In the latter part of his life, Rome’s first emperor, Augustus, began to become almost pathologically obsessed with the succession. He had no sons of his own, and the two grandson’s in whom he had placed his hopes had died.
Tiberius was his wife’s son by another man, but is widely regarded as having been a fantastic general.
Nevertheless, he had never sought high office, and his disdain for it can be gleaned from the fact that when he was named the second most powerful man in Rome by virtue of Augustus growing dependence on him, he actually retired from public life and went to live in Rhodes.
Despite that, he was not allowed to stay there and he returned to Rome shortly thereafter. When Augustus died he was appointed emperor, a job he had never wanted but which his mother, Livia, had demanded for him.
Tiberius was not a great Roman ruler. His reluctance to engage with the task at hand, his indifference to the whole notion of power, was crippling. He survived at least one attempt to overthrow him, but he was not happy in the job and although he ruled for 23 years they were not terribly good ones for anyone involved.
It may seem ludicrous to think of Ally McCoist in the same way … but he, like Tiberius, is hopelessly overmatched by a job he never really wanted but took on because he was there when the need arose for somebody to fill the seat.
See, some have accused McCoist of not wanting to admit failure, of being scared to walk away because he knows it would be seen as a sign of weakness. It’s crap. He stays because he has to. He knows the money he’s getting at Ibrox is more than he’ll ever see again in his life, that this is the pinnacle of his career, and his earnings.
He is stuck with Sevco Rangers, and they are stuck with him.
Can there be a more shambolic football club in Britain?
At the top of the house, they have a dysfunctional boardroom, controlled by a guy who owns less than 10% of the shares. He is their banker and guarantor, pursuing his own agenda to the detriment of all else. The ownership of the club is a fractured mess, split between dozens of individuals and institutions, and incapable of pulling together.
Their support is divided and factionalised too, with many of its most powerful groups locked in a mutual detestation of the others. It is incredible.
Added to that, this guy in the dressing room, a manager who is hopelessly out of his depth. None of this is sustainable and it’s why their club is circling the drain.
Since the weekend, there are rumours that things are about to change.
See, although Ibrox looks like a place that could be plunged into uncertainty at any time, nothing that is happening that could not have been seen – and has not been seen – far in advance.
Indeed, one of the most predictable events in the history of Scottish football (I called almost three years ago) is on the verge of coming to pass; the sacking of Ally McCoist. It seems as near certain as anything can be, and it was inevitable right from the start.
The appointment of this guy was one of the stupidest in the recent history of our game. It made no sense at all, and the liquidation of the OldCo should have seen him turfed out of the Ibrox hot-seat when they had a chance to tear up his ridiculous and wholly unjustified contract.
Instead, he was allowed to move into the new club on exactly the same terms, retained on a mind-bending salary which no other manager in the country – not the man at Celtic, not the national coach – could boast. Indeed, he was one of the highest paid managers in Britain out with the top teams in the EPL.
Ally McCoist became a manager in his late forties, with no prior experience in a similar role anywhere in the game.
Before Smith took him on board in the Scotland setup he seemed to have little interest in a management role. He retired from playing at 38 and didn’t get involved in football for three years. He served no apprenticeship. He had managed no clubs. By the time the job came along he was not young enough to be hungry. Indeed, he had his TV income and his coaching salary from Scotland and that had removed any need for him to work again.
This didn’t remove his natural inclination towards greed … but there was no desire, no passion, and his open ended “rolling contract” removes the need for any.
Smith went to Ibrox and McCoist went with him, and when the manager’s job came up after Smith left there was no interview process or interim appointment. His elevation, like that of Tiberius, was decided in advance and the job passed to him as if by right, like an inheritance, something he was entitled to, not something he earned.
The Rangers job (as it was then) was not just the absolute apex of his career ambition. It probably exceeded them by several degrees of magnitude.
Having walked away from his TV commitments, and realising that he was getting older and wasn’t likely to find himself back on the box again, he took it with nothing else on the horizon.
I repeat what I’ve been saying since the tumultuous events of 2012. He will never manage in the top flight of any country again.
His career haul as a manager are the two lower league titles he has secured with a 10-1 wage ratio. He has never been interested in stepping outside his comfort zone, which is built around working with a select group of people and within a rigid system.
How do we know this? How do we know he never saw himself in a job like this?
In 2006 he had a chance to blood himself in the game, and experience life at the sharp end, when Inverness offered him the manager’s job, but he turned it down.
He said, at the time, he wanted to stay near Glasgow and the following year he joined Walter Smith, as assistant, when he returned to Rangers. Yet I’ve always wondered about that. The Inverness job would have been a real feather in his cap. It was a big coup for a first time coach and he would have been working under no pressure, with low expectations.
There were expectations at Ibrox too, but at the time there was also the promise of money, if not straight away then certainly not too far down the line. How much did Murray sell him on Whyte and his plans? How much bluff and bullshit was he subjected to? Who knows? Who cares? He did believe he’d get to spend big … and that made the decision easy.
McCoist took the job knowing only what Walter Smith taught him about man management and tactics. He had not worked with anyone else; the Smith Method was his football education, and all of it was on horrific display at Tynecastle at the weekend past, with his team acting more like they were playing Rollerball than the Beautiful Game.
In contrast, Neil Lennon took the Celtic job with no prior managerial experience, but he was young and he was hungry and he had gotten his football education from Martin O’Neill and Gordon Strachan, two of the finest, most experienced managers in the recent history of the game here. They too had learned from great masters; O’Neill from Clough, and Strachan from Ferguson.
Of course, McCoist’s defenders will say he’s had to work with pressure, but no more than other managers have had to.
Issue 2 of our magazine, All In The Game, features an interview with John McGlynn in which he talked about working under similar conditions, and one only has to look at the sterling job Robbie Neilson has done on a limited budget with a side just emerging from admin.
None of them felt the need to accumulate a 10-1 wage advantage before they could do the job, and Neilson’s side has a nine point lead in spite of being on the wrong end of that equation.
Over-rated, over-hyped and most definitely over-paid, Sevco’s unfathomable flirtation with McCoist is almost at an end. Barring a radical dip in Hearts’ form I very much doubt he will get as far as the Celtic fixture early next year. If he loses to Kilmarnock in the cup this weekend – and the Ayrshire men will never have a better shot at smashing them – it’s over.
I’ve never liked the guy. The Scottish media’s love affair with him has always baffled me, because he’s shown, over the years, that he’s a spiteful and self-interested and I’ve always thought that deep down he was a small minded bigot who’s managed to hide it under a veneer of naff comedy and what some women once thought was a pretty face.
He’s not laughing any more, and as his career prospects and hairline recede he looks like what he is; a fat man in his fifties, with his best years behind him.
As a Celtic fan who knows Sevco Rangers can certainly better their prospects without him, I should be willing to mourn his coming date with destiny, but the truth is the game here will be better without him. He is a symbol of the mediocrity too many people in the sport tolerate.
He and others like him, who’s only redeeming qualities are to be found in their friendships with the mainstream media, are part of the incestuous networks that have held our game back. They are promoted by their friends, and they take out of the game without putting anything back into it. For years they’ve hung around our sport like vultures.
McCoist is their standard bearer, the ultimate expression of hype over talent, and much of what has happened at Ibrox can be traced right to his door.
That club will be better without him, but so too will the game.
His day has almost come. Tick-tock-tick-tock.
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