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David MacKinnon Interview: Souness, a Chinese sponsor, moving forward and Ally McCoist

David Donaldson MacKinnon joined Rangers in May of 1982. He left in 1986 and, as he recalls it, his time at the club ended rather abruptly.

“In my final season there I had a knee injury and before my last game Souness came in and said, ‘I know you’ve got your knee problem but we need you to play as I need someone with experience to play in centre midfield’ – he took me aside and said ‘I think your knee is not the greatest so I think you should maybe consider going part-time but we are playing Celtic tonight in the Glasgow Cup’ and he said ‘do you want to play?’

“I said ‘Of course!’

“So I knew before the game started that my career at Rangers was over.

“Ironically, I probably played one of the best games I’ve ever played at Rangers and I didn’t want to go off the pitch at the end, because of the emotion and the unbelievable support that was there – but that was it!

“I went back into the dressing room and Souness said to the team, ‘Well done guys and just to let you know Davies leaving!’

“Everybody was like, ‘What do you mean – leaving to go where?’

“He said ‘that’s him finished’

“They couldn’t believe it!

“So that was it, I was out...I got my boots and suddenly it was all over.”

MacKinnon has always kept a keen eye on Rangers and he has his own ideas about some of the club’s problems.

“I think one of the things is that the club has lost its soul – when I was there as a player it had a great soul. It was about the supporters, it was about the club – the tradition of the club and the values of the club and I think it’s lost that at the moment. I think its lost that completely, so what they have to do is they have to get the soul back and the only way you can do that is by engaging with the supporters and getting them on board and making them part of it.”

Due to his own experience of working in football, MacKinnon is well-placed to give an opinion on the current situation at Ibrox.

“I’ve been chief executive of two clubs in Scotland – Kilmarnock and Dundee. I know how clubs work...I know you need a foot in the dressing room and a foot in the boardroom. If you don’t have that then the boardroom and the dressing room work independently of each other and I think that’s what is happening just now. It is a big job for the current board going forward, it’s a big job for them to turn it around...but what they have to do, in my opinion, is get back to basics – to understand the workings of both the football side and the business side.”

The fans’ group the Sons of Struth continue to seek legal assurances over Ibrox Stadium and Murray Park and they are backed by club legends such as Richard Gough and Michael Mols.

Does this former chief executive of two Scottish clubs believe this is a viable request?

“I think it is! I think it’s entirely viable!

“I think they have said that it’s not feasible under the articles of association or the rules of the stock exchange because there are obviously investors etc. However, I think with good negotiation with the shareholders and the investors that they would be able to do that because at the end of the day, if there is nothing to fear about these assets at the club then why would you not do that?

“I think Graham Wallace has said that he would give a letter to that effect but I think it would have to be more than that – it would have to be a bona fide agreement that this will be done. I think that it can be done and unless that’s done then that’s a stumbling block. You could give some understanding that the assets are secured.

“The other thing is that there is not one complete body of fans because the fans have unfortunately been split. What I think happened was that when the club changed hands in the past there was an attempt to divide and conquer the fans.

“You need one leader that the fans buy into and you also need a clear business plan going forward. I saw Graham Wallace’s [business review] but that was just a top line. You need a clear and concise business plan and the first person who comes up with that then I think that is who the fans would get behind.

“When I read it I thought, ‘Well I agree with the sentiment and some of the things you want to do but we need to see the full workings for it.’ It’s alright to say that we’re going to do this and we’re going to do that but anyone who has ever worked at a senior level in football will realise that top line stuff...unless its delivered and there is a plan to deliver it - then it’s never going to happen!

“I have had approaches from people involved at the club because of my experience as chief executive at Kilmarnock and Dundee, I was asked for my input into various things over the last year but over the last four-five months I’ve been detached from it so I don’t know what the current state of play is. I just wish everybody all the best and hope they get the club back on an even keel ...that’s it.”

Incredibly, during Craig Whyte’s time in charge, MacKinnon reveals that a potential sponsor asked him to introduce them to Rangers. The answer he received from the club is a sign of what was happening behind the scenes at the time.

“I was doing a lot of work in China and the Middle East, in fact I was approached by a company in China that wanted to sponsor Rangers and so I was asked to email certain people at the club – this was about two years ago – to do an introduction. I got a reply saying, ‘I’m sorry were too busy concentrating on other things!’

“And I thought ‘Well that tells a story!’”

Looking at the football side of things, MacKinnon is also a strong supporter of his former teammate Ally McCoist.

“Ally has done great and I know how much pressure he’s been under and hopefully that pressure will be taken away from him now and he’s able to just concentrate on stuff on the park...he’s a really good manager. In my opinion, I don’t think that anyone else would have been able to cope with what he has had to cope with and delivered what he has delivered – no one else would have done that so all credit to him!

“There’s a good season ahead for him and I just hope that other things behind the scenes get sorted out and he’s able to start to enjoy being manager at Rangers because what an honour that is. Being at Rangers is the best thing that you can achieve in football.

“Ally doesn’t do walking away. I’m sure some times he’s felt like it but he’s done really well. I think the other thing is that hopefully this season allows the fans to look at what he puts on the park because I know they are divided about him.

“I hope they are 100% behind him this season because he deserves that – he really deserves that after all the crap he has had to put up with!”