I was not in the least bit surprised to see that the Ibrox club account on Twitter sent out a message the other night telling Seville to “brace yourselves.” To those of us who see their visit as a dark occasion for the city which it will forever have course to regret, that crass message bears a striking resemblance to the kind of messages we’d send that city ourselves.
This is not accidental. Those who inhabit the upper echelon of the city council over there might not grasp the nuance – it’s pretty raw though – or put it down to a poor choice of words, as they choose. But I’ve been doing this too long to know that whoever is in charge of that account can’t be a rank amateur or someone lacking in a formal education … the connotations of that tweet would have been as clear to whomever put it out as it is to the rest of us.
It might, therefore, be the most honest communication from the Ibrox social media team in a long time. Seville should take it literally, because that’s how it’s meant.
We took 80,000 there. Their whole mentality will be bent towards topping that number at the very least. But our 80,000 were impeccable ambassadors for our football club, and since they cannot match that performance, and they know it, I suspect that they will go out of their way to leave the people of that city with a very different impression.
A long time ago now, I watched a documentary featuring the former English casual and far-right activist turned supergrass, Darren Wells, as he laid out the thinking of their national team fans abroad. He said something that stayed with me for years; he said that their fans want the locals to be scared before they even arrive, and to leave them with memories that they never forget. I have always believed that to be a near perfect encapsulation of how a certain sect at Ibrox sees the world and their own duty to represent their team.
For a long time they mocked us a club that “just wants to be loved”; that, presumably, was before their fans descended into pitiful whinging about how nobody likes them. But I’m still convinced that if they were left with Machiavelli’s infamous choice that they would rather be feared instead, and that they take a perverse satisfaction in their hooligan rep.
They are savvy enough, at least, to keep it out of the stadiums where they would risk the wrath of UEFA against the club. Outside of the ground, anything goes. It’s why Manchester didn’t result in the multi-year ban that it deserved, and why the people of Seville should not expect anything less. Only when Ibrox’s fan-base understand cause and effect and that their actions will have consequences are they going to be tamed and kept under control.
Remember, as I’ve written here, one of their websites has already suggested that their fans are entitled to “riot” as a result of their ticket allocation … that’s the kind of sentiment which should be condemned loudly and it hasn’t been.
Add to that the club’s own statement from last weekend, and you understand that the idea that it will ever try to impose order on this unruly mob is for the birds. They’ve made it clear that they will back their hooligan element to the hilt come what may.
Into this mix, of course, come the Germans who last week showed their own proclivities up clearly with their “God Shave The Queen” tifo, specially for the West Ham fans. It was hilarious and brilliant and the kind of sentiment that will drive the Peepul mad.
On top of that, Phil Mac Giolla Bhain spoke to some people who know German football and they told him that the “German Bombers” song – which Ibrox sung lustily the other night – will not provoke a gentle response from the Frankfurt fans, who will rock and roll at the drop of a hat and will see that as a provocation too far … this is a recipe for mayhem.
And for once Ibrox is not shy about what it’s about. They are openly preparing Seville for the worst, and if I were in charge of policing in that city I’d plan accordingly.