Date: 9th February 2019 at 4:46pm
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Last night I read an astonishing piece in The Evening Times, a paper that’s going downhill faster than a Russian bobsled team. It was a piece of delusional thinking par excellence from Graeme McGarry, the man who was arguing just the day before that Morelos should win his discipline case.

On that subject, he’s arguing today that the SFA verdict was wrong, which is a great example of doubling down on your own stupidity.

But it’s his article about Mark Warburton that I want to talk about here.

It’s in response to a series of interviews with the former Ibrox boss, where the Englishman said that he never expected to catch Celtic in his first season in the SPL and that his heart sank when he saw that the club had marketed the season ticket campaign as “going for 55.”

Warburton was frustrated by that because he didn’t belief that it was an achievable goal that season.

He had a three-year plan; ironically, it’s the same one Gerrard sometimes talks about although I think there is next to no chance of him getting that kind of time. Warburton believed that the club would need at least that long to set up their team properly and consolidate.

Now, personally, I never rated him as a manager capable of pulling that kind of project together. But you never know. Certainly, the idea is right as this blog has discussed previously. As my mate said to me, and as I wrote, what they needed was a “Michael Howard”. Howard was the first Tory leader elected knowing he’d never be Prime Minister; his job was to rebuild the party and take it forward for someone else to step in and provide the final elements.

Warburton would almost certainly never have won a title, but he could have laid the groundwork for another manager who might have. Nothing is impossible. If that club were capable of following a sensible strategy then they’d have a shot, five or so years down the line.

But there’s a reason why Warburton wasn’t going to get that kind of time; the Ibrox fan base is off the planet. Warburton believed that they could have been led to support the idea of a campaign where the club put down roots – “It would still have sold season tickets,” he said – but he understands only half of the problem. The other issue is the press.

The media is as responsible for the mind-boggling lunacy of the Ibrox support as much as anything that comes from the club, and Graeme McGarry has provided an outstanding example of just how big a role the hacks have played in overblowing expectations over there.

His article today, entitled “Even now, it seems Mark Warburton just doesn’t get Rangers” is a masterpiece of delusion.

The very best thing that can be said about Warburton is that he didn’t get carried away in all the hyped up nonsense that surrounds Ibrox. He understands something more important than the “Rangers” mind-set; he understands reality.

McGarry and others in the Scottish media clearly do not.

Celtic is streets ahead of this club on and off the pitch. We are a club that projects itself into the future; we take a long-term view. I may think that sometimes we sacrifice short term benefits for that, but it has laid solid foundations and given us a model for sustainability.

There is exactly zero prospect – as King claimed earlier in the campaign – of us collapsing “like a house of cards”.

Some think that when Brendan Rodgers leaves we will be significantly harmed by that.

As long as his departure is not acrimonious and results in no poisoning of the well for who comes after him, there will be no damage to the club. If we show the correct level of ambition and go for someone on Brendan’s level then we need not even lose an inch of ground.

McGarry doesn’t even bother to address the strength of Celtic in the piece, except in passing. It’s as if we don’t matter to the equation at all. Even when he is accepting that Warburton was right, he cannot help himself but to suggest that the Ibrox boss might have done better had he embraced madness instead of sanity. This ignores our strength completely.

Check out the following paragraph.

“Second is never good enough and telling supporters that the best they can hope for is a runners-up spot at the start of any season, even that particular one, would be like trying to explain the theory of relativity to a Labrador. They just wouldn’t understand.”

McGarry reckons, then, that an intelligent man like Warburton should not only have pandered to the wilfully stupid but that he should have actually embraced stupidity himself. He should have simply ignored the evidence of how strong Celtic was and started looking for fairies at the bottom of the garden. Have you ever heard something so daft?

It actually gets even dafter.

“Was Warburton right that Rangers had no hope of winning the league that season? In hindsight, of course he was, but if he didn’t truly believe they could have a tilt at the title, and if that wasn’t his aim as he set out at the start of the campaign, then he truly doesn’t get Glasgow and the football landscape here.”

Honestly, that is just barking. It’s McGarry’s way of saying that when someone takes over at Ibrox they should leave common sense and rationality at the door. But there is little doubt that this is exactly the mind-set inside the club; in that, at least, McGarry is correct.

The Ibrox operation is run on the basis that objective reality does not exist at all. Warburton must have felt like a fish out of water in that atmosphere, looking at our own club and the enormous advantages we had over his and not only being expected to compete but being expected to overcome all of it and somehow win the league.

He is a City of London guy. He knows how to do proper analysis, and what McGarry is suggesting here is that he reject that and pander to idiots. This is the real reason, as much as anything else, why that club cannot move forward and why it cannot catch us.

No club which refuses to engage with reality is going to catch Celtic, and what McGarry has done today is demonstrate, clearly, that the problem is not just within Ibrox but in the media that covers that club and the Scottish game as a whole. Warburton talked nothing but good sense; he knows that inflating expectations the way they did with that “going for 55” nonsense – and they keep on doing this – is ridiculous, and leads to bad decision making.

McGarry claims Warburton doesn’t understand Scottish football or “Rangers” as a result.

Well there was a club called Rangers which behaved exactly like this, and the consequences of that are well known to every single person in the game here. Warburton certainly doesn’t need an education in that. He is more aware of that than McGarry seems to think.

The mental block required not to understand this is almost unfathomable by rational people; even before the events which swept Rangers away, Celtic dwarfed the Ibrox operation. In a very real sense, we have since Fergus McCann completed the stadium.

Trying to keep pace with us is what killed the OldCo; in 2012 they were completely swept away.

In the years that followed, we got even stronger. The club which crawled out of the rubble of what used to be Rangers made mistake after mistake after mistake, including hiring Warburton in the first place. His lack of experience made that move a nonsense right from the start.

But Warburton at least understood the way things are.

He understood that the job of making that club competitive was a task that would take years. He was entitled to think he’d have got time to at least put the first bricks in the place. In the end, every single thing he did was overturned in less than a year. For all his smarts, and his rational way of looking at it, it didn’t save him.

It won’t save Gerrard either, who as McGarry has pointed out is fully embracing the madness.

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