Rangers' McCoist on HK mission
The road to redemption for Rangers could pass through Hong Kong with the Glasgow giants' manager Ally McCoist jetting in to watch the players aiming to be the club's future at the HKFC Citibank International Soccer Sevens this weekend.
McCoist might just be glad to get a break away from Scotland after nearly six months of constant turmoil - but with Rangers facing a possible exodus of their stars this summer and labouring under a transfer embargo, he will be taking a keen interest in the young players who may have to be fast-tracked into the first team.
'The manager is on his way and he will have a chance to see the players in the flesh operating at this level,' said Tommy Wilson, the highly respected youth coach who oversees Rangers' academy.
'Hong Kong fans can also see for themselves the future of Rangers on display. Some of them have already broken through and you will see why they have done so. This tournament is a great breeding ground for young players.'
Four of the 10-man Rangers squad have been involved in the first team squad - 22-year-old goalkeeper Scott Gallacher, and teenage midfield trio Rhys McCabe, Robbie Crawford and Barrie McKay - and along with the rest will be keen to impress McCoist.
On Wednesday, Rangers lost an appeal against a ?60,000 (HK$1.9 million) fine and 12-month transfer embargo imposed by the Scottish Football Association.
The decision will come as a blow to the consortium headed by former Sheffield United chief executive Charles Green, who had an offer to buy the club accepted last Sunday.
Administrators were called in to Rangers on February 14 after tax authorities went to court over an unpaid bill. That meant Rangers were docked 10 points - a move that effectively handed the SPL title to arch-rivals Celtic.
It has been a miserable time for all connected with the club, and more than former Scotland goalkeeper and diehard Ranger Andy Goram (pictured) has been able to stomach.
'It's been heartbreaking,' said Goram, who played for Rangers from 1991 to 1998 and will feature for the All Stars in the Sevens Masters event.
'As a fan and an ex-player it is sad. When we were playing and winning nine [titles] in a row, you wouldn't have envisaged Rangers being in administration.
'We are having a bad time and we've just got to fight through it and get through it. You just got to fight your corner. Things can't get any worse, only better.'
Goram was appalled that the appeal to revoke the transfer embargo had failed. He said: 'This means we can't buy any players and bring any players in, unless they are under 18, which is ridiculous as we won't be competitive in the league.
'Unless all the players who are there now stay, those who took wage cuts last season, it's going to be a downward spiral for the club. We can't afford to lose the likes of [Allan] McGregor, [Lee] McCulloch, Steven Davis, especially in the middle of the pitch. We can afford to lose the wingers because we can replace them but the middle of the pitch has been our strong point. We need to keep the spine.'
If there is any silver lining, it is that many young careers could be fast-forwarded. Wilson added: 'Some of them eventually would have come through, but they wouldn't have got an opportunity so soon.
'Most of this young lot can be playing next season,' Goram agreed. 'A lot of them have played and are good enough to play. We've got some good young lads and the future is bright. They will be good to watch this weekend.'
The tournament, split into a Masters event for over-35s and a 16-team main competition, starts today at Hong Kong Football Club.
Kitchee are defending champions of the main event, but will not field a top side as they face a crucial league game tomorrow against Hong Kong's own Rangers to decide the title.