Earlier this year, I watched an outstanding interview featuring Kevin Thomson, a favourite son of Easter Road and who ended up at Ibrox. There were a couple of things that came out of the interview, the most notable of which was Thomson’s assertion that Keith Jackson essentially stabbed him in the back over the way that was covered.
I wrote about that at the time.
What was just as clear from the interview was that the whole media narrative from that time was seriously questionable as many of had suspected.
The idea that Thomson and his best mate Scott Brown were Ibrox bound was so prevalent in the press at that time Derek Johnstone famously said he would resign if Brown didn’t end up at Rangers … he said Hibs would have no choice but to grant him the move even if a bigger offer than the one at Ibrox was put to the Edinburgh club.
Subsequent events proved that a nonsense.
Brown duly went to Celtic where he now rules the midfield here in Scotland with an energy and aggression that would transform the current Sevco team into something perhaps to be wary of. How it must gall them to have to watch him in our club colours when, if you believed the narrative of the time, he’d been so close to winding up in theirs.
Except that narrative is cobblers and always was.
Brown’s first choice was Celtic, and what’s clear from listening to Kevin Thomson is that he too would have chosen to sign for us had our board been willing to pay what the Ibrox club was. We had a valuation of him which Hibs deal with Rangers exceeded; the Easter Road team played a smart game, but only with one club.
We weren’t budging.
Besides, Brown was the player we wanted, which Thomson himself admits was the crucial factor he and his people underestimated. But had the two clubs come to an agreement I do believe, because he says so, that he would have been a Celtic player with his pal.
Whilst Rangers did their thing through the press in pursuit of Brown, we did things more quietly and professionally but if anything we were even more bullish, albeit in private. We were so confidant of getting that deal over the line that Peter Lawwell had no problem telling a group of supporter reps that it was in the bag and that “if it comes to an auction we will win.”
That was the point where we started to seriously entertain the idea of moving decisively in front of them, and although Smith was to go on one last big spending spree and secure himself three titles at the fag-end of their existence it destabilised them so thoroughly that they were there for the taking by the time Whyte came along smelling blood.
Forget everything you think you know from the media; Scott Brown was the last time the two clubs went head to head for a player and we won.
Sevco were interested in signing Scott Allen, but we blew them out like a candle in the wind when we flexed our muscles and took him away from them a few years ago. The idea that they would win a hands-down battle with us for any player is rank insanity.
It just will not happen, perhaps not ever.
But the news that we are to sign Lewis Morgan from St Mirren is different in so many ways, even from the Allen deal with which it is already being compared. Scott Allen was reported to be a “Rangers fan” but at no point did he strike me as a player who was desperate to play for them. Lewis Morgan did sign for them as a youth player and never hid his desire to return to the club one day as a player. If this deal goes through he never will, and he knows it.
On top of that, in the Allen deal Sevco were dealing with a Hibs board who they had infuriated to such an extent that no amount of money they offered would have shifted the club one inch. They were not prepared to sell him to the Ibrox club under any circumstances at all.
We had the financial power to close the deal but we were pushing on an open door.
Sevco fans clung to the hope that Allen would threaten to go on strike to get his “dream” move but far from pulling that kind of stunt, he instead delivered the greatest snub he could have – and sent out the clearest message he could have – when he signed for Celtic instead.
It was a shock; I had said I’d eat an entire concrete mixer full of humble pie if he signed for us when the story first broke.
No-one missed the implications of it.
The Morgan story is bigger. There was no tug of war here – there wasn’t over Allen either; we came in and just wiped them off the table like germs – but this kid has a year on his contract left and Sevco could have had him. There’s no imperative to get this deal done on the part of the player or St Mirren, but Celtic have proved impossible to turn down and Brendan Rodgers in particular. He will join us, and with that his “career dream” will die.
I know what this means for us; we’re getting a top class Scottish footballer who in the fullness of time will go on to be a significant player for us and the national team. That’s a no-brainer based on what I’ve been hearing about his natural talent.
But what this portends for Sevco is perhaps far more significant.
For them it is a shattering affirmation of what we’ve spent five years now saying but what was evident even where there was still a club called Rangers playing out of Ibrox; we are the ball game here now. No major footballer from Scotland will ever choose Ibrox over Parkhead again when he has the option of both and it does not matter if the player in question is the world’s biggest dyed in the wool “Rangers supporter” or not.
That alone will not be enough to swing it.
Rangers already died. Sevco is dying. Even if they were not a financial disaster area, a basket case club with shrinking finances and a dysfunctional board they are degrading in the shadows of the growing behemoth at Celtic Park.
When a kid from their own youth ranks, someone who’s been a club mascot, who left in deep regret, who harboured ambitions of returning as a first team player one day, chooses to risk everything on signing for us and breaking into the toughest first team squad in the country … the writing is well and truly on the wall.
This is not simply us signing a good young footballer … this is a sign of the times, those we live in now and those to come.
Their grandchildren won’t just be Celtic fans … those who’re good enough will be pulling on the famous Hoops themselves.