BEHIND every good manager, is a good assistant. Or two, in the case of Alex McLeish during his trophy-laden spell in charge of Rangers.

Andy Watson and Jan Wouters were the sounding boards for Big Eck as he steered the Ibrox club through some choppy waters, cutting the wage bill dramatically while still delivering a Treble and four other trophies along the way, including the last-gasp title win on ‘Helicopter Sunday’.

The management team also took Rangers to the last 16 of the Champions League, a feat that seems all the more remarkable when considered in the context of the present day.

Read more: Former Rangers no.2 Andy Watson says a magician couldn't close gap to Celtic

McLeish, rightly in the view of Watson, took the lion’s share of the credit for those accomplishments, but while modest about his own part in those feats, he does concede the importance of having the right lieutenants in place as being integral to the success of any 
managerial team.

There are few better placed to judge the suitability of an assistant manager at Rangers than a man who filled the role with distinction for four-and-a-half years such as Watson, and that’s why his endorsement of Gary McAllister as Steven Gerrard’s number two carries significant weight.

He concedes that the road back to the top will be a long one for Rangers, but he is convinced that they are at least on the right track with the experience of McAllister acting as a foil for the exciting yet untried Gerrard.

“I know Gary and he is a super bloke,” Watson said. “He’s really experienced and has been a manager in his own right, so he’s got great credentials and a really good lad.

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“It’s an absolutely fantastic choice of assistant manager. With Gary’s experience on the managerial side, and the fact that he knows the 
Scottish game and everything that surrounds the city of Glasgow, I think it’s an inspired choice.

“When Alex and I were working together, you’re in constant contact in the office and speaking about anything and everything, be that the training or your players, the direction the manager is wanting to take and giving your input to that.

“I’m sure that will be the way it works with those two as well, and the fact they both know each other from their Liverpool days will help, playing together and sharing a lot of experiences.

“I think it’s a really great choice from Rangers.”

Watson recalls the task that lay ahead of him and the rest of the Rangers management team back at the start of the new millennium as the club’s financial difficulties started to take hold, and they were forced to cut costs while still being expected to not only compete with Celtic, but beat them to major honours.

Read more: Former Rangers no.2 Andy Watson says a magician couldn't close gap to Celtic

They inherited a talented squad that had to be trimmed, while Gerrard and McAllister come into the club at a time where they will certainly be looking to invest in and improve the Rangers ranks. But where their two paths converge is that success will only be possible if they manage to make the Rangers team more than the sum of its component parts.

“That’s one of the skills that Alex had,” Watson said. “We inherited a fantastic squad, and that’s where it certainly differs between the squad that Alex took over and – no disrespect – the squad Steven is going to take over. It differs hugely in terms of the international quality in the squad that we had.

“We had to make cuts though, and when Alex did that, he was obviously reducing the quality while trying to bring in players that could still augment the squad.

“Recruitment is so key. We had Euan Chester there as chief scout, and his knowledge of the game was fantastic, and I’m sure that whoever Rangers currently employ on that side now is similarly well connected.

“But it will take more than one window to sort this team out and build a team that can be up there challenging. The most important thing is getting the very most out of what you have, and Alex managed to do that.”

Read more: Chris Jack: Rangers board right to look after their own in Old Firm ticket debate

Time is not a commodity often afforded to Rangers managers as Watson knows all too well, but he has urged a dose of realism from the Ibrox support over what success next season will ultimately represent.

“A lot of Rangers supporters will still be saying that second is not good enough, but you have to remember that Rangers didn’t even finish second this season, Aberdeen did,” he said.

“Aberdeen will be looking to maintain or better that position, and there is a real competition bubbling away just below that as well.

“Hibs and Hearts are showing that they can pull out big results, and more and more teams are showing they can take points off of Rangers and Celtic. The more that can do that, the better it is for the league and the game here as a whole.

“It shouldn’t simply be a case of Rangers measuring themselves against Celtic.”

Watson has been working in Oman for the past 18 months as technical director of a soccer academy run by former Wigan Athletic goalkeeper Ali Al Habsi, and while he has enjoyed the change of scenery, he would jump at the chance to come back and work in the UK so that he can be closer to his family. 

“It’s good out in Oman,” he said. “It’s totally different of course, but the people I work for are really very nice people.

“They are so good to work with, but I would love to get back to the UK at some point because the big downside is that my family isn’t there.

“After 18 months it gets a bit rough, and I think I still have a lot to offer.”