There are so many fundamental misunderstandings at the root of where Celtic and the club from Ibrox presently stand that I continue to be amazed by them.
In England, Arsenal may well have caught Manchester City this season if their players had been just a fraction better, but over the long haul everyone knows that City could dominate that league far into the future … the wildcard isn’t Arsenal but Newcastle, because they can now call on a similar level of long-term funding.
But Ibrox is, and for the foreseeable future will remain, operating at a level well below ours.
The media talks about their closing the gap, but that gap remains at tens of millions of pounds and in Scotland that’s a Grand Canyon which no credible person thinks they can bridge, for three critical reasons, and it’s these which will have the long-term impact.
The first of these is a bigger stadium, and only by spending a vast sum of money on their infrastructure will they ever be able reach parity with us, and that’s supposing that we don’t simply do the same and put us even further out of their reach.
Fergus knew this, and that’s why plans for the 80,000 all-seater Celtic Park remain locked away somewhere … an unrealised dream for now, but something that’s merely waiting for a change in circumstances to bring it out of the mothballs.
The second of these is a greater merchandising operation, and that’s true no matter how much their media acolytes, gullible fan sites and “football finance experts” might say to the contrary.
We have been able to consistently strike huge deals with the biggest firms in the business. Castore’s increased profile doesn’t actually help the Ibrox club, something they struggle to comprehend.
Talk that they will very soon command a £1 billion valuation is nice … for Mike Ashley.
But their club doesn’t get a percentage and even at its best the firm is still valued well behind the two brands which sit atop the pyramid; Nike and Adidas, with whom we have good relations.
The third of these factors is a long-term strategic advantage which might have a bigger impact than the stadium and the merchandising deals put together. In a world which is increasingly cosmopolitan and diverse, and where advertising money is increasingly resistant to follow narrow nationalistic and insular ideology there is no long-term future in any institution rooted as firmly in the past as theirs and whose followers are temperamentally supremacist.
Every football club which wants to survive needs to continually reach out to the next generation, and I know there are a lot of people who think that the next generation over there is already doomed to the same fate as the current one, but I don’t believe that’s true.
Some of them are. That’s just a fact. You can see them online and at the games and they seem to be as dangerous and divorced from reality as the generation before them ever was.
But in truth, I think what we’re seeing right now is a classic case of the loudest kids in the class demanding the attention of the teacher whilst around them things are starting to change.
This archaic monarchy guff is just one area in which they are hopelessly at odds with a radically different world than the one their parents and grandparents were brought up in. If I might be permitted a small observation, there is something profoundly uncool about the outdated nonsense their club surrounds itself with, and this fetish with militarism is even less alluring. That will tell in the next generation. Less and less of them are going to care.
Less and less of them are going to find this stuff appealing.
Any organisation which markets itself on the basis of such a narrow set of cultural extremes is not one that is going to survive. There are people who will say the same about us, if we are defined by The Green Brigade and their militant Republicanism, but that ignores two major factors which nobody in the media here will point out but which are nevertheless true.
The first is that it provides a permanent link with our cultural roots in Ireland, which even the former Ibrox director Hugh Adam admitted was a critical advantage to us, and the second is even more interesting to me as a former political activist who retains a great interest in social issues. Our support is perceived as being in favour of national self-determination, is anti-fascist and left wing. That isn’t true of all of us but the world outside does see us that way.
And that’s a much sexier image than the We Are The Peepul rot which their club is immersed in. That’s a much broader and deeper pool from which to grow as a club, that we’re open to all, welcoming and tolerant in contrast to the way theirs presents itself.
A football club is about more than just the sport itself.
The really big clubs became that way because they have a cultural and social identity entirely separate from results, titles and trophies. It’s how Celtic has been able to grow and thrive down through the years and why we’re thriving now.
It’s why we have friends and brother clubs throughout the world … and look at who some of those clubs are. Who are Ibrox’s spiritual brethren? Hamburg and Linfied. Get it?
You might as well build a wall around yourself.
On a long enough timeline, Ibrox either ditches this stuff or the club is doomed, and the truth is that those loudest voices in the class are the ones who look more and more as if they will determine its future.
So what does the changing world mean for them?
A shrinking pool of supporters, and the true horror they face is that the shallower that pool becomes the more likely that the entrenched lunatics will more and more rule the roost, and scare off any remaining interest they have from the outside world.
Furthermore, the reason that they will fight and claw and scrap and try to turn next season into an all-or-nothing, do or die endeavour is that if they fail it will collapse another part of their foundation … their ludicrous self-image as “the world’s most successful club.”
There is literally no metric you can use by which this becomes a real thing, even if you first consider the Survival Lie to have validity, which none of us do.
There are clubs out there with more trophies. There are clubs out there whose smaller haul includes multiple European Cups and even World Club Championship titles. The idea they consider themselves inferior to Ibrox … it’s simply barmy.
Their “most successful club in the world” fantasy is contemptible nonsense.
There’s a reason that only the genuine football geeks remember that Clough’s first trophy at Forest was the Anglo-Scottish Cup.
Still, we stand to rug-pull that from under their feet in short order and with that goes their biggest so-called “unique selling point” even if it’s not real in the first place. Right now they stand a remote chance of securing the support of fair weather fans and glory hunters … what happens when they no longer have that crutch to stand them up?
It takes a certain kind of person to stand in a crowd which is up to its knees in fenian blood and which sings sick songs about paedophilia.
With a more successful rival siting on the doorstep and never letting them forget it, what chance do you have of attracting one neutral to come and watch you?
The odds are properly stacked against it.
It’s for all these reasons that when I write that for them this summer isn’t about winning but only degrees of losing that I can do so knowing I’m right.
If they decide not to spend the money – which is by far the more sensible course of action – they are in trouble.
But even if they do spend it, I’d still lay odds on our spending more and fixing those issues needing it, and then whatever it is that they’ve done is a reaction to a Celtic which has already evolved past it.
That’s their short term problem.
Their long-term problem is that they are a club with no idea of how to plan for the future when they are still clutching desperately to the past.
Most of the clubs which wither and die do so because they don’t have a distinct identity. The problem with the Ibrox club is that they do. A toxic one.