When the full-time whistle went in Ibrox’s game against Livingston yesterday, it was greeted by a chorus of boos from those who were still inside the ground. They had booed the final whistle against Dundee just days ago, and they won that one by a single goal. That would have felt ominous to the manager. Yesterday was much, much worse.
This has been a weird week even by modern standards.
Liz Truss didn’t just lose the premiership after just 44 days; she had the ignominy of being outlasted by a lettuce.
It’s a measure of this country that it can still find off-beat humour in the direst of situations, and The Daily Star’s decision to stick a picture of her next to a ripe vegetable and live-stream it to see which of them would expire first was something close to genius.
It sparked debate about who else’s picture should have been on that table. Aston Villa fans had their own ideas. When Liz Truss stood up and said “I’m a fighter not a quitter” she lasted a day. When Steven Gerrard was foolish enough to use almost identical words when his team lost to Leeds in midweek his board delivered a verdict within hours.
So the lettuce outlasted him too. But the question as to whether or not it would outlast Van Bronckhorst has always been a thornier one, because there are complexities in this case which just aren’t present with the Villa one, most notably that Villa will have no difficulty in finding a replacement for Gerrard and it’s just not clear where Ibrox would look next.
Michael Beale is being named. That might be amongst the most foolish suggestions I’ve heard yet; not up there, say, with bringing back Johnson but close enough to crazy to make you wonder about the sanity of those promoting it.
Beale has accomplished nothing so far on his own, and if he was willing to walk out on QPR after such a short time in the post, what would that portend about his loyalty? How long would Ibrox be able to hold onto a guy like that if his services were sought by a club which he felt could better match his ambitions? Because their club isn’t that.
If Beale can get QPR promoted – and it’s a big if, coming out of that league – he’s a Premiership boss in only his second year of management, and he will feel, justifiably, that there are bigger things waiting for him. He has no emotional tie to Ibrox whatsoever, and it’s only their arrogance which makes them think otherwise.
So if not him, then who?
When Gerrard left Van Bronckhorst was the only candidate they even spoke to. They had their sights set on him from the word go, and really they never even considered anyone else for the role.
They need to find someone “staunch” if they are going to sell this to their supporters, and as much bloodlust as there is amongst them at the moment they know that they cannot afford to get this decision wrong.
But nor can they afford to drag out the process whilst an interim boss fumbles with the controls. The parallels between the mess they are in and the one this government has gotten itself into are obvious. And they don’t stop with succession issues.
As with the Treasury, there are fiscal pressures on their club which won’t be easily solved. They are tied into the Castore deal so can’t sign with anyone else. Their modest sponsorship agreements with a variety of firms are solidly locked in too, so they can’t get more out of them. Surely there can’t be much more squeezing to do amongst their fans?
The one thing that is clear is that the days when people like Hugh Keevins poured honey in the ear of the Ibrox boss are over. There are no more salad days for Van Bronckhorst or his media acolytes, who look every bit as foolish as those journalists and MP’s who were so gleeful over the appointment of Liz Truss and cheered her mini-budget to the rafters.
Instead there is fear and loathing, pouring out of every Ibrox fan forum and “official media partner”. Mainstream journalists are talking about the end, and when they start that the gig is almost over.
Few can see him surviving much longer.
In spite of their penchant for scandal and internecine warfare, the next Tory leader will certainly outlast him.
A fresh lettuce … well that’s a different argument. I would fancy its chances as well.