My first major article on the madness across the city was written for E-Tims in 2009, when I was writing under the pen-name Che Timvara. I will always be grateful to their team for giving me that opportunity. The most important article I wrote for them, and maybe the most important I have written or will ever write, was called The End Of Rangers?
It was a speculation on whether the winds of the global economic crisis which were buffering banks and other organisations which had long since considered themselves untouchable would, via pressure on David Murray, lead to the collapse of his football club. It was obvious even then that spending more than you earned put you in peril and with financial institutions crashing around them a Scottish football club was not likely to survive if they overextended.
None of us knew about EBT’s, not then, but we knew about the ruthlessness of Murray and what he had been fully prepared to see happen to us in 1997. To illustrate his intent, I turned to a famous statement from the McDonald’s chain’s founder, Ray Croc, who once said of his competitors “if they were drowning I’d stick a hosepipe in their mouth.”
And that’s what Murray would have happily seen happen to us. His visceral loathing of Fergus was because McCann not only saved us but put us on the road to being a bigger club than his. He knew it. He feared it. He hated it. EBT’s were his response to the threat posed by Fergus’ successors and the arrival of Martin O’Neill. We pushed them to that suicidal strategy.
Last week, I wrote about the fall of the Soviet Union and how that was precipitated by Ronald Reagan’s national security apparatus and their public statements on the Stars Wars defence policy, which the Soviets tried to match or best at tremendous cost. Cost they couldn’t afford. Their economy crashed in the effort.
We did that to Murray and his club … and then, in 2012 when the NewCo was down we failed to finish the job. We couldn’t have killed Rangers, and we couldn’t prevent a club from using that name from crawling up from the muck, but we were in control of the agenda and we could have determined the means by which they made the climb.
Domestic FFP would have ended the threat for a generation of us. We failed utterly – Lawwell failed utterly – to do it. I worry that he will squander the next chance too.
And that chance is coming. The AGM today at Ibrox made it clear that they are a board with every little idea of how to dig their way out of the hole they are in. Not a massive financial hole in the way Murray was threatened, but a funding gap that threatens to reduce them to a pale shadow of what we’re building right now at Celtic Park.
They don’t have a plan for catching us, and if we keep on going all they are going to see is Celtic vanishing into the distance. At that point, if we’re ruthless enough, we can wait until they’re drowning and stick the hose in their mouth.
We won’t kill them. The SFA will never permit that, and the other clubs will never permit it. But we can strike a blow that sends them reeling back a decade in their development cycle. We can slam them to the matt and inflict real pain on them.
No-one who looked at their AGM today can be in the slightest doubt that they are a club which does not know the way forward. If The Mooch is anything less than a phenomenal, Ange style success then he’s done for and the blow of being made to start again, from scratch, won’t be finally but it will paralyse that club for years and in that lies our opportunity.
Are we ready to take it? Do we have the guts to take it? More importantly, do we have the balls to virtually destroy our only domestic rival and risk what that means? Are we self confident enough to then push forward to become a genuine European club again? Because in many ways this domestic obsession is all that’s holding us back.
End the ever-war between us and their pitiful incarnation and we can truly, at last, be all we can be on that bigger stage. If we’ve got the ambition for it, and that only time will tell.