FOOTBALL managers all over Europe are usually at an advanced stage in their preparations for the new season at this point in April.
The exception, due to the massive uncertainty surrounding his club's immediate future, is Rangers manager Ally McCoist.
While his Old Firm counterpart Neil Lennon will undoubtedly have identified a host of signing targets as he bids to improve his Celtic team on the back of winning the championship, as will the other SPL managers to a lesser degree, McCoist doesn't have that same luxury.
Indeed, rather than focusing his efforts on scouring Britain and Europe to search out talent he believes is capable of enhancing his squad, the Ibrox boss doesn't even have a clue what existing players he may or may not have for the start of the new campaign.
The main concern for the Light Blue supporters, of course, is simply having a club to support and hoping whoever is afforded preferred bidder status has the funds to prevent the club from being thrust into liquidation.
And while on-the-field problems have probably taken on a less significant role recently as results have picked up, the reality is Rangers are now facing a race against time to try and avoid losing a host of their top players for a fraction of the transfer fees they would usually command.
In agreeing to drastic wages cuts, in many cases 75 per cent, to keep the club in business after extensive negotiations with administrators Duff and Phelps, many of the star players have had exit clauses inserted in their contracts in return for taking huge salary reductions.
It has already been revealed that Kyle Lafferty will be allowed to leave if a £500,000 bid is tabled for him and others, such as captain Steven Davis, Steven Naismith, Allan McGregor and Steven Whittaker are thought to have trigger figures well below their market value.
Also on the horizon is the May 31 deadline when the players will revert back to full pay. So as much as the football side of things might have been placed on the back burner for now, every day that passes without a new owner could make McCoist's life even more difficult.
"I'm sure, under normal circumstances, Ally would probably have a few players lined up for the start of next season," said Alex Rae.
The former Ibrox midfielder is mindful of the fact that Rangers' last SPL game is three weeks on Sunday with many players set to head off after that, potentially with their contract issues unresolved unless new owners get in and address the situation.
"There might be changes to the budget depending on what position you finish in the league, but you would have a rough idea of what you have to work with," the ex-Dundee boss added.
"And there is usually a specific position or two most managers will aim to improve. If they know they were short of goals then they'll obviously try and sign an attacker and if they were found wanting at the back then they might look at defensive options.
"Every manager, regardless of what level they are working at, will be in the same boat.
"I'm sure Ally and his backroom team are trying to go about their business as professionally as they can under very testing circumstances.
"In fact, I regularly see John Brown and Neil Murray at games down in England and they guys will be worth their weight in gold.
"You need to keep watching matches and spying on players to keep yourself up to speed with what is going on."
He went on: "I dare say they won't have any idea what they'll have to work with in terms of funding but I'm sure they have continued to monitor players they were interested in previously so they are ready to make moves should everything fall into place off the pitch."
Rae, however, admits McCoist's worries are made worse by the fact several first-team players could be sold if specific figures are matched.
"That is probably the biggest problem," said Rae. "The last thing Rangers need at this moment in time is to potentially lose their most important players for knockdown fees.
"It is down to the new owners, whoever they might be, to sit down and come to an agreement with the players.
"They obviously agreed to take significant cuts to their salaries but these guys will be the backbone of the team.
"As I said, normally a manager at Rangers might target two or three specific positions during the summer because they'll know they've got seven or eight good players for the other positions but everything is up in the air at the minute.
"In that respect, you've got to feel sorry for Ally. I think he has handled himself superbly well and it wasn't easy for him last summer when he had to work with Craig Whyte.
"Hopefully, there will be some positive news for the supporters quickly and also for the manager.
"The main priority is, of course, for the club to survive.
"But it would be fantastic to see things move forward on the park as well."