it will be a sad day when he does depart.

category: England

For all the glory and the grandeur that goes with winning the Premier League, there is a growing consensus that what happens at the other end of the table is where the real drama lies. Whilst the title race can at times feel like watching a couple of millionaires squabbling over the price of a hot dog, the relegation battle has a lot more bite to it.

If the cost of missing out on the title is a place in the Champions League – in the style of Chelsea, Liverpool and Arsenal – then the difference between coming first and fourth is arguably not that great.

Compare that with what happens when sides are relegated. The salutary lessons of Portsmouth and Blackburn, who have suffered all the agonies of the damned since they slipped out of the top flight, suggest that there is far more at stake at the foot of the table than the top.

What’s more, it’s a much more dramatic and dynamic contest. Watching Chelsea and Manchester City serially steamroller their way through the season is not what the Premier League is meant to be about. We’ve scoffed at the serial domestic successes of the likes of Barcelona and Real Madrid and, in years gone by, at the way Celtic and Rangers similarly dominated in Scotland. The drama of uneven contests is only occasionally even vaguely dramatic.

If Chelsea’s defeat at Newcastle is only interesting because it’s a break from the norm, we might as well just watch the traffic and wait for a yellow car to pass by. As impressive as unremitting excellence might be, it’s the human business of grappling with limited resources and the fear of failure that are what makes sport worth watching.

It also makes for a much more dynamic betting market. With more teams involved and continually fluctuating league standings, there is greater scope for punters to cash in on their insight. Comparing different bookmakers’ odds at somewhere like www.britishbookmakers.co.uk is a way to win twice over. The dynamism at this end of the table makes for a much more uneven marketplace.

Pinpointing sides’ weaknesses as well as their strengths requires a keener appreciation than is routinely offered by the media’s pampered pundits. It takes a more fully developed football intelligence to dig beneath the superlatives of individual brilliance and to get to grips with the real mechanics of team building. The bottom half of the table is football for grown-ups.

14076522643_15b1f38d26_z   by  wonker 

Watching a master craftsman at work is only one-part instructive. It is watching someone more like ourselves that we can learn something. Watching Cesc Fabregas will not teach me how to see a pass, but seeing how Burnley’s willing but limited Adrian Barnes strives to work around his limitations offers a template that I can begin to understand. And remember, the likes of Barnes are to all intents and purposes performing on a high wire with no safety net. There is no room for error at the foot of the table. It makes for a truly gripping drama irrespective of allegiance.

Year-on-year the backs-to-the-wall intensity of the relegation battle makes for far more gripping fare than the inevitable fading away of title contenders. We should give those struggling sides far more credit than that routinely offered by the media. It is them rather than the runaway millionaires at the top who make the Premier League the greatest league in the world.


Having come so close to winning the Premier League last season,Liverpool’s qualification for the Champions League for the first time in five years constituted something of a consolation prize for their fans.

With the financial windfall that qualification for Europe’s premier club competition brings, and the increased exposure, Liverpool will have seen their Champions League return as a way to cement their position back at the top of the English game.

As things have turned out, however, the Reds have fallen at the first hurdle, and qualification for the Champions League has done nothing but raise questions about their credentials.


Difficult To Comprehend

Heading into last night’s game with Basel, which they ultimately drew 1-1, Liverpool knew that a win would be enough to see them into the knockout stages of the competition. Despite this, the home side looked timid and seemed to lack the cutting edge needed to break down their Swiss opponents.

Needing a win, the decision to start with Lucas Leiva alongside Joe Allen in the middle of the park seemed difficult to comprehend, particularly given that one of Liverpool’s few creative talents, Philippe Coutinho, was left on the bench until the middle of the second half.

Lacking Tempo

Having conceded a goal to Fabian Frei in the first half, Liverpool needed to up the tempo quickly but they lacked ideas and were made to wait until the 81st minute before Steven Gerrard bagged an outstanding,free-kick equaliser.

By this time, Rickie Lambert had already been replaced in attack by Lazar Markovic, who had added a bit of pace and dynamism to the attack before his sending off for lashing out at Behrang Safari. The red card left Liverpool boss Brendan Rodgers less than impressed with the match officials after the final whistle.

Damage Long Since Done

Liverpool could have saved themselves late on, with the Basel goalkeeper Tomas Vaclik saving well from Jordan Henderson while Gerrard had a penalty claim. But, in truth, the damage to this season’s European campaign was long since done. Going into the game, the Reds had won just once in their previous five Group B matches – a very late 2-1 victory over Ludogorets in the opening round of fixtures.

Even if they had won last night, their two defeats to Real Madrid in the group campaign indicate that they would probably soon have exited the competition had they come up against any of the other big boys, and Rodgers knows they are not up to the standard required to compete at the top level.

Into the Europa League Hat

So now Liverpool find themselves into the hat for the knockout stages of the Europa League, but will Rodgers take the Thursday night competition seriously?

It is to be hoped he does, and he has said he will do, as winning it could be Liverpool’s only route back into the Champions League next season. Currently sat ninth in the Premier League table, the Reds have endured an indifferent start to the season and they look unlikely to mount any real challenge for the upper reaches of the league this campaign.

A good run in the Europa League could salvage Rodgers’ season and, particularly given the seriousness with which Everton are taking the competition, having qualified for the knockout stages with a game to spare, it will be expected by the Anfield faithful.

As for the punters, they have given their backing to Liverpool. A quick look around the bookies suggests Rodgers’ men are amongst the favourites with betfair at around 14/1 while others such as skybet and totesport also have the Merseysiders among the front-runners to lift the Europa League trophy in Poland in May.

Signings Required

It is clear for all to see the signings Liverpool made in the summer have not come close to matching the men they have replaced. Rodgers has come in for criticism but it seems his only way out of the current rut is more spending.

Firstly,Rodgers must buy a reliable goalkeeper. As good a shot-stopper as Simon Mignolet is, he is prone to errors and is not decisive enough to give his back four confidence. Someone like Chelsea’s Petr Cech could be just the ticket for the Anfield fans.

Defensive Frailty

Liverpool’s defence also needs tightening up. The likes of Glen Johnson and Dejan Lovren have underperformed this season and the club needs more competition for places.A man like Winston Reid, who has had an exceptional few seasons for West Ham United but is reportedly making wage demands which could see him leave Upton Park, could really help to improve the defence.

Lastly, upfront, Daniel Sturridge cannot return soon enough for Rodgers but he needs support and he cannot be expected to spearhead Liverpool’s attack on his own. Lambert is a willing worker and will do a job but Mario Balotelli has proved that he is not up to the task.

At £16m, Balotelli was a risk worth taking but it could now be time for Liverpool to cut their losses. Swansea City’s Wilfried Bony has seven league goals to his name this season and wouldn’t come cheaply but he is a proven goalscorer and could be a great option for Rodgers if he could prise him away from his old club.

Next Up -Old Trafford

Next up for Liverpool are bitter rivals Manchester United, who they meet at Old Trafford on Sunday. With Luis van Gaal’s men flying high, it will be a very tough assignment but it could come at just the right time for Liverpool as they seek to prove that they can still cope with Europe’s best.

category: England

Manchester United’s run of four Premier League wins on the bounce might have lifted them into the top four in the table and might also have restored some confidence around Old Trafford but they are still a long way from being the finished article.

Time for Acceptance

Midfield enforcer Marouane Fellaini is backing United to be ready and waiting for Chelsea to make a mistake and insists they are still in the title race but they should accept that a return to the Champions League would be a great result following last season’s dismal ending. With the form of Chelsea and Manchester City, those in the know around football and at Blue Sq have long since accepted the title will not be returning to Old Trafford any time soon. It is perhaps time Fellaini and his team-mates, including Chris Smalling – who claims belief is back at United – also recognised that scenario.


United manager Luis van Gaal – Image by: Calciomercato24 

Need for Consistency

United’s run of four straight wins, the latest of which came over Stoke City on Tuesday night, followed a record of one victory in the previous four games. Given the fact Chelsea remain unbeaten in the league this season, and that City have lost just twice, United will need to show consistency over a much longer period of time if they are to be considered as genuine title shots.

Too Late

In manager Luis van Gaal’s favour is the freshness of his squad. With no European football to worry about, the Dutchman has less cause to rotate his players and keep them fresh. Later in the season, Chelsea and City may tire as the various competitions progress and their players may take their eye off the ball in the Premier League. If this happens, then United will be there to pounce. But, at the moment, it looks as though they have far too big a mountain to climb and, with the proven title-winning experience in both the Chelsea and City camps, they have left it too late to challenge this season.