The Darkness Around Ibrox Will Only Deepen As Time Goes By. Sevco Is Over.

Image for The Darkness Around Ibrox Will Only Deepen As Time Goes By. Sevco Is Over.

Today Sevco fans were biting their nails, not because there was no news about who their new boss might be but because there was news they didn’t particularly like. The idea of Alex McLeish returning to the club went down like one of their shareholders diving into the ocean with a 500lb weight chained to his leg.

McLeish moved to distance himself from the story; imagine being snubbed by a guy who absolutely nobody in the support wanted anyway?

Does it get much worse?

Well, actually, yes it does.

Because this article is the companion piece to the one I posted earlier, the one where I said that the good times were only just starting for Celtic. The Brendan Rodgers plan is not even close to being complete; we’re still in Phase One.

Likewise, I do believe Sevco’s downward slide to the abyss is in an equally early stage.

Their fans will not believe that.

It sounds too dark and awful to possibly be true, but if they think they’re near bottom I have bad news for them. They aren’t. Not even close. Bottom is so far beneath them they can’t even see it yet. But they are falling towards it.

Sevco fans have lived in ignorance so long the snap of the real world is going to hurt when it comes. Some of them are already screaming awake into it, and what they see is what is readily apparent to anyone on the outside looking in; an unparalleled shambles, a club encased in total denial, unable to move forward for fear of taking a step back yet equally unable to take the time to simply stand still for a moment and survey their position rationally.

There’s a great movie called The Edge, where Anthony Hopkins plays a billionaire who gets lost in the woods when, along with a photographer and his assistant, the plane they are in goes down after a bird-strike. They are miles from home, freezing, and they have to find a way to survive. I won’t spoil the movie by going into any further detail, except to say that the bear that starts to stalk them is the least of their worries, but it’s a great story.

Hopkins’ character is a genius, a well-read man of logic and reason.

He applies them to the situation and gets his counterparts on board by telling them “Most people lost in the woods die of shame … “. They die, he says, because they spend too long on self-recrimination “instead of doing the one thing that would have saved their lives. Thinking.”

And that’s where Sevco is right now; lost in the woods, starving, miles from safety, the wind picking up, snow in the air, and the growling of a massive Kodiak bear close enough that it can surely smell them. But they’re not led by a billionaire, far less a genius. Instead they are led by a shiftless rabble and thinking straight, applying logic, taking a moment to consider where they are and what to do next, is apparently outside of their abilities.

A rational board of directors would block out the white noise and approach the reality of their position.

The club has to start thinking not only tactically but strategically. The first is difficult enough. The second is inestimably harder. Tactics are the manoeuvres that get you through individual moments and challenges and battles. Strategies are the stuff that win wars, a plan for how each battle ties into the grander whole, how every decision is taken to reach a distant goal, that sometimes sacrifices have to be made for it.

Celtic plays a long game.

Our board has a strategy in place which seeks to build something that reaches over the horizon.

Think for a moment about the hotel complex and The Celtic Triangle. That scheme isn’t just about the here and now, that’s a plan for a future some of us aren’t going to be around to see. That’s putting in place a structure that will be built up over a timeline that will stretch beyond this generation. And in the here and now that will result in lots of money being spent on something other than the team; a hard choice, but the right one.

Even with their league awash in money, the top EPL clubs have plans which stretch into the distance.

Manchester City is perhaps the best example in Europe.

They’ve invested as much money in their youth setup and their scouting as they have in the first team squad; they are looking at a day perhaps a decade from now when they don’t have to spend tens of millions on players at all.

That’s a strategy I’m certain Brendan is following too, as I said in a piece earlier today.

Celtic is doing everything right, but we’re not the only ones who are.

Look at the changes going on at Hearts and Aberdeen and what Neil Lennon is trying to build at Hibs. Dundee Utd’s Stephen Thompson talks about how he could have sanctioned big spending to get his team out of the Championship in a year, but knew there would be a risk to the club’s stability if he did. And so he took the longer term approach, and if they win promotion this season nobody will be able to say that it was the wrong one. He is on safe ground and he knows it.

The game is changing, and the clubs who are smart enough to adapt their strategies to that are the ones that will prosper.

Sevco, in an era of spiralling costs and wages, in an era where those who have money are just as likely to spend it on infrastructure as they are on the team on the park – Aberdeen and Hearts’ stadium developments are a case in point – are still following the worn down path that Rangers was pursuing, and that would be insane even if what was at the end of that path was something other than a shallow grave and an engraved headstone.

Sevco is heading right for the same fate, because they will not stop and think, they will not take a long term approach, they will not make decisions based on reason instead of on emotion. Their future is a place in the same cemetery.

And it’s easy enough to see what it is that will send them there.

Celtic is headed for ten-in-a-row with a drive and determination that shows no signs of faltering.

Our players are ruthless in the way they approach games and competitions here in Scotland. They do not get complacent. They do not go soft. They are acquiring the habits of winning and that is a hard habit to snap a team out of.

A lot of people think that when the first defeat comes it will act as a sledgehammer, shattering our confidence, driving us to our knees.

What’s far more likely is that the players will be so angry at themselves for it that they’ll redouble their efforts and thus will start another long unbeaten run and an even more relentless drive towards trophies and titles.

Whilst this is going on, Sevco will continue to flounder.

Because the problems at that club are not confined to what happens on the pitch.

The greater threat is the mentality that surrounds it, this constant quest to be more than they are, this chasing Celtic, and this inability to break free of the chains that bind their ankles, locking them forever to the last Ibrox club.

Death is already staring them in the face, in the mirror.

No club that was acting rationally, thinking tactically and planning with any sort of strategy in mind would have been founded in the shadow of a financial collapse and then went out and aped the exact habits and decision making that led to its demise. It’s even more baffling, and shocking, when you consider that Rangers’ financial problems were ten times bigger than they seemed, because a bank had, for a decade, signed off on the most ridiculous spending.

Basing your approach to football on that of a failed club which only lasted as long as it did because of the largesse of a financial institution that, itself, later had to be bailed out by the taxpayer is lunacy … to do it on a fraction of the available resources is off the charts.

And the ignorance of that which is manifest in the stands as well as in their boardroom is astounding. The fans really do believe the answer to this is to keep spending money, whatever its source, because that’s how it’s always been done.

But those days are over, and even if someone did come along now and give them £30 million for the team, as they were hoping King might, that kind of money doesn’t buy you what it did when Rangers was throwing it about like confetti and to get value for it you need to know your stuff and scout the right players.

Otherwise you’re relying on out of date information and signing people based on their reputations. You only have to look at some of the “bling” signings they’ve brought in on free transfers – Kranjcar, Barton, Senderos, Alves – to see how that goes.

Tonight there are reports about the wage disparity between Celtic and the rest.

Sevco’s spending is the second highest, and it is half of ours. What none of the reports have said is that they are still spending too much. They are posting losses. Their directors are carrying them, but that cannot and will not go on forever; a day is looming when that has to be faced.

Later on tonight, or tomorrow, I’m going to post my analysis of their accounts and what is in there will be devastating to their supporters because of what it means for those who dream of another era of big spending to “catch Celtic.”

But that article doesn’t really matter to the point of this one, which is that things at Ibrox are going to get a Hell of a lot worse. The reason they are going to get worse is that the club won’t change course because it no longer can.

When you hear a manager apologise to the fans because “this club should never lose to Dundee” you realise that they are in the grip of an arrogance that has them untethered from the real world. They are a NewCo, one year out of the second tier, talking like they are Barcelona, as if that result is the sort that would have toppled regimes.

It no longer matters whether their board faces reality head on or not; they have talked the talk so long that their fans are no longer in the mood to hear anything approximating truth. If the board continues to feed them the fantasy about them being the biggest club in the country, just going through a hard time, that sense of themselves will engulf them. If the board tries to level with them now the anger from that will engulf them.

Sevco fans are running out patience with playing second to the Green Machine.

And second is as good as it’s going to get, and it might not be that good for a while.

Their supporters are furious because they aren’t already “challenging” Celtic.

The more apparent it becomes that their current status and their best hope of survival is to realise they are actually challenging Aberdeen and Hearts and the rest whilst they build a club from the ground up, with all the sacrifices that entails, the less tolerant they will be.

They are simply not built for it.

Their psychological makeup is highly resistant to such a concept, and as anyone in the shrink business will tell you, it’s dangerous to force someone to confront the fact that the world they believe in is fantasy. It has to be eased into, eventually, of course but there will be a period of pain, a backlash, a lot of hurting when it is.

The backlash has started already, against the mere notion that they might have to accept second for a while.

The next manager is already a dead man walking because when it becomes clear that he’s not going to be able to challenge us the clamour for his sacking will be louder than those voices asking them to be reasonable and patient.

And eventually, the numbers in the stand will start to fall.

They cannot, indefinitely, maintain the illusion of challenging us without actually doing it. They either have to tell their fans that this is impossible for the time being or they have to continue chopping and changing and sacking and hiring until the money runs or the fans basically chuck it.

The truth is, their fans are going to chuck it either way.

When season ticket sales go into decline – they are the highest priced in Scotland, because the club needs to keeping feeding the lie – then the party is well and truly over, and that is coming as surely as night follows day. It is inevitable. You cannot have a support that thinks it is special, that has been fed that line over and over again, being charged premium prices to watch second rate football where the league race is over before it starts.

Even a 10% drop in season ticket sales will shave millions off their income and the hit will be impossible to recover from.

The vicious cycle of cuts followed by defeats followed by protests followed by sackings followed by another drop off in tickets sales followed by … will have started for real, and that is a Hell of a tailspin to try and get out of.

At that point administration becomes certain and even survival becomes a toss of the coin, something that cannot be guaranteed.

Read their forums.

Listen to the phone ins.

There’s already fearsome anger and desperation in the air.

The word from inside the club is that another season ticket price hike is in the offing, and that on top of a potential share issue … the hand is well and truly in their pockets and that might even be acceptable to a support that believed in the future.

They don’t, not any longer, and the reality is that they’re right to have doubts because the future is going to look very green and white.

Some of them are still clinging to the old supremacy.

Because “they are Rangers” and that, to them, has almost talismanic powers. They wave it at other people like their last three bosses tried to wave it at the teams they play every week. The fear factor has gone though. Clubs know they are there for the taking and are lining up.

When the fans realise that the old magic doesn’t work … well they are going to be exceptionally angry, and with those inside their own walls for once.

When they start voting with their feet … ladies and gentleman, that’s when the real slide begins.

That’s when their future isn’t just peering over the abyss but falling fast into it, and where the bottom will start to feel like a blessing long before they hit it.

Share this article