No football club in Britain labours under the enormous weight that the one at Ibrox does.
It is the weight of a history not theirs, of an era not theirs, of phantoms and ghosts and things only halfway understood. It labours under the weight of paranoia. Hatred. A persecution myth. Unrealistic demands and expectations. It labours under the weight of its own delusions.
To carry that weight, even at the best of the times, would require extraordinary leadership. How fortunate we are that in their eight year history they have never had anything remotely like it. It is their great curse and our great fortune. Their great disaster, and our great opportunity.
We are making good on the opportunity. The disaster keeps unfolding.
So desperate are they for something to lift the black cloud of gloom that permanently hovers over them, casting shadows from which they cannot emerge, the bulk of their support is waiting in sweaty excitement for a Channel 4 documentary on child abuse in football to cheer them up.
Is there a greater indictment on their mind-set?
Inside the club, the darkness must be deeper still. There are people at that club who actually are good at what they do, professional people. But they are surrounded on all sides by stygian marshes, inhabited by nutters and egotists and supremacist goons.
The lunatics are running the asylum. That doesn’t leave much space for moderates or the rational.
If there was a genuine leader inside Ibrox they may already have grasped the nettle and taken a decision which is more and more coming to dominate the discussions on their message boards; what should they do about the manager?
Gerrard is floundering. Rumours swirl that he has lost the dressing room. It was especially hilarious hearing this dismissed by Kris Boyd today as nothing but tittle-tattle when it was his stock in trade when the subject was the atmosphere inside Celtic’s last year. But the stories about trouble at Ibrox have at least some supporting evidence, and it’s in the performances on the park and the manager’s constant brutalising of his footballers in front of the press.
Gerrard was typically arrogant in front of the hacks today.
He took no responsibility. He made it clear that he has little faith in certain sections of his team. But this is his squad. He put it together. He spent big money on it. More money, indeed, than was spent at Celtic Park in the two-year timeframe in which he’s been at the club.
These are his players. If this Sevco team lacks bottle and heart and commitment, then that’s surely his fault. He has been unable to sign players who epitomise those things and has been unable to motivate those who do not. Winners are not born, they are made. Having never won a domestic league title in his life, in spite of being a hugely talented player, he has a cheek slating anyone else for lacking the mentality needed to get over that line.
It’s not even that though; Gerrard has already signed 20 odd players. How many more does he get to add to that squad before those above him ask the obvious question; what’s it going to take before this guy actually makes better any of the player he has?
What would you let Gerrard spend? What is stopping the ten worth to the Ibrox board? Everything. Because otherwise their fans might wonder why the people who came into the club halfway through that cycle have been unable to halt it. Indeed, the greatest period of sustained success in the history of the Scottish game has happened on their watch … just not at their club. I always get a kick out of that, and it drives their fans absolutely insane.
Any decision to replace the manager must be taken with three things in mind. The first is this; can the club afford it? The second is who replaces him? The third is what should his targets be? A sensible organisation would forego any notion of stopping ten or eleven or even twelve and simply try to build something that has a chance of surviving into the future.
If that club had a leader, he would be taking the sensible decision to ask Gerrard to consider his own position. Gerrard himself would do well to leave now whilst a fragment of his reputation is intact. He spoke the other day about the Liverpool fans who want to see him succeed Klopp; I don’t believe there are as many of them as he seems to think, and it’s a tribute to his egotism that he thinks there is a large constituency for him amongst those fans.
They are watching the best team in the world right now. Ask Sevco fans what they are watching. Any Anfield director who thinks Gerrard is the answer is asking the wrong question. Sevco fans who think he can prevent us from getting to ten aren’t paying attention.
They cling to the hope that Gerrard can win the Scottish Cup, giving them a chance to point to tangible “progress.” But would that really represent some mystical triumph after two years and £20 million plus poured into a bottomless pit? If a club was desperate for success it might well be. They believe that their “journey through the leagues” was something special; Gretna did it with a fraction of their resources, and wound up in the graveyard.
That’s where Sevco is heading unless it radically changes course. Gerrard is a symptom of the disease. He is proof of their obsession with bling, their need to feel important, their wallowing in supremacy, their belief in fairies at the bottom of the garden. Their madness.
A club run by genuine men of vision would put an end to this, and they’d do it before this campaign even closes out. But Sevco has never had such men at the helm, and it’s been decades since there was anyone like it at Ibrox.
And we can all be grateful that this shows no signs of changing.