Twenty years from now, when this generation of Ibrox fans has been numbed to the horror of Celtic dominance, and their football horizons are so barren that they can’t even bribe their kids to attend games with them, there might be two fans sitting in a run-down grubby backstreet pub and pondering where it all went wrong.
And then one of them might have a brainwave, probably at around the time Tom Hardy comes on the telly wearing a sweater to advertise pension funds.
“Remember Jose Cifuentes?” he will ask his mate. “No,” his mate will say. “Honduran, central midfielder. Freebie.” There will be a moment of silence before the penny drops. “Oh Christ, him …” the other will say, as the name is refreshed from the memory banks. “What about him?”
That’s when the full horror of it will reveal itself, two decades after the fact.
It’s the problem with being slow on the uptake. Sometimes things only hit you long, long after they were obvious to most of the rest of the watching world. With the awed disbelief of being the last person in your social circle to know your partner is sleeping around he’ll tell his mate what should be clear to all of them in the here and now. “He’s who we got instead of Tillman.”
Because yeah, that’s what this signing, should they get it over the line, represents.
The one that’s £5 million cheaper than the guy their manager had made his first target. Right now they are awfully excited at the prospect of bringing in all these freebies … they apparently don’t understand yet that this collection of Other Clubs Rejects is what they will have instead of a proper net spend. It will only properly dawn on them when it all starts coming apart.
Recently, there was a discussion on their forums about people renewing their MyGers memberships; it’s a £50 annual fee on top of your season ticket. A lot of jokes went back and forth. One guy said “Can’t wait to get my scarf and my Livingston away ticket” which summed up the utter insanity of anyone paying for the scheme in the first place.
The thing is, they all know it’s a scandalous cash-grab with no real upside unless you’re one of those very few people who thinks its legit (and can afford) to spend your way to the front of the queue.
Whenever people have suggested Celtic “membership schemes” I’ve fiercely resisted the idea because it would look a lot like this, creating a two-tier fan-base at a time when that’s the very worst thing that any club which respects its customers should do.
But this lunacy has been embraced over there.
This is the Ibrox support for you. Pouring money into something they know is ridiculous, just to, as more than one of them put it, “get priority on Hampden tickets.” But what if you don’t get to Hampden? Or what if you get there and – haha – don’t win anything? Still worth it? That scheme – or more like a scam – is only a small part of Ibrox’s financial strategy.
Yet their fans are still convinced that it’s the sugar-daddies waiting in the wings who will provide the next big tranche of “investment” for their team. But that’s not going to happen.
The money is going to come from them. That club will spend what it earns or it won’t spend at all … that’s their future, and MyGers is one scheme of many their fans will be funding for years.
Their directors had already hit the reverse gear before COVID hit. What did their gullible fans think Dave King meant when he talked about “front-loading spending”? It meant that for a few years there would be wine and rose, followed by a longer spell of belt tightening. COVID actually hit them like a sledgehammer … they were lucky to get through it.
But they will be paying for it for years, which means an extended spell without big money being spent. Unless some mugs in the director’s box are willing to dig deep for this one … but see, that only puts the day of reckoning off, pushing it ever further back down the line. They can’t outrun this though. It all has to be paid for eventually.
Still their fans wait for “investors.” They hear tales of Souness visiting the training ground and dream up consortiums and takeovers and all other manner of nonsense. They believe what they want to, no matter how loony, no matter how fantastical it might be.
And even as their board charges them outrageous fortunes they still aren’t quite getting it. Their club will do this summer as cheap as it can … and they, the fans, will pay for every single bit of it.
All those MyGers renewals … Jack Butland on a massive OTT salary.
That’s what your money bought you.
That and Mr Cifuentes, if they even manage to get that done.