One of the things that has become obvious reading over the Sevco fan forums these past few weeks is that a flat-out refusal to deal with reality is the common thread binding so very many of them.
Some of them believe that wide-ranging conspiracies exist to keep them down. Some believe that Celtic are lucky and that the luck will run out. A lot of them seem to think that just calling themselves Rangers and being staunch is a miracle cure for their ills.
I’ve written before here about the Roman Republic’s emergency decrees giving a single man the unlimited power of the state. Cincinnatus gave that power back. The idea itself was clearly a dangerous one and bound to lead to problems.
Others took that control, men like Sulla and Caesar.
But because the history of Rome was so full of stories about the dictators and the occasional necessity of such men, the citizens were not as horrified by this as they should have been. When people become used to something, when it becomes normalised, even the craziest situations can occur.
Take the modern Conservative Party. The Tories used to be the model of sanity. The clue is in the name; conservative. And whilst debates over Britain’s future in the EU had haunted some Tory leaders it had, arguably, only really destroyed Thatcher although it made Major’s party difficult to govern. Since Brexit, the bloodshed has barely let up.
Because the toxicity is in their bloodstream now, and I wonder if it won’t be the same in Labour once they are in office. Because that party is comprised of MP’s who enjoy a good rebellion too. We’ll see.
But for the Tories, I can see several more rounds of vicious fighting at the very least.
We may even have another Prime Minister before the public gets to eject them.
Ibrox is heading for that sort of chaos.
As I wrote at the weekend, The Mooch stood on the touchline during the Motherwell game looking like a guy who was fresh out of ideas. He knows that the drumbeat in the stands is very much of the negative variety. He probably does look at the fixture list and believe that he can hang on, because most of their coming games do look winnable and especially with them being at home.
But it’s not as straightforward as that and he knows that too, because the more “winnable” those games are, the greater the danger for him.
Lose even one of them and he might as well pack his bags. Their fans are primed for it like a bomb waiting to go off.
The question is, what happens then?
Yes, they get in a new manager although there’s already a realisation over there that they’re not bringing a Rodgers to Ibrox any time soon. Like the Tory Party, regicide has entered the bloodstream over there; since 2012 ten separate men have sat in the Ibrox hotseat. Everyone who takes it knows that he might be in for a wild, and ultimately, short time in the gig.
As I said at the start, what this comes down to is a refusal to accept a basic reality; that since Fergus McCann completed his revolution, we have been the biggest club in the country.
I am republishing Paul Cassiday’s amazing series of “Dark Days” articles on this blog right now as a means of reminding people what the 90’s were like for us … and educating those who weren’t there so that they might understand just how good we have it right now.
But we didn’t get here by chance.
McCann knew exactly what he was doing, and he was certain that with the right plan we would overhaul Rangers and achieve more than they ever dreamed. More than 20 years later, the genius of it is perfectly clear.
From the moment we completed Celtic Park and started to fill it every week, Rangers was in a losing war.
Murray tried to control the narrative, but he was never in control of their destiny, which was to go down as we went up.
That was the direction of travel. He spent more money than any club in Scotland ever has, or probably ever will again. When that wasn’t enough, when we hired O’Neill and won a treble, the EBT schemes were his answer.
What some people still struggle with today is a simple truth that this blog has stated over and over and over again; Sevco is a shadow of what Rangers was. But Rangers itself was an artificial construct, made to look bigger and stronger and more powerful than it was because Murray had the indulgence of his bankers to spend whatever he wanted.
Without that sugar daddy cash, the Ibrox fans would have spent the vast, vast majority of the last 30 years firmly in the shadow of Celtic and it would long ago have become their normal.
The most vocal fans on their forums are the guys who grew up during the Murray era and thought that it would never end.
They swallowed whole the lie that their club was a Force, something bigger than just a football club, what Murray called “the second biggest institution in Scotland after the church.”
That’s why these Peepul are so wedded to the idea that they are a much greater club than we are.
They believed Murray then and they believe it now, but Murray’s Rangers was like a good parlour trick; convincing only if you didn’t look behind the curtain. When the bank stopped playing ball after the financial crash of 2008, they were vastly more likely to end up in the bankruptcy court than enjoying another long period of dominance over us.
In 2009, I wrote my first proper deep-dive article on that subject, The End Of Rangers?, for E-Tims.
The question I posed was simple; could the collapse of Murray’s business empire, which was already starting to unravel, drag Rangers into the abyss with it?
At the time it seemed most likely, and this was before any of us knew about their use of EBT’s and their impending Big Bad Tax Bill. That made what had already seemed likely into a virtual certainty.
Those of us who were following this knew from that moment onwards that the likely end for Rangers was going bust.
When Chick Young had his famous on-air argument with Jim Traynor over whether or not Alastair Johnston had confirmed that with a nod, it was hilarious because those two halfwits were arguing over a form of words … the real story was staring them in the face and none of us needed to hear it confirmed on Radio Scotland.
What followed was one of the most deeply shocking series of events, for their fans, in the history of watching their club.
As the crisis deepened they waited instead of moving to take control of the situation themselves.
What were they waiting for?
For a saviour on a white charger? Yes, and no. They expected one, but what they were waiting for was for civic Scotland and their friends in the establishment to come to their aid and bail them out.
This is something else which is much misunderstood, but you can hear it in some of the statements from that time and since, and it was best articulated by Alastair Johnson himself in his almost off-hand “suggestion” that HMRC could simply have taken the debt off Rangers books and given it to Murray and his other companies, as if this was a perfectly normal idea.
Because this was Rangers, and how could the state itself not want Rangers to survive?
I know that they expected some sort of intervention from on high.
I know it because a lot of Celtic fans expected it as well, and I told a lot of people at the time that this would be the moment they realised that Rangers was nothing but an illusion because nobody was coming to save them.
“This is about two things,” I said at that time. “Politics and money. They are about to find out, in the grand scheme of things, how inconsequential they are.”
I knew well that one of their own former directors, Hugh Adam, had put it best some years before; “Despite the claims of international appeal, Rangers are, essentially, a West of Scotland club,” he had said, to much scorn and derision at the time.
Not an institution. Not a massive cultural totem.
A mere “West of Scotland football club” and nobody in the upper crust bends over backwards or even particularly cares enough to save something like that from its deserved and well telegraphed fate.
Had their fans been as self-aware as Adam was, they would have seen the danger lights flashing red and might have moved quickly enough, on their own, to cobble together some kind of deal which kept the club alive.
But they waited too long, and in the end the liquidation process started … and at that point Charles Green came out of nowhere and gobbled up the pieces.
Never let them forget that it was that sense of entitlement of theirs, that belief that Scotland owed them something, that the power was all in their hands, that they were too big to fail, that led to everything that has followed.
Green himself had them figured out from the off; he threw them some red meat about the Grand Conspiracy arrayed against them and they lined up to give him their money.
They’ve had a hand in their pockets ever since.
The thing is, that hand is always changing … and that’s part of the problem, and part of the danger they are in, and they don’t even see it in the road.
Had they realised that their own club was in bother from the minute Fergus’s revolution was complete they might have altered the course of history. They might have built something sustainable and able to at least challenge us properly in the long haul.
But they allowed other folk to tell them, and they allowed themselves to believe, that they were on top and would always be on top.
Even when Rangers was liquidated and they found themselves following a NewCo in the bottom tier these fans continued to put their faith in the old slogans and the old belief systems and this certainty about their place in the world … they refused to look around at the devastation and the ruins and accept the truth.
Even now, when the facts are undeniable – borne out best by the five Celtic trebles in the seven seasons before this one which we’ve won since they’ve been a top flight team – they refuse to accept how fundamental the difference is between what they believe and what is real, and it’s this refusal to deal with reality which has pushed them towards self-destruction.
The number of managers they’ve sacked in that seven year period since they got to the SPFL is a damning indictment of how they interact with the world. Other clubs in other countries accept that they live in the shadow of bigger teams, and that we are a bigger team is not even in the slightest dispute any longer for any rational person.
But their supremacist mindset is such that they cannot and will not accept that, and so anyone who fails in that job – and almost everyone is virtually certain to – is thrown on the flames and someone else drafted in to play the role as the human dartboard.
And every time they do it, their reputation takes another hit in the eyes of everyone who views them dispassionately.
The name “Rangers” is not enough to attract the kind of big name they believe they can get.
Because most people in the sports world realise that Rangers is gone, even if they don’t recognise what Rangers actually was … and what’s in its place is a basket case organisation whose fans now have a taste for blood and can’t seem to shake it.
If this was limited to the dugout, that would be one thing, but let’s not forget that there have been multiple changes in the boardroom since 2012, and that’s something that is overlooked a lot of the time.
This insanity has spread blood across those walls as well.
Charles Green was the hero until he wasn’t.
They forget that when the likes of the Easedale’s and even Mike Ashley were involved at Ibrox that they were feted and viewed as heroes and future conquerors at first. Until they weren’t.
Dave King, fresh from his tax fraud plea deal, was next and he unleashed all manner of chaos before, during and after his boardroom coup. Eventually, the fans turned on him, and welcomed the Parks being in control … until that was no longer satisfactory either. And now they’ve turned on the new board as well.
It’s only when you look back on it all with a careful eye that you see just how crazy and out of control that place is and has been for years. Chaos has become so … standard over there that they accept it as normal, just as the Romans did with the idea of a dictator, and over time that evolved into another mad policy of allowing powerful individuals their own militias and even, in the end, their own armies.
I remember, in that 2008 piece The End Of Rangers?, that it was first time I ever used the analogy of the boiling frog.
I had heard it somewhere and was really taken by it and put it in that piece.
It’s a vivid and brilliant illustration of how trouble can creep up on you in increments.
If you put a frog in a bowl of boiling water, it will immediately leap out. But if you put a frog in cold water, and slowly, steadily, heat it up … you’ll end up with frog soup.
And I still don’t think, although it’s obvious to me, that their fans get the danger their club is in, and which they are putting their club in with these incessant lunatic demands to be more than they are capable of being.
They’ve even fallen prey to a Murray style failure to break loose of sugar daddy money, and to consider where they would be if they’d had to live within their means for the last twelve years … far from scaring them to death, as it should, because that’s the future, they instead expect someone, somewhere, to just keep writing cheques.
That’s where the greatest danger lies, in talk that when Beale goes the directors should follow him out the door unless they can conjure up both the miracle candidate and the financing to let him finally mount a serious and sustained challenge.
It’s pie in the sky, and they should know it, but they don’t. Which begs the question, not of who the next manager is but of who winds up owning that club, lock stock and barrel if they hound these guys out too.
Desperate people turn to desperate measures.
The Roman custom of appointing a dictator seemed like a rational response to a crisis, but the Cincinnatus story has always been about more than just the great man handing that power back to the Senate when his work was done … it was also about the Senate’s gratitude and the adulation that greeted that decision, which makes it clear how perilous they knew that whole concept was in the first place.
But they still did it.
When Theresa May resigned, nearly every Tory MP who wasn’t some mad flake knew that Boris Johnson was incredibly unsuited to the job of Prime Minister. They freely admit to it now, and Rory Stewart is never done castigating them over it.
In an interview with Laura Kuenssberg in July 2021, Dominic Cummings freely admitted that he and other senior members of the government were plotting to replace Johnston from the day he took office because they realised he was a disaster in the making, but they used him to get the Tories a majority in the 2019 general election first so they could “get Brexit done.”
But in allowing him to even take office they were rolling the dice that we wouldn’t face a major civil, political, military or other emergency which would expose him for what he was.
We all know what happened, and the same happened in the States at the same time.
Bob Woodward ended his first book on Donald Trump with his thoughts about the first two years of his term by openly hoping “that we don’t have a crisis.” Then COVID hit and one million Americans died because their country had elected a racist buffoon.
Desperate people look for solutions anywhere they can get them.
And then they pray that nothing goes wrong.
But who wants to live by those odds?
Their fans appear not to realise that if they drum out the current board that the most likely scenario is that they get taken over by the kind of owners we’ve seen in England, people who acquire the club in a leveraged buy-out, transfer that debt to the club itself and then basically loot it whilst they run it into the ground without regard for results or trophies until the noise in the stands “forces” them to sell the assets again and they walk away with pockets bulging leaving the debt and a crippled club behind.
That so many of their fans, on their forums, were rooting for “the Americans” to take over without knowing the first thing about them speaks volumes. It’s just the kind of attitude some vulture capital firm will one day zero in on and snatch the whole thing up from under them.
It reminds me of a story which ran in The News of The World when David Murray had Rangers up for sale; the story was that Russian gangsters were looking at buying it … and the guy who wrote that story didn’t seem in the least bit alarmed at that idea but said that their fans wouldn’t care as long as the manager got money to spend.
Graham Speirs wrote much the same thing when the South African tax crook, fresh from plea bargaining his way out of a lengthy prison term, got control of the current club.
That Speirs and the News of The World guy were undeniably right to hold that view is perhaps the thing that should worry the sane and sensible Ibrox fans the most, and they should not seek to find solace in the words of any director who says they will only sell the club, if that day ever comes, to someone who “understands” what the club means.
David Murray said much the same thing about Rangers, shortly before he sold it to Craig Whyte for £1.
It is the club’s own fans who are pushing it, little by little, step by step, towards that fate.
Like a frog sitting in a pot of water, they are largely oblivious to the rising temperature even as they are the ones who are turning up the heat, and my guess is that they won’t even know it is happening until its far too late to get out.