There’s an awesome moment in one of the early Uncle Albert episodes of Only Fools & Horses where Rodney has, in the middle of winter “and with the weathermen predicting a new Ice Age” gone and “bought out Ambre Solaire.”
The Trotters are virtually skint and have taken themselves down to the Nags Head to wallow. All on the slate of course.
Whilst Del is sitting there stewing, Rodney sits down and tells him he thinks he’s come up with an answer. Whilst at college, he says, he and the other students learned “cross cancelling equations” whereby you use a process of elimination, go through the possibilities one at a time and then “come up with the answer.”
Del is intrigued. “Go on then,” he says. “I’m game.”
Rodney goes through their position.
“We are traders. We are traders with nothing to sell. We are traders with no money to buy with.” Thus far, spot-on. “Therefore the solution is this; we have to find a way to make money out of nothing.” Needless to say, that’s the hilarious extent of his plan. He doesn’t have any suggestion for how they can do it.
Del is not exactly impressed.
I thought of that scene today as I read Stuart McCall impart his wisdom on Scottish football and how other clubs – one in particular – can catch Celtic. Spend more money. Which the clubs don’t have, and which there’s no way for them to get. Rodney eat your heart out. The game whose leaders and media have already embraced the concept of Triggers Broom are now going to the Trotters Independent Trading School of Business and Finance.
You know, I lamented the strategy being followed at Celtic Park for many a year because I thought it wasn’t daring enough. I never suggested, and no-one did, that we should spend tens of millions in pursuit of dreams. Because that’s nonsense.
It’s insanity and nobody would ever want their club to embrace something so profoundly dangerous.
But I did call it “risk averse” and as a consequence of it I always felt that we’d lost trophies and European adventures, not to mention hurting the brand. The success thus far of the Rodgers Revolution was, however, only possible because of those sacrifices. Celtic does not go in for quick-fix solutions. We’re in a place where we can spend £2.6 million on a kid because we’ve been careful and prudent and are now reaping the rewards.
Celtic plays the Long Game. It’s why what happened at Ibrox was never likely to happen to us. Years of building, developing and growing are what led us here, and built an advantage over our rivals which looks insurmountable at the current time.
McCall is worried about us doing nine in a row. He should be more worried about where we stop after we reach ten; as I said last week some people think that’s an almost talismanic number, as if we’d simply down tools having got there and give someone else a chance. If we hit ten there’s no reason why we won’t do eleven and twelve and go on and on. The only obstacles would be the limits of our own ambition and how desperate others get.
But all the cross-cancelling equations in the world won’t change one very simple fact; money does not simply appear out of thin air.
Even Keith Jackson has sussed that there’s no strategy at Ibrox beyond wishing that it did, which is why his article this morning read very much like a letter from a kid to Santa Claus saying “My mum says you’re not real. Please, please, please tell me that’s a lie.”
In the Only Fools episode, the Trotters do manage to coax money out of thin air, or almost anyway, when Uncle Albert takes a tumble down the cellar stairs and they try to sue for compensation. It nearly works, but when the case gets to court the brothers find out to their horror that “the only hole he hasn’t been down is the bleeding black one in Calcutta.”
That won’t work for Sevco.
They’re already in the hole.
And there’s not a soul at Ibrox with the first clue how to get them out of it.