ALLY McCoist admits he is looking forward to Rangers renewing their age-old rivalry with Hearts in the SPFL Championship.

But he has tipped the Tynecastle club to challenge strongly for the second-tier title - and promotion back to the top flight.

McCoist was pleased when the stricken capital outfit took a huge stride towards coming out of administration this week.

Creditors for Ukio Bankas in Lithuania agreed to accept a proposed CVA and transfer their 29% shareholding.

The development means that Rangers will almost certainly be squaring up to Hearts once again next season.

That is a mouth-watering prospect for the players and supporters of both clubs - and McCoist is also excited by the possibility.

"I was really pleased at the news that Hearts received this week," he said.

"I certainly didn't want them to be liquidated and go down to the bottom because it ain't fun, it's absolutely not fun.

"They now look as if they are going to get the CVA and that's obviously by far and away the best scenario.

"Reading Gary Locke's interviews in the last couple of days, you can see how much it's meant to him and the Hearts support so I am genuinely pleased for him."

McCoist added: "Tynecastle is one of my favourite venues in Scotland, outside of Ibrox obviously.

"I think Tynecastle is great. The fans are right on you and it's a brilliant atmosphere.

"Not wishing the season away, but it's certainly one of the fixtures that we would all be looking forward to next year."

Hearts have struggled in the Premiership this season after being docked 15 points for going into administration and were finally relegated a fortnight ago.

Yet, McCoist has been impressed with much of the football that Locke's young charges have produced during eight difficult months.

And he believes the Jambos players will be stronger for the experience and will be among their main rivals for the Championship crown in the coming campaign.

McCoist said: "They'll be a big threat. They will be a lot bigger threat than perhaps people are estimating at the moment.

"Hearts will be stronger next season if they get the news which hopefully they will get.

"They ain't going to be weaker, they will be stronger.

"I actually think they weren't bad this year. They did well considering everything that went on around them.

"I spoke to Gary and I thought his boys did great. I saw them against St Mirren, saw them beat Hibs, saw them against Dundee United. They have some good talent. They'll be stronger.

He continued: "It will be a proper league next season, it really will. There will be some good teams. I saw quite a lot of that league this season.

"I have seen Raith Rovers, Dumbarton, Dundee and Hamilton and it's a good standard. Next year potentially that league will be as strong as it has ever been.

"And Hearts will be a serious threat because they will be better next season."

McCoist has stated repeatedly that he would like to add to his Rangers squad this summer ahead of what he hopes will be the final stage of their journey back to the top flight of Scottish football.

He will find out early next week whether he will be able to do so when Ibrox chief executive Graham Wallace reveals the findings of his 120-day business review.

But having a major club like Hearts to contend with has simply reinforced his view that he needs to strengthen during the close season.

THE Rangers manager said: "Obviously, it's going to be a lot tougher. We will be playing against full-time teams and you'd expect a rise in the standard.

"I think we have a good enough team to perhaps do it, but it would be very difficult and from my own point of view, I'd rather strengthen the team.

"Looking at the teams we've played from the Championship this season, we beat Falkirk 2-0 with two late goals, beat Queen of the South and drew with Raith Rovers over 90 minutes.

"So that would indicate it's going to be very tough.

"But if that's the way it has to be then so be it. If we can't strengthen we'll just have to get on with it."

Rangers midfielder Nicky Law this week revealed that he was looking forward to getting a break from abuse by his own club's supporters this season.

But McCoist believes Law - who was, along with Cammy Bell, Lee McCulloch, Lee Wallace and Jon Daly, named in the PFA Scotland League One Team of the Year yesterday - will be better equipped to cope with the demands of being a Rangers player next term.

He said: "The intensity of the pressure on the boys has been massive - particularly for the new guys.

"It has been a real eye- opener for them.

"I would hope that the likes of Nicky Law, Bilel Moshni and Jon Daly will come back better and stronger.

"It will not be a shock to them as they will know what the whole club is about and the atmosphere and intensity surrounding it.

"They will know better how to handle the media and everything. I hope they have all learned from it."