THE latest pieces of the jigsaw are making a perfect picture for Ally McCoist but the puzzle may have too many segments to solve.

With arguably Scotland's second-strongest squad, and unquestionably the second-largest budget, at his disposal once again this season, it was always going to be a matter of tinkering rather than overhauling for McCoist and his backroom staff ahead of the new Championship campaign.

McCoist's success this season will be determined by the men he entrusts with a famous blue jersey on a weekly basis but those that watch on from the stands are unlikely to be slow in once again venting their fury if things aren't going to plan.

With no budget to buy players and no scouting network to source up-and-coming or relatively unknown talent, McCoist's hands are, to a certain extent, tied behind his back in the transfer market.

Many will have sympathy for the situation he finds himself and it is only last week he insisted he was unable to plan long-term at Ibrox due to the continuing uncertainty at all levels of the club and lack of infrastructure that is in place.

Having allowed Emilson Cribari and Andrew Little to leave at the end of the season, and informed Ross Perry and Chris Hegarty, both of whom have now moved on, that they were no longer in his plans, McCoist did have gaps to fill in but it is the manner in which those holes have been plugged that has caused consternation.

It is only a few days since the Rangers manager had to respond to criticism of his signing policy following the acquisitions of Kenny Miller and Kris Boyd earlier this summer and he could soon have to repeat the trick once again.

Few could argue that in Miller and Boyd he has recruited a strike force that will be envy of not just clubs in the second tier but, outside Celtic, of every team in the top flight as well.

The capture of Darren McGregor, one of St Mirren's most impressive and consistent performers in recent years, when fit, has added another dose of quality to a squad that were already huge favourites to land a third successive league title and a hat-trick of promotions.

But McCoist is likely to come under friendly fire from his own supporters following the return to Ibrox of keeper Steve Simonsen yesterday and the arrival of defender Marius Zaliukas on a two-year deal.

When Rangers headed to the Highlands to start their pre-season schedule earlier this month, a squad of 25 players made the trip, but that group was without four first-team members as Jon Daly and David Templeton missed out through injury and Bilel Mohsni and Arnold Peralta were given extra time off this summer.

The additions of two more players, at a time when money is tight at Ibrox, has frustrated many fans and left them questioning McCoist's recruitment policy once again.

The budget may well have room for everyone but are they all needed to win the Championship? No is the short and sweet answer.

Every manager will always want to have as many players as possible at his disposal but the squad is now bloated and, much to the chagrin of fans, seemingly leaves little opportunity for younger players to make the breakthrough.

With Simonsen, the 39-year-old who played just twice for the champions last season, back on the books, does it spell the end for Scott Gallacher at Ibrox? Can the same be said for Luca Gasparotto and Craig Halkett, promising central defenders, with Lee McCulloch, Seb Faure, McGregor, Mohsni and now Zaliukas ahead of them in the pecking order?

McCoist may not be able to plan a couple of years down the line - his priority has always been the campaign ahead and getting Gers back to the top flight as quickly as possible - but his latest additions are short-sighted in the extreme.

He already had a squad not just capable of winning the Championship but seemingly nailed-on to do so and, courtesy of his latest summer spending spree, he has surely all-but- ensured he will be preparing Rangers for life in the Premiership this time next summer.

It would have been folly for McCoist to fill his side with kids for the first two stages of The Journey but, with just one step to go, planning for the Premiership has to begin and a longer-term view must be taken.

He has done what was asked and expected of him by delivering two straight league titles, and attracted his share of criticism from the terraces along the way.

The glisten of silverware and satisfaction of winning games will always outshine the negatives but McCoist must now hope that there is safety in numbers and that his squad deliver for him in his defining season in the dugout.