I’ve read some articles in the MSM since the turn of the year calling into question Dave King and his stewardship at Ibrox. The underlying reason of course is the enormous points gap that has opened up between Celtic and King’s charges.
It currently sits at 19 points with the Hoops also having a game in hand.
Some comparisons to the gap between Celtic and Rangers in the 1990’s are also to be expected.
There is a major difference between then and now though.
As perilously close as Celtic came to it, they did not go through the indignity of an administration and liquidation event. Fergus McCann came to Celtic’s rescue just in time and proceeded to lay out a clear and concise 5 year road map to restoring Celtic back to former glories.
This began with the task of re-homing the club at the national stadium for a season while Celtic Park underwent significant renovation and a continued with a gradual increase in the budget allocated to the first team squad , culminating in preventing 10 in a row and securing the 1997-1998 League Championship.
His was not a plan of hubris and big talk.
He resisted pressure put on him by both supporters and other board members alike to focus solely on squad investment and to get involved in an arms race with his opposite number David Murray. He made no mention of potential sums required to rebuild the club but simply promised what was required would be done.
As Rangers threw money at it in the following season to get back on top, he remained both stoic and deliberate in his resolve that Celtic would not live beyond their means. Meanwhile in Govan, David Murray appeared to lose all perspective. Former Dutch national coach Dick Advocaat was appointed and furnished with a budget which would have been ample for an assault on any of the major leagues in Europe never mind the top flight in Scotland.
Murray, of course, was no stranger to writing cheques to secure success. Rangers 9 in a row years had been built on such an approach. As one European campaign after another floundered to the point of embarrassment save one (92-93′), the Premier League title was wrapped up season on season with little resistance until McCann’s arrival and the appointment of Tommy Burns.
Though Tommy reintroduced an exiting brand of free flowing and swash buckling football underpinned by some exciting forward signings (namely the ‘Three Amigo’s’ of Van Hooijdonk, Di Canio and Cadete as Fergus labelled them due to their unscrupulous attitudes to honouring their contracts), our defensive naivete’s regularly let us down especially in Old Firm encounters and ultimately we fell short.
A more reserved and some might say practical approach was deployed by his successor Wim Jansen, who also benefited from an ailing Rangers team in comparison to previous years, and the light blues seemingly relentless march to ten was stopped.
When Rangers wrapped up the treble in 1998-1999, their support support believed that balance had been restored. They were back on top and where they should be. Things would be back to normal and regular season on season domination would once again be par for the course. In Advocaat they had a manager with genuine continental pedigree who would take them not only into the Champion’s League but to the summit of European football itself.
Little did they know that in fact the die had been cast on a self-destructive plan unwittingly activated by Murray, who by this point had gone way beyond hubris and bravado to constructing the concept of Moonbeams.
Both he and the press alike believed the sun shone out of his arse.
He had access to huge borrowing facilities via his friends in the banking circles of Edinburgh; their entire “competitive advantage” was built on this unsustainable foundation. The rest as they say is history. Rangers grip on Scottish football gradually weakened under the persistent pressure of both Celtic on the field combined with improved governance of overdraft facilities amongst their chief borrowers off it.
Then Murray bailed along with Walter in expectation of the ground zero even that was about to unfold and well, you know the rest.
Whilst McCann literally came over the hill at the 11th hour, having been beavering away feverishly in the preceding weeks formulating an SOS plan, Dave King rolled into the Blue Room long after the bomb had dropped and the dust settled. His was not so much a plan to save his boyhood heroes as it was to feed on the lumbering Frankenstein’s Monster that emerged as Sevco.
Rather than taking any lessons from what had unfolded in the previous quarter of a century at Ibrox, he decided to employ the same hubris tactics of the old owner and his former friend David Murray.
Grandiose numbers ranging from £50 million to £30 million, depending on the news outlet, started whirling around at press conferences. His sidekicks Paul Murray and John Gilligan looked on nervously, even occasionally trying to reel all the big talk of ‘over-investment’ in.
King was running the show though.
The other two were just underlings, there to wear the club ties and relate to the fans.
The fact they actually lived in the country and would attend games also helped.
King has got Sevco to the top flight and even dispatched Celtic in a Scottish Cup semi-final along the way, giving the masses a taste of glory, if only for a fleeting moment. They sit second in the league and on the face of it, it’s not all bad. But the reality is that his talk of huge sums being invested still remains that. Talk.
He hasn’t been able to furnish Mark Warburton with the promised huge sums because he can’t. The club are getting by on season ticket money and soft loans. Sport’s direct also haven’t gone anywhere. They remain onerously tied around their neck with their grip seemingly tightening every time the board denounce them.
Whilst McCann made stadium renovation the first order of business, King has put it on the back burner. Fergus turned a share issue into a money spinner picked up by ordinary fans. Meanwhile Dave can’t even get his proposed share issue off the ground. Fergus McCann stuck to a policy of fiscal prudence and never wilted on it. Dave King promised ten of millions in squad investment and has instead delivered loanees, has been’s and unknowns for a modicum of the cash the fans expected.
Of course Fergus McCann rode into the distance after 5 years as promised.
He came, he saw, he rebuilt the stadium and laid the foundations for future success.
Into the bargain he made millions but then he always said he would. His plan was totally transparent. Dave King is now nearly two years into his grand plan. He set no limits on how long it would take. The plan seems to be as you were. Lather, rinse and repeat. The buzz words are ‘European revenues’.
These will apparently secure a road back to financial stability and ultimately on field success.
The finer points of how exactly have not been explored never mind explained.
I’ve never previously heard anyone at Celtic or Aberdeen for example waxing lyrical about the significant financial rewards of a Europa League run. The end of season financial results of both clubs would appear to underline that. There simply is none.
In the final analysis any comparison’s between then and now are merely superficial.
Paul Cassidy is a Fergus McCann fan who thinks comparisons with King are an insult to the Canadian genius who saved us and put us on the road to dominance.