Another scandal survived, eah?
Scottish football has had some near misses in recent weeks. The resignation of two SFA executives has probably saved them from having to answer serious questions about their conduct. Regan would not have survived those questions. Andrew McKinley has gone as well, which is just as well as his list of organisations and people he was following on Twitter was dead-certain to make him the subject of a lengthy post on this site and on others.
Today they’ve survived another one as Walter Smith has “ruled himself out” of the running to be made the next manager. I shouldn’t care how we arrived here; Smith would have been an appalling choice, absolutely appalling, and we should be glad that public opinion – for that is what it was, as I shall explain in a moment – has dissuaded him from wanting it … but that doesn’t change the fact that a lot of people inside Hampden thought about offering it to him.
And we should keep that in mind.
People who know me are well aware of the deep dislike I have for Walter Smith, one that goes far beyond that of any mere Rangers manager or Sevco boss. My personal opinion about Smith, albeit formed from a distance, was of a lifelong bigot, a man of almost unbelievable selfishness, an arrogant rule-by-fear manager who was an abject failure on a stage bigger than Scotland, who’s football philosophy was born in the 80’s.
When he’s described as a Real Rangers Man I know exactly what people mean, and his deep understanding of the “culture” of that club is absolutely without dispute. Only in Scotland could that be considered a compliment.
His selfishness has always astounded me. He knew Rangers was in peril, he probably knew it better than any person inside the walls except for David Murray. I still believe Smith put his personal status, as that of the Glorious Saviour, ahead of doing what was right by the club itself. I have never wavered from the belief that he was one of the few people who had a genuine chance of saving them from the fate that swallowed them whole in 2012, but it would have meant sacrificing high earners and a spending ratio that dwarfed every other club in the land, including ours.
He would have had to compete based on his skills as a boss. Which I never believed were up to much, and still don’t to this day. Smith chose to put himself first, and he was one of the few people in Ibrox who was under no illusions about what Whyte was all about, or about his actual wealth and ability to fund the club. Smith wasn’t hanging around for that shit-show, but he didn’t tell his mate McCoist to run with him. He let him carry the can. It should have been Smith himself was in the Ibrox dug-out when the roof came down, but he had already passed on what he knew was a toxic job to his number two man. He has ever been lucky like that, but I cannot help but feel that he set his man McCoist up, knowing that he couldn’t succeed in the role.
Because that made Smith look even better.
We are supposed to admire Smith’s way of dealing with players; whenever I think of that I think of stories about him pushing players up against the wall, with a hand around their throats. I can’t speak for those players, but if any of my bosses had tried that on with me there would have been blood and teeth on the floor. His “inspirational” methods left a lot to be desired as well. Taking players out on the piss? Allowing them to have a drink before games?
Really? Is that supposed to impress people these days?
Judging him based on his time at Ibrox, in that era, when we know the club was cheating its way to success, when we know it was spending money it didn’t have, has always been a bit naff. If he had possessed any skills at all we’d have seen them at Everton; the best things he did at that club appear, to some, to have been connected to Rangers. Why else did they pay him that famous EBT (except you never read about it in the media) whilst he was there?
Sevco fans who remember Rangers in his tenure still wince at some of the awful football played at the time. His philosophy was all built on fixing problems with a cheque book. His tactics were often shockingly negative.
Which is to say nothing for the fact that his second tenure at Ibrox started with him walking out on his country in the first place. Which we’re told is irrelevant. Except that it’s a wholly valid issue for guys who pay their money to follow the national team.
And all this, we were supposed to forget, as the SFA board appears to have forgotten it. Or we were supposed to ignore it as they have.
These might be personal observations, but they are based on what I see and what I know and they are perceptions shared by a large number of people who watch football in this country. Smith has avoided press scrutiny for years because he has so many mates in the media; to understand why that’s relevant you have to consider the enormous contempt in which the media holds the fans. The incestuous nature of the Scottish game, where hacks and managers and players socialise together on a regular basis, in their own wee bubble, far removed from ordinary supporters, suggests strongly that the contempt is shared all the way to the top.
Smith’s negative points will never be fully explored or disclosed to the fans. I know details of social gatherings where Smith has been in attendance whose finer points would chill the blood of the average supporter not immersed in the “faith” of Ibrox. And I know that a lot of the hacks are fully aware of them too, and choose to excise that knowledge from their own judgements, like a mum telling the world how her serial killer son was “always such a good boy.”
Smith presided over an era of cheating at his club. An era that corrupted the entire association and who’s aftershocks were part of what forced Regan out of office and which might well have played a part in his number two going earlier this week. He got that EBT in conspicuously dodgy circumstances which nobody wants to explore.
He is morally unfit to be Scotland boss, but then Malky Mackay is equally unfit to be technical director. Regan himself should have gone in 2012 when his own corrupt behaviour – as described by Turnbull Hutton amongst others – compromised the integrity of the sport. The SFA does not place much store on moral evaluations; it’s how they allowed a crook from South Africa to become chairman of one of their clubs.
I don’t expect the SFA to take these sort of considerations into account.
I’m just a fan, after all, and my view doesn’t matter to them.
And yet, I would be lying if I didn’t say that I believed fan power played no part in Smith’s decision. He will have people who monitor the forums; even Sevco fans were dead-set against this, as he’ll know full well. They believed him taking the Scotland job would be akin to an act of treason after refusing Ibrox overtures when Caixinha chucked it. And he cannot have failed to notice, nor his people have, the enormous ill-feeling against it from other club’s fans.
Smith enjoys lording it up as the big hero; he would never have taken a job where he actually had to win over sceptics.
The fault for all of this lies with one group of people though; the SFA board.
Smith might have been scared off but they weren’t. To step back in time and even consider such a desperate appointment in the first place – and knowing full well there would be a supporter backlash for it – tells you just how out of ideas, and out of touch, the people on the SFA board are.
The entire organisation needs gutting out. The thing we’ve learned from the past week, and which the decision to approach Smith has made abundantly clear, is that the problems up there neither started nor finished with the joker in the CEO’s office.
The malaise is deeper than that. The need for a cure is more acute. This doesn’t need a little trimming round the edges. Reforming the SFA would be like trying to untie the Gordian Knot. Alexander had his own solution for that, and the more I see of this lot in operation, without Stewart Regan to hide behind, the more I think we need a swift slash of the sword, and an end to the whole shower of them once and for all.
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