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Alarm bells sounding for Everton

Everton
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By ESPN Staff

Rangers set sights on Smith and McCoist

Rangers and the Scottish Football Association are poised for a tug-of-war over Walter Smith and Ally McCoist if Sir David Murray attempts to bring the Ibrox favourites back to the club.

Scotland head coach Smith and McCoist, a member of his staff, last night emerged as firm favourites to pair up at Rangers after Paul Le Guen's sudden departure.

Despite one bookmaker declaring the market closed, fearing a massive payout, there was no confirmation of reports Rangers goalscoring legend McCoist had already met with executive chairman Murray.

But the SFA will no doubt be fearing an approach from Rangers for two of the men who have played a pivotal role in Scotland's stunning start to their Euro 2008 qualifying campaign.

Scotland are the surprise Group B leaders, ahead of world champions Italy and World Cup runners-up France, and would be reluctant to lose Smith or McCoist.

Murray and Le Guen reached a mutual agreement to go their separate ways after talks yesterday lunchtime.

'Having met with Paul it was clear that in the interests of the club and all concerned we agreed jointly to him stepping down as manager,' said Murray.

'We are all clearly disappointed with our current circumstances and will now focus on securing a suitable replacement.'

A period of 72 manic hours in the life of the club began when Le Guen stripped Barry Ferguson of the captaincy and dropped him for Tuesday's trip to Motherwell.

Le Guen then suggested there was little chance of the Scotland captain playing for Rangers again under his management, having been upset at what he believed was an attempt to exert undue influence on the rest of the squad.

The club's supporters, loyal to long-time servant Ferguson rather than the former Lyon boss, sang Ferguson's name throughout the Motherwell match.

Le Guen admitted his departure after just seven months was a wise move for himself and for Rangers.

He said: 'I am disappointed to leave the club, but I think it is the best solution for all concerned.

'I would like to thank all the people who helped me and my team during my spell in Scotland.

'In particular I would like to thank the directors who at all times gave me their total support.'

Rangers are 17 points behind leaders Celtic in the SPL, reduced to scrapping it out with Aberdeen and Hearts for second place.

Reserve team coach Ian Durrant will take charge of training today, and may also be in charge when Rangers play Dunfermline in the Scottish Cup on Sunday.

However the club have not confirmed Durrant will lead the team at East End Park, leaving open the possibility of there being an appointment within the next 48 hours.

Smith's return would delight supporters of the club where the 58-year-old won seven SPL titles as manager before moving to Everton.

McCoist's agent Jane Morgan would not be drawn on whether the 44-year-old former striker was in talks with Rangers.

She said: 'He has his broadcasting commitments and his Scotland commitments and I can't say anything more than that.'

Rangers could also sign Scotland international defender Andy Webster on loan from Wigan ahead of the Dunfermline match, according to reports.