Yesterday, I did a full-scale dismantling job on what I was convinced was, and would remain, the stupidest article of the whole season, the one by Kris Boyd at the end of July in which he said that Ange Postecoglou, the boss, had “no authority, no backing from the board and no chance of success” and that he should resign. It looked a runaway winner.
But today none other than Keith Jackson has stepped forward to offer direct opposition to it by picking up where Kenny Miller left off over the weekend in trying to make an argument why the Ibrox club winning the Europa League would equal, or eclipse, what the Lisbon Lions have done. And as usual when it comes to Jackson, the article contradicts itself more than a dumb criminal being sweated in a police interview room.
It is filled with every one of the elements we’ve come to recognise in a Jackson piece; bad writing, laughable metaphors, doublethink and fantasy-land leaps of logic. It reeks of a lack of formal education, of someone who thinks journalism simply consists of being able to string sentences together in an order that makes a half kind of sense.
At the centre of it, of course, is the argument; biased, inconsistent, fantastical, ridiculous and at times almost incoherent. This is a Jackson masterpiece, and it comes just days after Chris Sutton openly mocked Kenny Miller for trying to make the same ridiculous case.
When CQN asked ex-Lisbon Lion John Hughes about those remarks he said he thought he’d stepped back to April Fool’s Day. ““How on earth can anyone make such a ridiculous and nonsensical comparison?”
Well, Keith Jackson is about to give it a go.
Without further ado – I have holidays to go on – let’s get into it and start pulling it apart.
“Rangers won’t threaten Lisbon Lions’ place as best ever side but their end goal might be greater – Keith Jackson” … that’s the headline, and if you’re reading that and thinking “What the actual …” then yeah, you had the same reaction as me. Their end goal might be greater? What’s that? Win the Champions League? Oh dear God, that’s almost too funny.
The sub-headline confirms that this is, in fact, the general thinking behind the article.
“Jock Stein and his team will never be moved from their status as the best side this country has seen but it’s time to evaluate their achievement with what the current Ibrox side could deliver.”
That’s twice now this article has suggested that the Lions will never be moved from the top spot. But it’s twice now that the article has already suggested that this Ibrox club might well do it. If you’re confused don’t be, this is, after all The Daily Record.
“OK, so it’s probably time to begin an uncomfortable conversation.”
Since we know the topic, this conversation will be uncomfortable in the way that watching a drunk who has shit himself and walks into a lamppost is uncomfortable. That doesn’t make it any less fascinating, or any less objectively funny. As the observers of that particular spectacle might say, if the guy was listening, “Hey, knock yourself out.”
“Some of you might prefer to leave the room for this one but, with Rangers now right there, standing on history’s shoulder, it does seem like the perfect moment to consider where winning this season’s Europa League title might rank in terms of our game’s all time greatest triumphs.”
And why, pray tell, would any of us like to leave the room? To spare you the further embarrassment that we know is coming? You’ve already walked onto that soggy patch of land with your “standing on the shoulder of history” metaphor, which is as confused and illiterate as any I’ve seen in a while. You stand on the shoulders of giants, which means that you build your achievement on the great men who have come before. Tony Blair talked about “the hand of history on my shoulder” during the North of Ireland peace talks … standing on the shoulder of history, for God’s sake? That’s pretty abysmal, even for this dire newspaper.
“And, as sacrilegious as some may find it, there’s a reasonably compelling argument to be made here that says this one might even top the lot in terms of the sheer scale and improbability of achievement.”
No, actually, there’s no argument at all to be made for saying that, far less a “reasonably compelling” one. There is no way in Hell that it “top(s) the lot” … and anyway, what happened to the opening assertion that the Lions triumph would and never could be bested?
“Now, if everyone can just calm down for a moment, let’s examine why there is a credible case for claiming a Scottish victory in Spain next Wednesday night might even eclipse what Jock Stein’s Celtic side managed on that day of all days at the Estadio Nacional in 1967.”
Everyone else is perfectly calm; you are the one about to make a case that would be laughed at in a psychiatric ward. There is no “credible case” for saying any such thing, it is bonkers, it is batshit, it is mental, it is preposterous, it is absolutely without merit of any kind.
“And let’s start by making one or two things crystal clear from the outset.”
Things are already pretty clear, but go for it.
“First, there is no threat at all to the status of the Lisbon Lions as the greatest Scottish side of all time. That is secure and not even a matter worthy of debate.”
Wait a second … didn’t you just say that there’s a credible case to be made that this achievement might best them? Do you need to be reminded of your own words of just a moment ago? If this was a trial this would be the moment where I would sarcastically suggest that if you needed me to, I could have the court reporter read them back to you …
“Second, the European Cup is, was and always will be the ultimate prize in club football. No matter the shape and format of the competition might take, Old Big Ears is the one they all want to get their hands on.”
Correct, so I’m moved to wonder just what in God’s name this entire piece is about and what its point is, other than to make the writer sound like an idiot.
“The more the map of European football is contorted and redrawn by UEFA’s greed is good brigade, the more certain it feels that the late great Billy McNeill will be the only captain of any Scottish club ever to experience the privilege.”
We agree on something. It will be the last thing we agree on for a while but all this does is state the obvious. This is not brilliant insight we’re getting.
“All that is under lock and key and safely in the bank.”
There’s an old saying that when somebody is talking like this you ignore everything they are saying up until they say the word “but …” and here it comes …
“But it’s precisely because the landscape has become so utterly unrecognisable over the ensuing decades that this modern day Rangers tilt can be considered even more outrageously unthinkable.”
Absolute bollocks. It’s because the landscape has become so unrecognisable that this is even possible in the first place, an argument that I will proceed to make in due course in this piece. The writer hasn’t thought this through at all.
“Fifty-odd years ago the world was, of course, an entirely different place. So much so that Dundee could make it all the way to a European Cup semi final, only stopped in their tracks by the mighty AC Milan and a notorious Spanish match official who was later found to be fond of accepting a stuffed envelope or two.”
Isn’t it great to see The Record acknowledge the existence of bent referees? Anywhere but Scotland, of course. It couldn’t happen here. It never happens here, eah? I do enjoy the reference to Dundee … but it wasn’t fifty odd years ago; next year will be Dundee’s 60th anniversary of that achievement as this was the 60th anniversary of the title win that got them there. I don’t expect The Record to care about such things.
“Celtic went all the way four years later and were back competing in another final, losing to Feynoord in extra time in 1970.”
You see what he did there? Celtic only went where Dundee had gone before. It’s subtle, but its there isn’t it? Standing on the shoulders of giants, yeah?
“Rangers themselves made it to three UEFA finals over a 12 year period between 1960 and 1972, when they won their only European trophy at the Nou Camp against Dynamo Moscow.”
This is all very fascinating, but it’s nothing that we don’t know. This history lesson does miss a number of key points, such as that they got their trophy in a dressing room because their fans were pulling apart the stadium. They enjoy a riot at a European final.
“And, the following decade, Alex Ferguson’s Aberdeen won the same trophy, beating Real Madrid in 1983, before Dundee United lost over two legs of a UEFA Cup Final against IFK Goteborg four years later.”
This guy intends to deploy his actual argument at some point, doesn’t he?
“In other words, although these were all momentous contributions, the fact remains there was nothing exceptionally unusual about Scottish clubs throwing their muscle around in the latter stages of continental competition.”
Nothing exceptionally unusual. Jesus wept, that is some awful writing right there. As to the “fact”, it’s not a “fact” at all … by the time Aberdeen and Dundee Utd were punching about their weight it had become a momentous achievement for Scottish clubs to do that. He devalues those two teams and what they were able to achieve writing that crap. There is a reason Ferguson went from Aberdeen to Manchester United.
“Yes, by becoming the first British club to be crowned European champions, Stein’s Celtic led the way as the trailblazers of the time. These Lions broke all manner of moulds which is why they’ll be considered as Scotland’s greatest for all eternity.”
You know what comes next, right? The “but …”
“But it’s also a matter of fact that, in order to reach that final, they had to negotiate a safe passage through only four knock-out rounds, playing home and away ties against Zurich, Nantes, Yogoslavian champs Vojvodina and Dukla Prague.”
Ho-ho-ho and there it is. He omits a number of details, such as that these teams were all national champions, that their national leagues were stronger than they are at the current time because European football was not so skewed by money and that Celtic were an exceptional side who were, comfortably, as good as anyone in Europe … I made this argument just the other day. We beat the best club in Europe when we took down Inter and we went on to beat what was arguably the best team in world football when Madrid challenged us shortly afterwards with the intention of swatting us aside in the most fiercely contested testimonial of all time.
“By comparison, Rangers have clocked up 18 games along the winding road to Seville. That’s more than 27 and a half hours of football, in eight different countries, stretching over the course of ten months since they opened up in the Champions League qualifiers against Malmo on August 3.”
And here’s where I get to have some fun with this eejit, proper fun. Yes, they have played 18 games to get to Seville – in that competition. But there’s an oblique mention of the Champions League in there which is glossed over. Because, of course, their record in that tournament was played 2 lost 2, and an early exit. In the Europa League they won seven times out of that eighteen. Guess what? We played ten games to get to our final … and won seven. In case this clown hasn’t grasped it, that is a 70%-win ratio. Easy to do the maths on it. Ibrox’s win ratio is around 45% … if you add the Champions League games and they go on to lose the final, they’ll have played 21 games in Europe and they will have won seven … that’s a win ratio of just 33%. it is one of the poorest runs to a final in the modern era. Which is to say nothing for the quality of the opposition … and that’s part of my own argument, which I’ll make shortly.
“And all this before it’s even brought into the discussion that they almost went out of existence just 10 years ago when the Grim Reaper came visiting, wearing pointy plastic shoes and an ill-fitting suit.”
Dear God. What a description. I presume that’s supposed to represent Hector The Taxman, but he was right the first time; The Grim Reaper did visit them and you know what they say; when he comes he never leaves alone. The club at Ibrox did go out of existence and it does not matter how much they kick and scream and deny reality.
“When Craig Whyte hurtled them down a one way path towards oblivion, Rangers couldn’t cobble together enough cash to save themselves from liquidation.”
Wahey! Amidst the shit metaphors – a one-way path towards oblivion can’t end with other than oblivion – there’s an admission that this was, in fact, the consequence.
“That they are now competing against clubs who spend more than that on recruiting youngsters for their academies, is perhaps the most mind-bending aspect of it all.”
Spend more than what? Did I miss a financial disclosure there? Since there’s not one, let me provide some context. In a bad year – a bad one – Ibrox’s annual turnover was more than £30 million over the last decade. That’s £300 million straight off the bat, at an absolute minimum, every penny of which they spent. They then spent, on the squad, on players, £100 million above and beyond that in the last five years alone. Do not let anyone kid you, anyone at all, that this Ibrox club was assembled on a shoe-string. It is a lie.
“The RB Leipzig side which Rangers knocked out of the semi finals was built at a cost of more than £200m. By comparison, Van Bronckhorst’s entire squad was assembled for less than £20m.”
And there is the absolute nonsense right there. Four players in the Ibrox squad – Morelos, Kent, Hagi and Helander – cost them £20 million between them, and they are the tip of the iceberg. I get that there’s a disparity, but you can’t just make shit up I’m afraid.
“When these numbers are properly crunched it actually beggars belief that they have made it this far with only Eintracht Frankfurt now standing between the Ibrox club and a first European title in 50 years.”
If those numbers were accurate you might have a point, but since they aren’t you don’t. And I’m going to dispute the central claim anyway.
“If Van Bronckhorst and his players can find a way to take out a third Bundesliga outfit in Seville, then they will become the first Scottish side to bring European silverware back to the country in almost four decades.”
Yeah but in the last 20 years there have been two separate opportunities to do so, both in this competition … which brings me nearer my own point.
“That’s the enormity of what is at stake here and it’s why the Dutchman wrapped so many of his star men up in cotton wool on Sunday rather than throwing them in harm’s way against Dundee United.”
None of this, you will notice, even attempts to make the case that this is a bigger achievement than what the Lions did except for 1) the quality of opposition and 2) the number of games. I have demolished the central thesis of the number of games argument repeatedly … I will get to the quality of opposition argument very shortly.
“History is waiting for each and every one of them in Seville.”
Yeah if they win. Very few people remember, or care, about beaten finalists.
“They might not be playing for the same trophy that McNeill held aloft on that day in Lisbon and the ultimate honour will always belong to Celtic. But, in the here and now, the scale of this potential achievement might just be even more vast.”
A moon-howling ending to a piece with not the slightest merit. Dire stuff.
One of the reasons it’s so dire is that he is talking about the Europa League as if it’s by virtue of all the games a tougher competition than the old Champions League was. But he overlooks one massive point; the changes in European football have made that a relatively weak competition overall, which is why so many duff clubs – Fulham, Middlesbrough, Braga and others – have made it all the way to the final. Were those clubs on the brink of eclipsing the Lions?
Because that’s his argument. If West Ham had made the final and the English media started talking about how if they won it they’d have eclipsed what Scotland’s greatest side did, everyone would be pulling their hair out and talking about EPL arrogance.
The “the Ibrox team has been built for a pittance” argument is manifestly false and we should not be entertaining it. A handful of clubs in that tournament have vastly bigger budgets than Ibrox, but they only played two of them … the German teams. Braga earn much less. Red Star? A fraction of the Ibrox budget overall. The same with Prague, Copenhagen … and Malmo. This argument only goes so far and then it runs out of steam.
The thing is, the top competition has become so fearsome that it has sucked all the oxygen out of the Europa League. It used to be that the UEFA Cup was contested by all the teams which finished second and third in Europe … now you’re talking, for some of the leagues, about teams who finish fourth, fifth and sixth. This is why there is so much filler in the competition, a fact that is woefully underappreciated and not even explored in his piece.
Jackson doesn’t even attempt to defend his ridiculous assertion except with tired, worn out arguments which should cut no slack with anybody. Ibrox’s win record on this glorious “run” is woeful. They have played 18 and won 7 (not including their defeats in the very competition where our triumph stands alone) and even if you find that impressive reflect on the fact that Celtic played ten and won the same number in 1967. Against national champions.
None of his piece stands up to scrutiny … the argument is non-existent. The case for it is ridiculous and fantastical. This is not journalism. It is fan-boy garbage given a national platform.
This writer will be taking a well-earned break for the next week and a bit … that’s not to say I won’t post the odd piece if circumstances merit it, but for the most part this is James Forrest signing off for a while.
Enjoy the title party folks.