The title of this particular piece is taken from one of my favourite television shows, The West Wing. In this particular episode the President and his staff have just beaten back an attempt to stiff them over a banking lobby bill, to which someone has attached a rider.
Josh Lyman, the Deputy Chief of Staff, an honourable idealist in a White House full of them, a man who got into politics to do good and accomplish things, succeeds in winning his political battles on this occasion, but the manner of the victory –and the opposition to it having manifest itself inside the Democratic Party – leaves him deeply uncomfortable.
As the President is going back to his personal quarters that night, Josh calls to him before he goes in. “We talk about enemies more than we used to,” he says. “I just wanted to say that.”
The President looks at him, and nods, and it is clear that he too is saddened at the way in which idealism and the desire to be part of a high-minded and serious debate have met the inevitable brick wall of political reality, forcing them into a series of battles.
On the day I launched On Fields of Green I swore this would not become a website where people would trade barbs at each other, where the debate would be high-minded and conducted with honour. I wanted that debate here, between people from every corner of football in this country, where they could come and make their voices heard.
Since we launched, we’ve published over 130 articles, and we’ve had a dozen writers, but in almost every case, bar an exceptional few, those writers have almost always written about the Glasgow clubs, the one that plays out of Celtic Park and the one that plays out of Ibrox. I regret that, because it was not what I wanted from this site when I started it.
Yet it had a certain inevitability about it too. My own idealism didn’t take long to crash into the real world. Our second article was an expose about the true cost to the tax payer of the Rangers administration and liquidation process. Those numbers were based on the total debts which sunk the club, and so some will contend that they are no longer valid, but I would disagree.
That was the article which set the tone for this site, for what it has become, and although I regret that we veered so sharply down the road, I am content with where we are.
I still don’t regard this site as a Celtic site, and I never have. I write about my own club on these pages, and I make it very clear where my heart lies, yet my criticisms of Celtic are as sharp as some of those I level at the shambles across the city, and with good reason. When the club lets itself down then it deserves criticism. I am not interested in currying favour with anyone, have no hidden agendas or angles to work and no insider access to protect. It affords me a certain freedom to write what I want and the necessary distance to remain objective.
I still regard this as a Scottish football fans site, about issues affecting the whole game, and even when I have written about the situations at Ibrox and Celtic Park I hope I have been able to keep one eye, always, on how those matters affect the bigger picture.
Yet, here too we talk about enemies more than we used to.
Last week, on Twitter, I got into it with a Sevco Rangers fan, as I sometimes do, and I was accused, as were a couple of others, of “harbouring hate” for their club. It forced me to consider, and not for the first time, exactly what my own personal relationship with the club playing out of Ibrox is, and about wider “enemies” within the Scottish game.
The accusation of “harbouring hate” would not normally stand up on its own, but in this case it came with an almost credible caveat. I was given a motive for my hate, in the form of a tweet where Rangers trophy haul was published.
I have never cared how many trophies the old Rangers won.
For ten years at least, as I was growing up, they had no competition worthy of the name, and yet in one of those seasons Aberdeen took them to the last game and should have taken a title from them. I never cared about a “world record” of league titles either. This is Scotland, and I have known since I was a teenager that the authorities here went out of their way to help the club increase that count.
I have never been jealous of it. It has been a target to beat, and to beat fair and square. I consider at least five of the titles as tainted by cheating, and it has never made a difference to me at all whether the club dotted all the i’s and crossed all the t’s and beat HMRC or not. I didn’t even care when the Lord Nimmo Smith inquiry gave its perverse decision.
I have never given a damn whether what Rangers did was legal. They had good lawyers and clever accountants so maybe it was … but it makes no difference. Legal doesn’t mean right. OJ Simpson was found Not Guilty, but we all know what the sonofabitch did.
Rangers bought a competitive advantage with money they didn’t have and that made them cheats, pure and simple. I make no bones about this.
Much of the “history” they talk about is tainted. The rest of it is a shadow on the wall.
They are no more entitled to claim it than they are to claim our European Champions Cup.
The history does animate some of us, but not for the reasons they think.
There are only two reasons to specifically target the history. First is the notion that such a thing can be passed between corporate entities like a piece of office furniture. It’s nonsensical. If it can be bought, can it also be sold? Who can purchase it? You? Me? Can another club?
How long would Rangers continue to be the “world’s most successful football team” if history was something you could purchase and swap around like a bubble-gum trading card?
It takes only a second of logical, rational, thought to realise how stupid the idea is.
It’s also offensive though. Sevco Rangers very existence is a reminder of the vast and terrible financial calamity they inflicted on Scotland. When the old club died it left behind colossal debts to the taxpayer and to local businesses up and down the land. The club which won that world record title haul left a toxic legacy behind when it departed this world, and it is appalling that anyone would seek to claim that the good bits can be ported over leaving the rest of us holding nothing but the dreck. It is a shameful suggestion.
I started this site because I care about Scottish football, and not just one or two teams in it. I believe the game is far healthier than some of those who are responsible for administering it would care to admit. I blame them for much of what has gone wrong, and is still wrong, with the Scottish footballing landscape as it stands right now.
The failure to find sponsors for major competitions is the direct result of our “leaders” going around the television studios three years ago and telling everyone who would listen that without a team called Rangers playing in the top flight the game here was worthless. That damns them to this day, those moral cowards who could not find it in themselves to do what had to be done and would have cast the integrity which is essential to sport over the side in their quest to buy themselves an easy life, and to give Sevco Rangers a soft landing their disgraceful behaviour did not merit.
In the end, they tried to bully and bribe clubs and when those efforts failed they, once again, announced to anyone who would listen that the game they were supposed to administer was on the edge of the abyss. They were lucky – damned lucky – the TV companies didn’t walk away entirely. Not since Gerald Ratner pissed all over his own merchandise to the national press have people responsible for the commercial side of a business been so shockingly negative about its prospects. That, on its own, ought to have seen Regan and Doncaster run out of town on a rail.
All this is to say nothing of Campbell Oglivie, who’s position at the head of the SFA remains a blight on the national game every bit as filthy as that of Sepp Blatter in the transcontinental organisation that dwarves our own. How dare our “leaders” moralise about his behaviour when the man at the helm of their own organisation is so clearly unfit for office? This too is the same association which sent the disgraced Hugh Dallas to UEFA with their full endorsement although they’d fired him. They have no shame, any of them, and some of us will not rest until they’re rooted out.
We do talk about enemies a lot here. We talk about them because these people, those who ran Rangers like a casino using other people’s money, those currently running Sevco Rangers like a crime family, those who cling to that club like leeches because it panders to their sectarian bigotry, the people in charge of our game who allowed this, and are still allowing it, the incompetents, the corrupt, those who are too lacking in backbone to be allowed near real power … these are our enemies, the enemies of the whole game, because they are hazardous to its health.
This website will celebrate its second anniversary in October this year. I am humbled by the support it’s been given in the short time since it was set up, and especially in the last few months, with some of you making donations to let us keep it going, and getting better. I am working away in the background on a couple of things that will help this site realise its full potential and, hopefully, turn it into the one I wanted it to be when I set it up.
Every one of you has been incredible thus far. You, too, genuinely love the game.
Every time someone has tweeted an article, or commented on one, every time someone has sent an email link to a person they know, every person who has taken the time to email me personally, to wish me well, even those who have got in touch to call me a complete muppet … all of it has been vital in pushing me on. All of it has helped us grow this thing to the point where we can consider what to do with it next.
Whatever changes there are, whatever way this project expands, one thing is going to remain constant, above all else.
We’re going to keep on talking about enemies, for as long as we have them. It doesn’t matter to me whether they are inside Ibrox or Hampden. Whether they are in the newspaper offices or spreading lies and half-truths on the radio. I don’t care what colours they wear or what flag they wrap themselves in. As long as they exist, we will poke them with a stick.
If some people don’t like that, tough. The rest of us don’t like you any better.
Some of us love this game enough to fight for it, and everything up until now will seem like a brief skirmish when Chernobyl FC across town goes critical again. The blame for that will extend, like a radioactive cloud, right across the game and beyond and the fallout will be truly terrible.
In this life, when everything around you turns to shit you have two options open to you.
You can choose to try and get comfortable, or you can pick up a shovel.
Final thanks go to all of you who put on the Internet Bampots tag, with pride. They thought it would shame us. We knew it was a badge of honour and that’s how we wear it.
Keep on digging, brothers and sisters.
Love and respect to you all.
(Remember, On Fields of Green needs your support if we’re to grow. You can make a donation at the link, which is either at the top of the page or the bottom, depending on the smart gadget you’re using! Everyone who does so will get something back … we’re working on it at the moment!)
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