There is a moment in the superb BBC film Margaret – about the last days of Thatcher in Downing Street – which always makes me smile; against the best advice of her aides she is attending a European summit in Paris whilst the leadership election is going on back home. She has just learned she’s won the first ballot, but is a crucial four votes shy of victory. A second ballot will be required, which holds dangers the first one never did.
An array of interested parties is watching; the cabinet, her husband Dennis, Heseltine her rival, her own people in London and there with her at the event. None knows how she will react to the news that she did not win outright.
When they tell her she reacts in exactly the fashion they feared; full steam ahead and once more unto the breach.
The cameras captured what happened next for posterity; a team of journalists are standing at the foot of the steps to the great hall, doing their bulletins. To their complete surprise she emerges from the door above them and makes her way down towards them, almost swatting aside one poor sod who tried to ask her a question.
“Careful love,” Dennis says, watching it on TV. “Careful.” But it’s too late for that, much too late, and he knows it and they all know it.
She stands in front of the cameras, proud, preening, aloof, arrogant beyond belief, and she tells them she’ll be standing in a second ballot. “I fight on,” she said. “I fight to win.”
Her aides are aghast, mortified at the spectacle. She appears completely oblivious to the reality of her position at that moment, and how she looks in the shadow of it. Every doubt they have about her ability to survive this crystalizes. Is she deluded? In that moment she is certainly wholly detached from reality and oblivious as to how she appears.
Everyone can see the writing on the wall, especially Heseltine who she had just soundly beaten. He knows this is the moment he’s been waiting for.
“Perfect,” he says, hammering the desk with his hand. He means her, of course, and the way she’s just detonated her own premiership.
I thought of that moment last night when I read Sevco’s statement on Derek McInnes; I was flabbergasted by their unprofessionalism for the second time in the day. I could not believe what I was reading; my jaw must have been very close to hitting the floor.
It was almost as if, having considered how to rescue the situation and reassure fans and the watching world that they hadn’t lost the plot, they then decided to ditch the sane course of action and embrace the opposite; to burn the world down, to confirm the darkest suspicions of everyone looking in; “These Peepul aren’t playing with a full deck.”
We can only speculate on how the first course of action would have played out – some in the media would certainly have helped them sell it – but as far as the second goes they could not have done it better. Their world is aflame. Bridges have not been torched as much as dynamited. Options have been closed with the finesse of a hammer attack.
It’s official then; Norman Bates FC has gone full Psycho.
What exactly was that statement supposed to accomplish? They had been embarrassed by the McInnes announcement, but clubs around the world have survived seeing first choice managers and signings go elsewhere without resorting to spitting fury. The lack of humility in the statement is only one of the things wrong with it, but it’s the one that stands out the most. It’s almost like “how dare you turn us down?”
This puts them in a huge mess. They’ve taken a flamethrower to everyone who applied for the job. They’ve burned their bridges with those guys in spectacular style; if the reason Aberdeen refused them permission to talk to McInnes was down to them being skint they’ve virtually guaranteed that they’ll need to now spend money to get someone in.
But most of all, they just look so unhinged now, a club who’s directors are unspooling. There’s no top drawer manager who will touch a club which acts so unprofessionally; any manager will want to look at more than just the flim-flam. He will want evidence of a vision. As we’ve seen time and time again, there’s no such thing at Ibrox.
The media (who I’ll write about tomorrow) also look dreadful after this, and the back-peddling of some of them is extraordinary.
Some have accepted Sevco’s line that McInnes was not mentally ready for the job; in fact, Aberdeen’s manager gave a press conference today which was as graceful and considered as Sevco’s statement was crass lashing out.
Aberdeen emerge from this with far more credibility than Sevco do. They are a club with a clear-cut plan for the future, with a new stadium and a solid balance sheet. Why wouldn’t McInnes believe they were a better bet? They are run by professionals, much as I may think Milne stabbed us in the back; he’s a businessman with an unimpeachable CV.
That statement last night was utterly barking. It was spiteful, it was vengeful, it was petty, small minded, arrogant, stupid and suicidally negative. It was written by someone who is no longer capable of rational thought. It was okayed by a board that has utterly lost touch with reality and is no longer able to see how their behaviour is perceived.
Yes, it was perfect.
If the intent was to make a bad situation worse, I couldn’t have written it better myself.