It certainly looks that way.
Which brings me to an historical analogy I’ve long been thinking about in terms of our showdown with Ibrox. And in this case, I’m not going to invoke an Evil Empire example, but one where we’re definitely the Good Guys.
Think, for a moment, of Ibrox at the moment as Nazi Germany at the height of its strength in the summer of 1941.
To all intents and purposes, they were the masters of Europe.
France, Belgium, Holland, Luxembourg, Poland, Denmark, Norway, Austria and Czechoslovakia had all vanished from the map, subsumed into the vast empire of Adolf Hitler.
They looked invincible.
But the power of Germany was largely illusory.
Because economically, they were a mess and the geopolitical picture was certainly no better.
The vastness of the Soviet Union lay to the East, an ally at that time but an uncertain one.
Hitler and Stalin were both bent on dominating the continent, and the “spheres of influence” they had drawn up to divide it between them were already pretty flexible, and the limits were being tested.
To the West, lay Britain and it’s not always remembered but at that particular moment this was more than just a tiny island, but the ruler of a global empire.
That, alone, conferred access to vast lands and natural resources and the possibility of holding out for a long time.
Hitler had no plan for an extended war.
Germany was in no shape to wage one.
Laying down the infrastructure for it would have been the work of decades and too many essential resources were not available to the Nazis, even with so much land under their control.
He certainly had no plan for the possibility – growing every day – of a conflict with the United States.
His generals recognised that such a war was certainly going to come, because as they told him, any move towards crushing Britain would mean the last light of democracy would go out in Europe and the Americans would never allow that to happen.
So Hitler gambled.
And the moment he launched Barbarossa, it was truly over.
What his generals warned him against time and time and time again swiftly came to pass; not a “two front war” but something much worse; a war of attrition against a vastly superior enemy.
Which brings me to the point.
If you look at where Ibrox is right now, you might be forgiven for thinking that their position is pretty strong.
They are the title holders. They sit with a six-point lead. If they win this title, then a £40 million bounty is theirs for the taking.
Most people think that’s a game-changer.
But they are wrong.
That pot of gold would not change anything fundamental.
It’s a big win, for sure, but all it buys them is time. They have set themselves on an impossible course, and it’s that course which will determine the next 20 years in Scottish football.
They had one genuine hope; the collapse of Celtic.
As Hitler had promised that all Germany had to do was “kick in the door” of Russia “and the whole rotten structure will come crashing down”, any strategy they have for overtaking us depended on knocking us out quickly. This was King’s plan and he openly boasted about it when he predicted – in language strikingly like Hitler’s – that we were like a house of cards.
Yet Hitler’s plan was fanciful nonsense.
So was King’s hope.
As Hitler paid no heed to the vastness of the Soviet Union or its ability to wage the long war that he simply couldn’t afford, King refused to acknowledge that it was a failure of leadership at Celtic which caused our problems, not a lack of intrinsic strength.
We are a bigger club than the one at Ibrox, and that was true even when Rangers played there.
It’s been true almost from the moment Fergus McCann completed the stadium.
We won the last war with Ibrox in the same way we’ll win this one; we are richer, with a bigger global footprint and we do not take risks which expose us to major danger.
We are built for the long war.
In the end, our size and power and resources will win out.
What a lot of people don’t appear to realise is that Ibrox’s plan is for short-term gains at the expense of long-term stability; Hitler made similar mistakes over and over again.
Even the over-arching goal of grabbing the Champions League money is an example of short-term thinking.
Let’s be honest; what will Ibrox do with £40 million?
They’ll spend the bulk of it on trying to build their squad.
What will that do?
Well, Hitler realised early in 1942 that he had run up against a major problem, which was obvious to his generals but had somehow eluded him up until that time.
He had conquered vast tracts of land and it was costing increasing amounts in blood and treasure to hold it all down.
Which forced him to ever greater risk-taking to grab more of the resources he needed to keep the war machine rolling. This led to his disastrous decision to launch Case Blue in the summer of 1942.
Think of a football club trying to overhaul a financially stronger opponent in much the same way; they can use short-term infusions of cash to strengthen the squad.
But all that does is creates bloat.
A bigger squad means a bigger wage bill … and they are losing money year on year with the squad they have right now.
If they increase the strength of it and with it the size of the wage bill, they are only setting themselves up for bigger problems down the line.
What would be a better use for the money?
What would be the more strategic use?
To expand their stadium, to use the cash to survive a brief downturn in season tickets as they break the link between their club and the lunatic fringe and thus improve their global image to build a more inclusive one and to invest in youth and development.
And none of it will happen.
Instead, they’ll expand the team, inflate the wage bill and put themselves in a position where one bad year brings down the house.
This talk of a single year’s Champions League income “getting them out of the hole” is nonsense; it’s a one-off cash injection they can’t depend on getting again, and it doesn’t make up for a full decade of over-spending.
I heard it all this talk out of Ibrox before, back in 2011.
People forget that we handed them three league titles on the bounce and they had Champions League money with them.
Did they use that money to fortify against the shock of the Big Tax Case?
No, they spent it. It took a single year without European income to collapse them.
The hole Ibrox is in is one they cannot possibly fill with bluster or a one-off infusion of cash; that hole is the enormous structural gap between what their club earns and what Celtic earns year in year out.
That’s the problem they face and which won’t go away.
It was the problem that forced Murray to initiate EBT’s … Celtic’s financial power enabled us to sign better players than them, and he had to find a way of closing the gap.
We make more money. We are a bigger club. This is a fact.
They are not built for the long war, and we are.
Even in a bad year, we earn more than they do by a large margin.
That translates into a Champions League jackpot every two or three years, and that’s without us actually securing one of those in that time-frame. It’s a finance gap of £20 million plus every single year … do the math.
It doesn’t take you long to understand how enormous that advantage is.
King’s club was incapable of dealing us a killer blow, and because it couldn’t do that we were only ever a change of leadership away from coming back to challenge them.
Once we’ve established that challenge it is a matter of time before we dethrone them.
There is no prospect whatsoever of them “pulling away from us”, not without serious spending on the underlying fundamentals of their club. Even if they brought the number of season ticket holders up to par with us, they would still be at several major disadvantages, and this is not supposition, it is borne out by the facts and by the figures over and over again.
Twice in the last 30 years, Ibrox clubs have sought to understand their “global reach”.
The first serious investigation of the “Rangers family” and its worldwide appeal was conducted by Hugh Adam, the ex-finance director who told David Murray he was leading the club to ruin.
The second was done by Charles Green on behalf of Sevco.
Both found the same thing, and Adam put it best.
“Rangers’ so-called global appeal is a myth,” he said. “When I was there, we did an exercise which involved asking 50,000 fans on the database to recommend a friend or a relative abroad. A big response was expected – some were even talking about getting 100,000 names – because everybody in Scotland seems to know somebody abroad.
“We got back 2,800 names and three-quarters of them didn’t know they had been nominated. It’s no surprise that Celtic are officially the best-supported football club in North America, with more official clubs than anybody else. The difference is the Irish connection. Many Irish people may support Manchester United, Liverpool or whoever, but they all – every one of them – have an affection for Celtic. And, of course, Celtic also have a great Scottish following.
“The difference is that, while the Irish all have an allegiance to Parkhead, there are millions of Scots who not only don’t support Rangers, but actively dislike them.”
Whatever may have changed in Celtic’s global reach since then, with the EPL now such a powerhouse, the fundamentals of what Adam said remain and you have to remember on top of it that Sevco spent five years climbing the divisions, years in which they didn’t play in Europe and therefore didn’t even have the global footprint of Rangers.
Even when Rangers was operating at full capacity, we earned more money than them in all but two of the fifteen years before they went belly-up. For much of the time, Lawwell was in place at Parkhead and our financial power as compared to theirs was enormous.
It was only our failure – his failure – to properly apply the boot last time which handed them their three final league titles.
Sevco’s league title can also, largely, be laid at Lawwell’s door.
But I never doubted – not even in the dark years between 2009-11, when we seemed to be the architects of our own failures – that we would win the long war.
I wrote my first article about their perilous financial state – The End Of Rangers? – in 2009 and I spent the three years which followed it waiting for what was inevitable.
And you only need to look at the events since 2012 and the way the NewCo has behaved and overspent at every turn to see that they are repeating every single one of the mistakes that drove the first Ibrox club to the wall.
Short term success is being purchased at the cost of long-term stability.
The risks they are taking are enormous, and one slip on the high-wire and it’s over.
That’s the risk you take when you enter into a war of attrition with a superior foe.
Every step you take costs you.
Every asset you grab along the way enables you to take maybe one or two extra steps and then that, too, is swallowed up and gone … and still you have to move forward, ever fearing what the enemy might counter-attack with.
And that’s what happened in December 1941, just months after Hitler launched Barbarossa.
The Wehrmacht was halted before Moscow and even as they were trying to come to terms with that, Zhukov and Vasilevsky hit them with the sledgehammer at Kalinin … and the German dictator’s grotesque gamble was in ruins.
We were supposed to collapse over the summer.
Instead we rallied, regrouped and rebuilt.
In seven days, our newly constituted forces will explode into battle.
The short-sharp-shock strategy of Ibrox is in ruins, and although they still hold a lot of ground, this war is already over and we are closer to the beginning of the end than we are to the end of the beginning.
This is my 7000th article for The CelticBlog. I could not have reached this milestone without the immense support of this community. Thank you all for that.