Can you have a war of words when only one person is talking?
And not necessarily talking, but shouting his mouth off like a drunk ned in a pub?
Can you have a war of words with someone who’s not making any sense?
Would you get into a discussion, far less an argument, with such a person, about any subject at all?
Leigh Griffiths called King “mad” the other day.
As unquestionably right as he was, and in the most literal sense of the word, he was just a footballer responding to a question from a journalist. Our club, as personified by its statesmen, the manager, the directors, hasn’t uttered a word and nor should they.
So a “war of words”?
Excuse me, but I think not.
That won’t stop the media fishing; I understand that.
They have a job to do.
Doubtless the hacks, in their quest to generate headlines, will ask other people at Celtic Park for a comment on King’s latest bug-eyed rant and those questions will be answered and they’ll get their story. But they know as well as we do that there’s a difference between someone being asked a question and answering it and a club chairman going out of his way to take cheap shots off the park in the hope of scoring the points his team was incapable of securing on it.
In other words, there’s no story here unless a story can be personified in the image of that bar-room ned, so wasted he’s defecated himself, standing there, still shouting, with it running down his legs.
Because that’s what’s we’re talking about.
His comments are an expression of naked contempt and it’s not for Celtic, although that’s clearly supposed to be there too.
But for a guy who’s supposed to be masterminding a rebuilding job, he sure talks a lot about us.
And in that, we recognise this for what it is; the spiteful lashing out of the loser, anger borne out of jealousy, the product of a deep inferiority complex and endless, gnawing fear.
And it’s no surprise that this sweeps around Ibrox in a torrent, connected, as that place is, to certain cultural norms which are pretty much on their last legs. That fear courses through the body politic of everyone on the right. Even at their moment of greatest victory here in the UK, the EU referendum that was meant to “liberate” them, you could see that fear. It was there, in the eyes of Farage and the slouched shoulders and grim countenance of Boris Johnson on the morning after.
Victory without a plan for it.
The parallels are so obvious as not to require further exploration.
Their days are numbered, and they don’t have to dig down too deep to know it.
Change, the kind that sweeps bigoted old ideas away, is everywhere you turn.
This generation is the last that will matter. I truly believe that. Moreover, so do they.
Their version of hate will melt away the way all the others did, except as the preserve of a socially isolated few, living their lives on the far margins. It will go down to an unmarked grave, unmourned by the rest of us, and reviled by history.
To Celtic, King’s trolling over our titles matters not a bit.
We have six in a row already in the bag and we’re getting on with the thoroughly professional job of preparing to contest the next one. And to win it, and hopefully in the same style we just did. No-one at Celtic will take those remarks remotely seriously, for one simple reason; those comments aren’t remotely serious, not for us.
But they are a grotesque insult to the rest of Scottish football, and it is impossible to perceive them as anything else.
In this case, you know what? I have not one iota of sympathy for the other clubs or their chairmen or even the majority of their fans. King has summarily dismissed them as having no relevance or importance whatsoever and that attitude is shared by almost everyone who is in a position of responsibility at Ibrox.
And Scottish football, Celtic aside, thoroughly and wholeheartedly earned that disregard.
There are people at other clubs who never, for one second, harboured a scintilla of ambition to become even the second biggest team in the country after Rangers died.
It’s fair to say that they didn’t think further than losing out on two big gates a season.
When Sevco clawed its way up the leagues, these clubs were perfectly content to assume the mantle of “also-rans” which had been their forte all the long years of the previous duopoly.
Dundee Utd paid for their colossal lack of ambition and foresight with relegation, and they might be stuck down there for years.
Aberdeen will almost certainly pay by slipping out of second place, perhaps never to return.
They talked of catching Celtic, but don’t deserve to be there, because whilst I may despise King and his braggadocio and find his club and its overall mentality to be wholly abhorrent, they have the will to be more than they are.
They have the ruthlessness to force the issue, daring other clubs and the SFA to try and stop them.
I love this idea amongst the fans of other clubs that the Survival Lie is a matter only for “obsessed Celtic fans.”
You deserve everything you get.
In strictly business terms, the Survival Lie never affected Celtic in a meaningful way.
The “continuation of the history” is a joke that could only have happened in a corrupt association, but in my opinion the only history that matters is the one we hold in our hearts.
It’s the reason I never wanted the retrospective awarding of tainted titles; strip the record of them, yes, but for God’s sakes don’t give them to us, and not only because someone, someday, might see a long line of Celtic, Celtic, Celtic, Celtic on and on and never get the full picture, of the cheating, of the mendacity, of the lies, of the deceit, of the corruption.
Slap an asterix next to them, draw a line through them, and call them what they were; a continuous act of fraud.
Let the historical record reflect what actually happened here.
Yet whilst a few lines in a history book would honour veracity, actually I would attain no satisfaction whatsoever from them.
It would not change the experiential reality of those years.
Black Sunday will forever be as dark as it was on that day in the brilliant sun when I walked out of a pub in the Gallowgate too shocked even to be truly upset. My half-hearted kicking of boxes of empty beer bottles would never have won an Academy Award.
In that sense, it doesn’t matter whether that day winds up with an asterix next to it or not – and you better believe I will fight to make sure it does – because I will never be free of the memory of it, as their fans will never forget the 5-1 mauling on their own door which we handed them but a short time ago.
In the only way that matters, the club playing out of Ibrox would have the same designs on our position as the biggest team in the country whether it had survived the grave or embraced death as a fresh start and set about on a total rebuilding job.
Its eyes would ever be fixed on Celtic Park.
That’s the only measure by which they exist at all; an obsession with besting us.
This is the crucial difference between the two clubs; we may keep an eye on them from the other side of the bar, but we’re in our own company and they are not our primary concern. They are an amusement, and their floundering is a source of fun, but we want to beat everyone. We want to be all we can be, in our own right, and we ever look to far horizons and the future.
We’ve won six titles in a row.
The presence of a club called Rangers, or calling itself that, is neither here nor there to me and in that regard King’s remarks are, to paraphrase one of my favourite TV shows, nothing more than “a fly on one of my many sh@ts.”
I celebrated all of those titles the same way.
I treasured each and every one of them.
I will enjoy every one of them that comes and when we hit ten, believe me, I will not spare a thought for those who cling to King’s latest fantasy like a comfort blanket and I know it will hurt like Hell no matter what phony rationalisations they clutch onto. Their pain will not intrude on my thinking for more than a second either. That day will solely belong to me and mine.
I call them Sevco because that is their name.
I don’t do it to score points or take cheap shots.
I know what the law says on this issue. I know what UEFA statutes say. I can connect those things to the front pages of the newspapers which pronounced the club dead and the parade of its legends who said their goodbyes. I can connect it to the phantom Club 12 and the “temporary license” and the press releases from other clubs which said “the Newco must start at the bottom.”
I know what I believe and why I believe it.
I’ve never understood why their supporters care.
I don’t care when they trot out all their Pacific Shelf bollocks; it’s a delusion and I know that’s what it is, and it’s too pathetic to merit a response.
If they are determined that they’re the same club our opinions don’t matter at all. Unless, in some part of their minds, they know we’re right and can’t bear to admit it, I can’t comprehend why this animates them so much that they argue the toss every chance they get, over and over again, in the same feeble manner, as if our opinion could change their reality.
I repeat, it does not matter and never did, not when it comes to the business at hand.
They play at Ibrox. They wear the shirt. They appropriated the name.
And to me, that’s where the argument starts and stops.
They aren’t Rangers, but they behave as if they are, with all the baggage that goes with that, much of it bad, some of it deadly, and primarily to them. And as long as they behave as if they are Rangers I will treat them as I would have that club, but I will not use any of the labels or justifications they cling to in order to support that lie.
The problem lies with other Scottish clubs, and that’s where I lose any sympathy for them.
Because they’ve embraced the Survival Lie in full, and the strange thing is that it matters to them more than it does to us.
They endorse it with so many of their official actions, and a multitude of unspoken, unofficial ones.
The Survival Lie is a hammer that hits these clubs over and over and over and over again, and until they start to challenge it they will continue to suffer for it. I’ve seen it manifest itself in a hundred different ways during the last five years, on the field and off it.
It is readily apparent in the number of times their club came up against teams from a higher division in cup competitions, who treated them with far too much respect. Motherwell, Inverness, Kilmarnock to name a few.
Sevco turned these clubs over when their team was comprised of lower league rejects, and it wasn’t because they had better players. These clubs bottled it because they couldn’t see past the blue shirts.
Their chairmen drooled over the draw.
Their managers talked of being overmatched before the games even started.
Their players were caught in the Ibrox floodlights like rabbits in the middle of a midnight road, frozen as death rushed towards them.
They behaved like underdogs and they were swatted aside as if they were.
If Hearts or Aberdeen had just signed the players Sevco has, the Scottish media would barely muster enough enthusiasm to power up a calculator. No-one would be looking at them as title contenders, far less speculating on whether they could win it.
Not one of these players, save perhaps for the 36 years old Alves, is a known quality.
But you wait for it; Motherwell, who they open the league campaign against, will almost certainly big up these guys as if each was a household name. They will talk about how difficult it will be to stop them with far more concern that they’d give to a team with a less famous, old-new, shirt but the same footballers wearing it.
A lot of teams will write off the Sevco games before a ball is even kicked.
King knows it and Caixinha knows it and Warburton knew it and McCoist before him … and they count on it. They get by on it. They’ve qualified for Europe on the back of it, with a team of second rate tripe from the English lower leagues.
And for all that, it’s nothing on the contempt with which the directors at Ibrox have treated the other clubs off the field.
Financial fair play? What a joke that is, and it’s on the teams like Aberdeen who put it in their accounts like good boys and girls and then watched as the Ibrox operation drove over those rules in a tank.
The Ibrox heirarchy have consistently referenced those clubs as if they were an irrelevance.
They have consistently behaved in the most condescending manner possible, talking ever about “catching Celtic” as if these other clubs simply didn’t matter, and were there just to make up the numbers.
Isn’t it ironic?
A club that doesn’t exist … telling other clubs which do that they don’t exist.
It’s never been put quite as brazenly as King expressed it this weekend – the contempt in those remarks genuinely takes your breath away – but it’s always been there, in the air, like a fart at a cocktail party, a noxious fume that everyone pretends they can’t smell.
And ignoring it is part of the problem, of course.
The Survival Lie, and its endorsement by the SFA, gave this club influence far above that which it was due, and they have used that influence – they have abused that influence – at every turn.
Green was welcomed into our sport, which he disgraced with his every utterance, his background ignored, his unsavoury nature airbrushed until that threatened to derail everything and only then was he called for what we all knew him to be.
His revolution ended with the Easdale’s in a Scottish football director’s box and that in turn led us to King, multiple tax convictions and all.
God knows where that ends.
Other clubs were willing to live with these disgraces, these stains on our national sport.
The SFA has bowed and scraped and bent regulations for and ignored the excesses of every individual, no matter how obviously corrupt, who has traipsed through Ibrox since Sevco was brought to life, like Frankenstein’s Monster.
And once the club realised it could get away with all that – its most potent, shocking, example being the Pinsent Mason scandal where the club was allowed to investigate allegations about its own board, whilst the SFA stood back and pretended that would do – the funhouse really opened for business.
In came King, flaunting regulations along with his pal Murray.
And almost immediately the smell of madness began to waft out of Ibrox and the stench has grown with every day that passes.
If it wasn’t inflammatory press releases or the mistreatment of players – has any club ever stooped so low in its dealing with its employees as to leak a footballer’s medical records to the press? – it was sacking an entire management team without just cause.
I could go on.
The list is nearly endless, the well of their disgraceful behaviour nearly bottomless.
That club knows it can do whatever it likes, and it only gets away with it for one reason; it bears the name of Rangers, and Rangers always could.
It’s other clubs and their endorsement of the Survival Lie that allows this to go on, that allows the SFA and the SPFL to maintain this fiction, and it’s that fiction that elevates the Ibrox club above all other clubs but one in the eyes of everyone from the governing bodies to the media.
And it’s no surprise that all too often their own managers accept it, and their own players can’t raise themselves above it.
The perverse, but all too predictable, consequence of the Survival Lie and its acceptance by other clubs is that they pay the highest price. The duopoly crushed Scottish football, and their ambitions, and the only thing they can see their way clear to is a new version of it and one that will make the last look tame, because more even that Murray the people running Ibrox now have no scruples, no restraint, no sense of proportion and no interest in playing with a straight bat if it hamstrings them even a little.
King is right to treat these other clubs with contempt.
Because right now, they are contemptible.
Celtic won’t respond to this weekend’s verbal vomitus.
But other clubs should.
When do they get up off the matt?
When do they grow some balls?
Is this how it’s going to be, again? With two clubs at the helm and the rest just an afterthought?
Are they content to be pawns, or do they actually have the will to be more?
There was a time, you know, when they were more, and it had nothing to do with money; Celtic and the clubs playing out of Ibrox have always had money. We were always able to attract a better class of player. We always had a larger support.
That never stopped the Aberdeen of Alex Ferguson or the Dundee Utd of Jim McLean.
These were driven men, of vision, who wouldn’t tolerate being second best to anyone. That there was an ounce of that backbone or ambition at either club, at any club outside Glasgow, today … our football landscape would be changed utterly.
Sevco has a big support, and a fancy stadium.
But a big support doesn’t make you a big club any more than EPL money will turn teams like Bournemouth into one.
Sevco has no status but that which others believe in. It has no credibility but that which others afford them. It has no history but that which it appropriates and others allow them to pretend.
Sevco is five years old.
Sevco is not a big club.
But by God, Sevco thinks of itself as one, even if they don’t act like it; the infantile antics of King do not befit a guy in charge of a big club. His brazen lying, his clear seperation from any sense of restraint or respect for others reeks of small-mindness, pettyness. It has the stench of the gutter. It is amatuer hour.
Yet his club believes it is a big club nonetheless, or that it is destined to be.
Whatever else I might write about them, Sevco will never “settle for.”
They know that even second place is nowhere.
That others felt the same way, and tried to lead, that they tried to be more than they are, that they even had the balls to stand up for themselves in the face of such naked disregard, such blatant provocation as this, who knows where Scottish football might be?
But surely in a better place, and far more so than where it’s headed.
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