Football: McCoist explodes myth of creation: As Rangers return to European Cup action this week, David McKinney talks to their prolific striker

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The Independent Online
IN a man's world Ally McCoist remains a boy, continually astonished and delighted by his simple gift for scoring goals, a joker on and off the field who insists he takes his job seriously but clearly enjoys every second of it. For 90 minutes on a Saturday afternoon, he takes a holiday from reality.

Football life for the Rangers striker is free of complications. His career has been uncluttered by consideration or debate over his relative skills or value within the team plan, his career reduced to a simple Saturday night question: 'How many goals did McCoist score?'

He has had to fight to earn the appreciation of the Rangers supporters who have become blase about his exploits, and at times critical about the number of chances he misses.

'At the end of the day, no matter what happens, I will be judged on the number of goals I have scored. I can play well but won't score and it won't be acceptable to the supporters. The only thing they will accept from me is the scoring of goals,' he said.

'I seem to be the only one not concerned about the chances I miss. It doesn't bother me in the slightest, because the more you create the more you'll score. I'm a firm believer that it's better to score two goals from five attempts than one from one.

'Maturity has given me the bonus of not worrying about it. The difficult part is being there in the first place, in creating the chance. I've maybe been taken for granted as a tap-in goalscorer, but the skill is being in the right place. You can be lucky once or twice, but not 40 times a season.'

McCoist is a collector of records as well as goals. His 207th goal for Rangers, scored against Motherwell last Tuesday, gave him the post-war scoring record for a player with one club. He is well beyond Derek Johnstone's post-war record for Rangers, and with 15 to his credit he is the highest-scoring Ranger for the Scottish international side. Last season he won Europe's Golden Boot, scoring 34 league goals.

And scoring goals is what he does best, as he showed against Leeds in the European Cup. At Ibrox he demonstrated his knack for being in the right place at the right time with a simple knock in, then at Elland Road his well-directed header beyond the outstretched hand of John Lukic earned him plaudits from an English press who had previously considered him a goalscorer in an inferior league.

On Wednesday, McCoist leads the Rangers attack against Club Bruges, in the European Champions League, knowing that three points from their first two games have given the Scottish champions a real chance of progressing to the final.

'We have had a fabulous run, and carried the luck you need to win anything when we came back from the dead against Marseille. This is the best chance I've had of reaching the European Cup final, but I don't know if it's the best chance I'll get. We are not trying to win the European Cup just to equal Celtic, (who won it in 1967) we want to win it for ourselves.'

McCoist has been at Ibrox for 10 years and the decade has not passed without controversy. If he is now reckoned by some supporters to be the greatest living Ranger, that was not always the case.

He was often roundly jeered by the fans in his early years, and it took a hat-trick in the 3-2 League Cup final victory against Celtic in 1984 to win them over. Later, dropped from the team under the stewardship of Graeme Souness, he was given a new nickname, 'The Judge', because he spent so much time on the bench.

'Life was very difficult at times under Souness. I felt he was wrong to keep me out of the team, but he had the stronger opinion because he was the manager. It was a matter of keeping my mouth shut and getting on with the job, and I look back at that time with a deal of happiness for myself about the way I handled it,' McCoist said.

The sense of humour for which he is renowned almost as much as his goals carried him through the bad times, although he risked the wrath of the player-manager on one occasion when Souness told him he had been the worst player on the pitch and received the reply: 'No I wasn't, you were.'

McCoist is now a player at the top of his profession, mobbed at every public appearance, and articulate to the point of monopolising radio and television interviews. But underneath the flashing smile and ready quips there lurks a fear.

'The thought of having to stop terrifies me, and I like to think I will know myself when I am no longer getting into those telling positions. Hopefully it's in the distant future, but I would like to go out at the top. I can't see me playing out my time with another team further down the league.

'Television work appeals to me and possibly coaching youngsters, and although I would like to stay connected to the game, I don't think I am suitable manager material.'

He is suitable hero material though, with a ready army of followers clamouring for an autograph or photograph at every public appearance, and he is happy to oblige.

'I wouldn't refuse anything, but I've learned to be abrupt with the people who think they own you. If people are nice, they will get all the time in the world from me.'

For all his successes, and they have been considerable, McCoist retains a disarming modesty. This reporter's opening remark, 'Hello Ally, can I call you 'super'?' was greeted with a roar of laughter.

(Photograph omitted)