McCoist delighted by fixture pile-up
Wednesday 12 March 2008
The Rangers assistant manager, Ally McCoist, has dismissed fears of burnout as the club step up their chase for four trophies by insisting: "This is where you want to be, this is what it's all about."
Yesterday, the team were preparing to fly to Germany for tomorrow's Uefa Cup last 16 second leg with Werder Bremen, when they will start with a 2-0 lead from the first leg. After they return, on Friday they will go straight into preparations for Sunday's CIS Insurance Cup final against Dundee United at Hampden. Then, next Wednesday, they take on Partick for a place in the Scottish Cup semi-finals.
The hectic run of fixtures will only briefly relent when Scotland meet Croatia at the national stadium on 26 March, but there will almost certainly be Rangers players on duty in that game too.
There are three Old Firm matches in the league to fit in before the end of the season, but McCoist would far rather be involved on all four fronts than relying on one or two competitions to bring Rangers success.
"Brilliant, isn't it?" he said. "A lot of people say, 'Are the amount of games worrying you... the pitches, the backlog, the tired players?' No, this is where you want to be, this is what you want to do.
"You only play these amount of games if you're doing reasonably well in all competitions. But it's now getting to the business end of the season and we want to start winning things.
"The boys have performed very, very well to get to this stage, but as yet we haven't won a thing. So it's a very important, testing time coming up."
Rangers, who also lead the Scottish Premier League, will start as firm favourites in the League Cup showpiece against United at the weekend.
But Europe could be the toughest test for Walter Smith's side, and McCoist warned that the two-goal lead from last Thursday's Ibrox tie with Bremen could be whittled away.
He is eager to summon up a performance as gritty as Rangers put in against Red Star Belgrade in August, when a goalless draw in Serbia after a 1-0 win at Ibrox secured a lucrative place in the Champions League group stages.
A similar outcome tomorrow would nudge Rangers closer to their second European trophy, 36 years since their European Cup-Winners' Cup triumph in Barcelona.
McCoist saw Bremen lose heavily at the weekend, to Stuttgart, but was not swayed from his belief that the Bundesliga's second-placed side are top-quality opponents. McCoist said: "A lot of the public maybe think the tie is effectively over because it's a great result at home against Werder Bremen. But, believe me, I watched Werder Bremen at the weekend against Stuttgart [who] beat them 6-3 and – I'm deadly serious – it could have been 8-6 or 8-7. That was the way the two teams played the game. On the one hand, it's nice to know they can concede goals and we have players who can score goals against them.
"They've got a big side, a strong side. They remind me a bit of a British side. They have the little lad [Diego] in the middle of the park who's a tremendous playmaker, they've got Naldo and [Per] Mertesacker, and [Hugo] Almeida up front.
"They're big, big lads, and the two boys at the back [Naldo and Mertesacker] will come up for throw-ins, set pieces and corner-kicks. So we know they're going to put us under some amount of pressure, but we've just got to stand up.
"We had a game earlier on in the Champions League against Red Star Belgrade which was maybe a little bit the same. We won the first game 1-0 and we had to go over to Belgrade and defend.
"So a performance like that, equal to that, will definitely be required."
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