A Challenger To Celtic Will Emerge, But It Won’t Be A Club Run By David Murray.

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About two years back, a guy I know who is a prominent Sevco blogger sent me a startling email in which he laid out a scenario in which David Murray would make his way, bit by bit, back to Ibrox, presumably in time to sweep in as the hero and stop Celtic’s march towards ten in a row. The writer said he had this one from sources close to the action, he said that it wasn’t speculation but 100% pure and simple fact. He suggested I follow it up.

For one of the only times since I’ve been talking to him, I didn’t take him up on that suggestion. Because then, as now, it doesn’t grab me. The idea is too out there, too crazy for words. There would be no point pursuing it. It’s going nowhere.

This pops up every now and again, like a mole. Moles are blind, of course, and you would have to be blind not to see there are one or two obstacles in the way of this. But the biggest of them is David Murray himself, the guy who presided over the EBT fraud and who sold the club to Craig Whyte for a quid. His glory days are behind him, and he knows it.

Newspapers occasionally scream headlines about his wealth, which has being going up since the financial crash all but wiped him out. On paper he’s said to be worth around £120 million. That is not chump change, but it’s not what it seems. Much of it is tied up in real estate. Some is tied up in the value of his companies, based, in no small part, on real estate holdings.

Doubtless, he could acquire the club fairly cheaply; some are postulating that he would be easily able to buy the debts and make himself the secured creditor in an administration, but something like that would leave a paper trail. Something like that would raise red flags, none the least of which would be at Hampden.

Do I think the SFA would waive Murray through a fit and proper person test if he was minded to try for it? I will surprise you by saying no. In fact, as Celtic Underground and CQN have already established, two of the SPFL’s key administrators – Neil Doncaster and Rob Petrie – have already stated, for the record, that he would not be welcomed back.

Both men are prominent figures within the SFA, Petrie in particular. He fancies himself as next to sit in the President’s chair. Even Regan would not dare defend the idea, when a court has found that Murray systematically defrauded the tax payer.

Even the media would be harder to win over than some think. The old magic that once held them spellbound is gone. They know much of what came out of his mouth back in the day was spin, if not outright falsehood. They know he treated them with contempt. They were his useful tools, for keeping onside a pliable, gullible support. They would ask hard questions. They would not simply accept his whimsical notions of “making amends” which I can tell you is precisely the spin his people would be trying to put on such a move.

Look, Murray is an egotist and I daresay he hates what he sees when he looks at Scottish football being lorded over by those who are at Celtic Park. Doubtless he believes it has tarnished his “legacy”, and I say that because Murray will without doubt believe he left a positive one behind instead of the wreckage which the rest of us see.

But therein lies the trouble, because Murray is 65 now. He’s past his prime, when he was the undisputed big cheese, when he could throw his weight around, when he had banks just begging him to take their money and investors he could fool into believing there would be a European Cup at Ibrox one day. Those days are gone now.

I’ve crunched the numbers a thousand times; even at the height of his power, Celtic was a bigger commercial operation. We made more money than they did, which would, on a level playing field, have enabled us to spend more. It’s the reason EBT’s were created in the first place; they had to make up the financial gap somehow and that’s what they chose.

EBT’s were a one shot deal. No bank is going to give him or them a £50 million overdraft. He certainly has a high net worth, but not that high that he could afford to squander tens of millions of his own cash, something, let’s not forget, he’s never actually done at Ibrox.

On top of that, there is no appetite at Sevco for brutal truth; if he took over he would be forced by a combination of circumstances and regulations, including Financial Fair Play, to run them on a break-even basis and that’s something he’d have to be clear about from the start. Fans would assume he was there to bankroll a spending spree. His first act would need to be clearing up any misconceptions on that score.

They would not receive such negative news well, and any residual good feelings about it –and having tapped into their thoughts on this I can tell you the idea has almost zero support – would evaporate immediately, leaving him without any significant body of fans behind him.

Hey, no harm to the guys who’ve been writing about this. But someone isn’t being straight with them, in my view. I have a feeling that this story and the one I was told a couple of years ago, originate with a single source, someone or some group of people who thinks there’s some merit in this idea and is flying a test balloon. But on who’s behalf?

Not David Murray’s. I think he’d rather join the priesthood than even entertain this idea. I give him credit for his smarts and his ability to suss out the lie of the land; anyone who looks at the respective positions of the two clubs knows full well that Celtic are out of sight and that only a major injection of money, serious money, will change that.

UEFA FFP regulations mean that it can’t be spent on the team but that’s not where it would be best to spend it anyway. The club needs tens of millions in hard-core infrastructure spending before the manager gets a single penny, or you’re just throwing it away. Murray cut back on stadium repairs and such like when he was last at Ibrox; do you figure those problems have improved with time? Of course not, and he’ll know that too.

Ibrox itself is a black hole capable of sucking in every penny he has in his pockets. Sooner or later hard choices need to be made in relation to either bringing the place up to snuff or mothballing it completely. Either scenario will cost millions and probably involve them relocating to somewhere for at least a while. Fortunately, the SFA will make that easy; the rates increase means that they’ll be able to rent out Hampden for a song. Keep your eyes on that one.

Why would he put himself through that? Why would he put himself in the firing line as fans ask why the Celtic Village project is proceeding apace when his own Moonbeams Park idea never got off the ground? Why would he try to take on Celtic at a time when Brendan Rodgers is manager, a boss far more capable than anyone he’s likely to find?

Think Murray, even in his wildest dreams, genuinely thinks our relentless march towards nine, ten, eleven and beyond can be halted by tweaking at the margins? Would he be confident even if he could give a new manager a small fortune?

We didn’t lose a single game last year … no matter much he spent, that statistic is terrifying if you’re a club trying to play catch-up.

King talked about “risking his children’s inheritance”, intending to do no such thing … Murray would, quite literally, be putting his on the line, and to no certain outcome.

His giant ego could never cope with being at the helm as Celtic rolled forward. He’s already a pariah figure to a large section of their support – the majority, I’d say – so there is no way he will be sitting in the director’s box on the day we win that tenth title, knowing that the rest of them loathe and despise him for being unable to prevent it.

Give King his due, he has a coherent strategy for handling that; deny that our first six titles meant anything anyway. It is ludicrous, of course it is, but at least it gives everyone over there something to cling to, something to fall back on.

He and Murray detest each other, of course, not that it matters much as tomorrow is the first day of the last days of King at Ibrox anyway. He is a busted flush and I strongly suspect that he’ll welcome the chance to cut and run, because his own ego has taken all the punishment it can handle and he knows the next set of crises, particularly over the manager’s future, are right around the corner and there’s not even a pot to piss in.

Murray is in the best position he’s been in for years; outside of the chaos, watching it from afar. He can pontificate from on high about mistakes made and paths not followed but he hasn’t even bothered to do that. Not that anyone should listen to his tut-tutting from the side-lines anyway; his own final managerial appointment – it’s a well-known fact that it was his decision that McCoist should be next in line, and he gave him a cast-iron contract to that effect so that Whyte couldn’t wriggle out of it – was a disaster of epic proportions.

A challenger will come for Celtic. One has to. One club will climb above the rest and sustain a winning run that over the course of a season gives us a fright. That challenge will not be from Ibrox, no matter how much the media and others may want it to be.

That club is caught in a vice of its own manufacture. This obsession with “being Rangers” is going to hamstring every effort to make them better than they are. It is inexorably leading them down the path to the next administration event, looking more and more likely as each day passes. Anyone who believes they can recover from that to even challenge Aberdeen for second is seriously deluded. A new Ibrox administration will be a catastrophe for Sevco and if they emerged on the other side of it at all I’d be willing to bet no lessons will have been learned.

I’ve said repeatedly on this blog that those who run that club, and those who follow it, have two possible futures and only two.

In one they accept their current status and dedicate themselves to a decade of hard, tough, campaigns and a wholesale rebuilding job which replaces every nut and bolt, on a sustainable basis, with the attendant consequences on the park, and in the other, they are dead. The club will circle the drain until it swirls down the plughole.

As amusing as it would be to watch David Murray preside over yet another chapter of Ibrox Masochist Theatre – and believe me, if wishing made this so I would be attending his coronation myself, tomorrow, with a smile on my face – it will not happen.

Somebody wants us to believe this is possible. I know not why. Because the idea is hilarious. Murray’s pocketbook could not sustain it. His giant ego could not cope with it. Right now he can pretend his legacy at Ibrox is a positive one. To step into the breach now will shatter that illusion forever, and he’s lived with it too long to risk that.

In short, Murray has a yellow streak that runs from his head to his toes. No matter how much he might thirst for the limelight, he won’t step back onto the stage. He knows that if he jumped into this fight that he’d lose it. He was over-matched last time, when he had a title winning team and the only way to keep it was to indulge in a fraud.

Stripped of the ability to think big, to buy big, to talk big … he’s nobody.

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