This time last week, Sevco was getting ready for a League Cup semi-final. If a week is a long time in politics, what do you say about this situation? In football, a day is a long time. A minute can make the difference between success and failure. Based on a last minute goal at Celtic Park, Graeme Murty has a shot at Pedro’s job. Pedro lost it because on Wednesday night his team missed a penalty and then conceded a goal thirty seconds later.
Yesterday, Kenny Miller spoke to his adoring media pals after his two goals had sealed a 3-1 win over a spineless Hearts team who had blown a lead.
He told the press that everything in the Ibrox garden was rosy again.
That the team was united.
That the club was moving ahead with purpose and a common cause.
A lot of people believed him.
And in a way, perhaps things are better over there than they have been for a while. The mask of civility is an easy one to wear, but it causes breathing difficulties and so you can never keep it on for very long. Earlier in the week, as Pedro’s tenure was coming to an end, a meeting took place in Washington DC between Donald Trump and senior members of the Republican Party. When asked what the mood in the room had been like, a Louisiana senator, John Kennedy, gave one of the best, and most illuminating, answers of this political year.
“It was very positive … Nobody called anyone an ignorant slut or anything,” he said. This is what passes for Happy Families in the Republican Party. Kenny Miller’s assertion that all is well in the Sevco household feels eerily similar.
It speaks volumes for the state of play in Sevconia that a player who led a dressing room revolt against his own manager, who had derisively christened him The Fraud, and had set up a communications network which excluded all his foreign signings, was given the captain’s armband yesterday and allowed to bask in the glow of the Peepul.
It is a sign that inside the walls at Ibrox there is a self-destructive tendency which removing the manager won’t cure.
The last week has proved, conclusively, that Sevco is British football’s most dysfunctional football club. The media is spinning this as a new beginning, of course, but that’s a song we’ve heard before; we were, in fact, hearing it just seven months ago when Pedro was appointed manager in the first place. On the field, an outside observer might have thought things were going well. The club was within three games of Celtic in the league and in a cup semi final.
But a steady stream of negative headlines told a different story, and although you would not know that to read the papers today these were not limited to the manager’s bizarre pronouncements and otherwise unhinged behaviour.
The club is heavily indebted to its directors. It had a level of spending which was unsustainable even before they sacked Warburton and gave Caixinha a ton of money for players. When this week’s board meeting was discussing what to do about him, there was, as has been reported, a division over whether to sack him or not, but it wasn’t, as has been suggested, between those who hired him and thought he deserved another chance and those who harboured doubts and always had … it was between guys like King and Johnston and those who, ultimately, realised that the money for it would have to come out of their own pockets.
In light of that, their hesitancy is easy to understand.
King himself is facing imminent disgrace and sanction from the courts for his criminal behaviour in taking over the club. His legal team has asserted that he is skint – “penniless” – which doubtless came in handy when he sat with his fellow directors on Wednesday to discuss the fine details of how paying the manager off could be done. But somehow this has eluded our press, which talks about “war chests” and paying top dollar for a new boss.
The full scale of what awaits King and the club should the Takeover Panel get what it’s asked for in court are still not fully sinking in with the media or the fans of Sevco.
There has been long-standing talk about a new share issue, which will reward those directors who have already lent the club substantial sums of money, but that could be blown away completely by the Takeover Panel’s assertion that the Three Bears were working “in concert”; no-one wants to explore what this means should the club do a “debt for equity” swap as has been mooted … in any conceivable scenario this would put them in serious danger of exceeding the 30% threshold and expose them to the same problems facing King.
Which is to say nothing for what the legal status of King’s shares ends up like. Would the City of London even sanction a share issue right now? The club would need a Nomad, a stock exchange listing, a business plan … the obstacles in the way are enormous.
Mark Warburton has a day in court coming too; he claims the club’s story about his resignation is a lie, and it appears to be backed up by not the slightest shred of evidence. No-one can predict how that one will go, but the club’s story on it is all over the place and Warburton and his backroom team now have Pedro’s corpse to hold up in front of the judge as evidence that the club is prone to rash decision making and rush to judgement.
Their support is absolutely delusional. They put their faith in King because they believed he had money and was willing to spend it on them. They now know different and don’t like it. It hasn’t sunk in that the days of big money signings is largely over. No-one is coming to rescue them from the position they find themselves in, one where there is an enormous financial gulf between them and Celtic and thus that their “ambition” to overhaul us is built more on hope than it is on anything tangible. That is a truth they’d rather ignore.
And because they are so deluded, and because reality isn’t something they feel they need to be terribly bothered about, they will continue to exert the most unbelievable pressure on anyone who sits in the manager’s chair.
The media which has consistently fed them a diet of preposterous nonsense about their being a huge club which “must” be challenging at the top has increased the general toxicity that surrounds them; they, too, will put the next boss under the most intolerable scrutiny imaginable. Those who think the Peepul would be happy with a second place finish next season don’t know a thing; on the forums a steadily growing number are talking about boycotts and revolution if there aren’t signs soon that they can catch Celtic.
The whole club is on the edge of the precipice. Any little nudge and the whole lot could go over. Administration at some point in the next 12 months is more likely than not; some cannot even see how they can get through this campaign without it.
As has become typical over there, a single result has sparked euphoria amongst their support. The corner has been turned, by a win against Hearts. It is insanity, but it’s that club’s peculiar personal insanity, the one they retreat to time and time again.
The last seven days have been chaotic not because the man in the manager’s chair was out of his depth but because the current Ibrox board, which waged permanent war on its predecessor until the share price crashed and the business plan was shot, are, themselves, rank amateurs without the first clue as to what they are doing or how to proceed into the future.
Their ideas are outdated and inapplicable to a struggling club which sets its horizons way too high for its own good. Their adherence to ideas about the club being “special”, about supremacist guff, an inability to recognise that they are a NewCo or even just to recognise the Murray era as an aberrant period that poisoned the whole of Scottish football but Rangers most of all, is holding them back in ways that were all too easily foreseen by those of us who said the Survival Lie was a dangerous one for the club and the fans to hold onto.
I have long said that the Ibrox support has two possible futures; in one the club accepts the position it currently holds in our game, and tries to make the best of it in the short term whilst it aims for a long term solution, perhaps taking decades and forcing fans, in the meantime, to live with the status quo … in the other the club itself goes the way of Rangers.
Nothing speaks more to their institutional stupidity than the way they’ve spoken in the last few days about demanding more than their current lot; they seem hell-bent on taking the second of those courses, and the amazing thing is that I don’t believe they are unaware of where that road ends.
They just don’t seem to care, as long as they catch us before they reach that destination.
A club which puts that before basic survival deserves what it gets.