Everyone has heard the saying “the truth hurts”, but how many actually know what it means? How many can actually think of times it’s been put into practice?
You know why such examples are few and far between? It’s because most people turn to their friends when they want advice. They turn to those around them, those they trust, without realising one of the great unspoken certainties of this world. Your friends are the last people you should ask for the truth.
It’s not because they hate you, but because they don’t. The fact is this; if you generally rely on your friends to be honest with you, you’ll wait a long time before you hear criticism. Your friends will weigh up pros and cons before giving you what you’ve asked for. They will ponder on whether they will offend you, or damage you. They will worry about an argument, something most friends will do anything to avoid. What’s more, this is not solely for your benefit, but partly for their own. Everyone wants an easy life, and it’s much easier to tell a friend what you think he or she wants to hear than it is to take the risks which go hand in hand with giving it to them straight.
So if you can’t ask a friend for advice, who do you ask?
How about … an enemy? Sound ridiculous? Would it surprise you to know that, throughout history, it’s what the smartest leaders – from generals to emperors to businesspeople – have elected to do? It’s not conventional, and at times it’s not even advisable, but it is a proven technique, and one of the fundamental laws of holding power. It’s the root of the notion that you should keep sentiment out of business, the source of the concept of never mixing business with pleasure, the central plank of the theory which says you never work with your friends. They let you down. Your enemies have more to prove to you, and will work harder to prove it, and they’ll never get upset when you assert your authority. If you can find a way to make your enemy understand the advantages in working together, you have someone in your corner to whom you can always turn.
A new word – obsessed – is the in vogue term in Scottish football right now. It’s used by Rangers fans as a deflector shield whenever someone discusses an aspect of their club which they would rather was not discussed. Everyone is “obsessed” by Rangers. That’s what they’d have you believe. That they are “the only show in town.”
History teaches us that back in the days when there were travelling curiosity shows, they might as well have been the only show in town, because wherever they visited they were packed out. If you’ve ever passed a car crash on the motorway you can see people rubber-necking it all the way past, and although people don’t like to talk about it, there’s a little discussed truth that disaster sites actually draw in tourists, as ghastly as that might sound.
A one-time mate of mine had a brother in the military, and this serving soldier had friends who worked on the Lockerbie site. This guy told me once that the area had been crawling with “sight-seers” for weeks after the crash. Some even brought their kids, their hampers and their flasks with them. The soldiers nicknamed them “the picnic families”, people who had developed the horrific and grisly habit of trying to attend every lurid occurrence within driving range. These part-time ghouls quite literally pack up the car of a weekend and head to the nearest tragedy.
People, all of us, to one degree or another, are interested in the freak show. Why, this very week I have been riveted to the unfolding tale of how Chris Huhne’s personal life and political career was utterly annihilated because 10 years ago he was caught by a speed camera, and dodged the ticket by sticking his wife’s name on the DMV form instead of his own. When he had an affair some years later, and left her, she stewed for a while and then ran to a national newspaper with the story of how he had evaded the law – quite possibly not realising that amongst the many, many, many consequences would be her own future date in court.
The bizarre, the unusual, the ridiculous, has a draw which is perfectly natural. That’s part of why the Rangers situation is so intriguing. It’s a rapidly evolving calamity. A shambles which is unravelling day by day. It is a volcano, ready to erupt.
The other reason for our interest is even simpler to understand. The colossal events of the summer almost plunged the sport in this country into the abyss. If Rangers collapses again – as I believe is very likely – there will be no hiding place left for some of the people in charge of running our national game. Charles Green’s bombast and bluster is so transparent it defies all logic to believe the authorities do not see it for precisely what it is.
It is designed to get their supporters onside whilst he scrambles to prevent a meltdown. The club is no more secure than it was before Whyte put it into administration nearly a year ago. There are enormous holes in his business plan. His style is not that of a man who other business leaders could take seriously. His arrogance and “blunt way of speaking” does not fool anyone with an ounce of intelligence. This is a chancer, a barrow boy, a schemer who has tumbled onto a one-off Get Rich Quick scheme and is hanging onto it for dear life. He has peddled half-truths and wild exaggerations with something that is either the glee of a charlatan or the madness of a delusional. Either way, I would be grievously concerned if he was employed in a capacity greater than a latrine inspector at Celtic Park. I would not have him near the building. Somewhere, a village is missing an idiot or a circus is going short of one clown.
It has been like this since the day and hour he took over. So much of what his actual plans are remain unknown. We can conclude, just by reviewing them, that the ones he has deigned to share with the world are fanciful rubbish, so what does it leave?
Only this week, just days after announcing to the Rangers fans that he would be selling their stadium name for a paltry £1.5 million and add-ons, because the club can’t turn a profit even with full season ticket sales and a wage bill a fifth of what it was, during a week in which they are involved in a very damaging public squabble with an Asian business over £400,000, he has talked, again, about a £100 million turnover … and this time he says he can do it without TV revenue.
What business is he getting Rangers into, for Gods sakes? Arms dealing? Drug smuggling? Money laundering? Industrial espionage? Is this something the Scottish Crime Agency should be looking into, or is it all just piss and wind? Shouldn’t Rangers fans be worried, either way? Or are they loving this, like seals being thrown fish as a reward for standing on their flippers and juggling a ball? They clap, and appear to enjoy themselves, but it’s exploitation, even if they don’t see it and it mildly amuses the crowd. The freak show comes in many forms.
Rangers fans, it’s time to wake up and take control of your football club again. Yes, today I am echoing the words of Jim Traynor, the “spokesman” Charles Green hired to cover his own back. But my tune is a different one from his.
I may not be a friend of your club, but you might consider that my view can be all the more valid because of that fact. I’ll start with some brutal truth, okay?
In my personal opinion, my considered opinion, based on what I’ve seen and what I’ve read, in no way viewed through green tinted glasses, far less hate, an accusation I find disgraceful, I can state my clear view that Rangers died, that the club with over 100 years of history was consigned to it. That club no longer exists. I consider the one which currently plays out of Ibrox to be no more than a zombie club – a term some find distasteful, but I believe is more than fitting.
Airdrie is a zombie club too, one your own former chairman personally killed – and there are a few others besides. It’s not a new thing.
You see though, none of that makes any difference to the overall picture I see when I look at your team. I celebrated the Dundee United victory over you in the cup as if you’d been one in the same side, and I will continue to revel in your tribulations as if no break had occurred. You see, a football club is more than its collection of honours … it is an idea.
The historic line may be broken, and I believe it is, but the idea lives on, and that is more important, by far. Why is it somehow a betrayal of the idea to look at some of the history of Oldco Rangers and be proud of that, whilst acknowledging not all of it was great, and putting it all to bed? Why, when the spirit of that club lives on in the Newco, with fresh challenges ahead?
Speaking for myself, with this in mind, on the day your club takes its place in the SPL I will consider them the great rival we have been waiting for, in a way I will never view Hearts, or Hibs, or Aberdeen or Motherwell. Celtic – Rangers (please note I do not use the Old Firm tag, which I despise and which was history long before your half of it died) is the axis on which leagues will be decided, and on which future histories will be written. It will probably forever be thus.
So there you have it. No bones about it, no pretence that I consider myself a brother in arms. The present version of your club – egotistical, venomous, lashing out at everyone around you, bitter and angry, filled with hate – appals me. That’s about as brutal as I can be.
Buried in there somewhere, however, is regret. Regret that it had to be this way. Regret that the lunatics have taken over the asylum. Regret that the fresh start your club could have had has been ploughed under, buried beneath something even more insular and arrogant than what stood before. Maybe I should have expected it. Adversity sometimes brings out the worst in people, and maybe it was natural that this is where you’d end up. It makes it no less sad, no less a waste, no less a great cause for despair. Your club appears hell-bent on a vendetta with no clear enemy, lashing out in every direction, and against everyone in reach.
And as a football fan, I do regret that and regard it as a tragedy. I don’t want a rivalry built on mutual loathing. I don’t want to watch football matches where large sections of the crowd want to settle 300 year old scores. I don’t want to live in a city which routinely turns into a battlefield because two sets of football fans can’t stand each other.
The chance was there. It’s clear that at least some of the supporters wanted the Aegean Stables cleaned of their filth, and had someone other than the Village Idiot taken over, bringing with him the washed out gutter hack who made a career out of servile fawning, to serve in the media room, it could have been so. Had your club been taken over by a proper businessman instead of a Del Trotter impersonator with a Yorkshire accent, who by necessity had to pander not to the more intelligent of your fans but to the least switched on, everything might have been different. Bigotry is born of the same ignorance he needed to get people on side.
If Charles Green comes across sometimes like a used car salesman, it’s only when he’s having a good day. In the normal run of things I would not buy a second hand pencil from him if I needed it for my Last Will and Testament. Watching him “work” in the last few months, building the hate for his own purposes, stirring the soup, geeing up the angry lunatic fringe of your support, I see a fool, but a dangerous fool, a man without scruples of any kind, a man who has manufactured enemies in an effort to camouflage his own intentions, which I can made educated guesses at based on his words thus far and his uneven business history prior to now. To put it delicately, this is a man with a more chequered background than that of Craig Whyte, with more failed businesses to his name than many a group of boiler room scam artists could count.
This man talks out of both sides of his mouth in a way which leaves me breathless. He can talk one minute about £100 million turnover projections and in the next talk about a “famine” following the current “feast”, where, according to him, the club is in great shape. At the same meeting, he can then tell his audience that the club is in such poor shape that it needs to sell the stadium name in order to raise some quick cash. Who was he addressing in that room? The Deaf, Dumb, Blind and Stupid Rangers Supporters Convention? Does the divergent nature of his statements not scare people half to death? Is he playing with a full deck, or what?
The people “advising” you now, those who are doing so and calling themselves “friends” are using that word as a cloak to hide behind. Charles Green and Jim Traynor are both on record as having stated that your club’s history died when the Oldco went by the boards. In other words, they both accepted the central premise of my earlier argument that the club was dead, but the spirit of it lived on, and that this mattered more than the history. Both now claim the history, with Green bizarrely asserting that he had “bought it” as if history is something for sale.
Traynor made a career out of hiding the truth about your club. He assisted Murray in at first denying, and then playing down, the awful significance of what was happening during that time. Who can forget the ludicrous argument he had with Chick Young, over a nod of the head from your then chairman, Alastair Johnston? Traynor made that into a debate over a form of words, when the bigger story was that your chairman had admitted the club might go bust.
It didn’t matter that you and your fellow fans needed to know this stuff. The Rangers PR line was not to be deviated from, and Traynor, who knew full well the significance of that moment, was content to obfuscate and cover it up, and deny you that to which you were entitled … access to the facts.
In doing it, he became a propagandist, leaving his journalistic credentials, such as they were, at the door.
He personally approved stories making Craig Whyte into the saviour of the club. He devoted column inches to attacking the bloggers who were digging up the truth on Whyte, piece by piece. For years, Jim Traynor was paid to spin stories which painted the men who destroyed your club in the best possible light. He denied you access to the truth, to the point where the only people you could honestly rely on were us … your enemies.
Green’s numerous bizarre claims, like the Dallas Cowboys link-up, the Perth Glory plan which the Australians had never heard of and slammed all to Hell, the grandiose claims of ringing cash registers one moment, and talk of years of plenty being followed by years of doing without the next, the man who talked about taking money from anyone as long as it wasn’t drug cash (a statement as stunning now as it was when he uttered it), the man who proclaimed his loyalty to the club and then reminded you that everything is for sale, and that God give him big hands to grab cash … this is the man who wants to be your mate, who wants to be your pal, who will tell you everything you want to hear, in a soothing voice, as his hand reaches into your pocket …
You’re going to trust them? Those two guys? Over me? Well, if that’s what you want …
If only it were that simple for you. Ignoring the Celtic bloggers is one thing, although there are surely those of you who will admit that we’ve had it right more often than we’ve had it wrong. But Traynor wants more than that from you, and some of you are willing to go right along with it, as if it was something other than lunacy.
What these men are asking you to do is … trust no-one but them. To treat every negative word as if it were an assault on your soul. To chop down the grapevine. To believe only half of what you see, and none of what you hear, unless it comes out of the Ibrox press room. To put your faith – all of it – in the hands of men who have a history for feeding you bullshit.
They say even a broken clock is right twice a day, but the media, all of it, and the bloggers too, are not to be afforded even that level of respect? Green and Traynor want their voices to be the ones to which you listen. For all debate to be treated with contempt. For you to see scrutiny – all scrutiny – as having a sinister motive. They are actually making paranoia the official media strategy of the club, and they are asking you to buy into it, with boycotts of every media outlet which does not carry the Rangers seal of approval.
You think your club will be more open if you buy into that?
You would be mugs if you accepted it. You would be mad to pay that kind of talk even the slightest heed. If your club is seriously going to pursue that media strategy you are on a dark, dark road with no end in sight. You are never going to be in full possession of the facts. You are living on a prayer, a prayer that these people care about more than the colour of your money.
Haven’t you suffered enough? They talk about the things your support has endured as if they happened because bad people meant you harm. They happened because people did not ask questions until it was too late. They happened because of a media which failed utterly to do its job, and because your supporters chose to believe the weasel words of an obvious fraudster over the truth, because you didn’t like the people telling it to you.
Yet it is precisely because of the traumas of the past 12 months that you should be demanding full transparency and openness from those inside Ibrox. You may be going after the wrong targets, and playing the victim card a little too much, but I do not doubt you when you talk about how much you have suffered, and are still suffering, as a result of those events.
They should motivate you to want to know every detail of what’s happening inside the stone walls of Edminston Drive. What do you care, at this point, whether you read it in the Daily Record or On Fields of Green? Do you care if it’s written by someone who’s gloating, or someone who thinks you deserve to know? If a man offers you a fifty note with no strings attached, would you give a damn whether he was doing it to please you, or to amuse himself?
No, you’d take it and you’d spend it and you would be right to do so.
You deserve better than this. Better than a veil over the truth, and attacks on the press which has finally woken up and is starting to do its job. If your club really is being well run, why the need for such measures? Why the manufactured anger? Traynor may have the title Head of Communications, but he was not hired for his PR skill or his writing ability, and, as the man who disdained the bloggers and new media, he sure as Hell wasn’t hired to modernise the strategy.
Jim Traynor was hired as an attack dog. But why does a well-run company, which aspires to be a great Scottish institution, need one of those? You have PR firms already on the payroll, and for all they royally screwed up in a lot of respects these past 12 months, these are professionals who know the job and are perfectly capable of writing press releases with more finesse and flair than Traynor has ever mustered in his life.
He is not there to play defence, but to go on the offense. Why does your club want that, or need that? Isn’t there a rebuilding job to do inside the walls? Why do these people want your focus on what’s going on outside? Why are they keeping your eyes on the horizon, instead of closer to home? Why label everyone who is seeking the truth “obsessed”? Why accuse us of being motivated by hate? Why does it take someone like me to ask these questions, questions which are essential for the wellbeing of a football club I don’t even particularly like?
If your club is running right, the press has no cause to say otherwise. Regardless of what might be stated by Green and Traynor, no-one is making up lies here. There are laws against that stuff, and I would bet on the club pursuing legal redress if the media was engaged in that sort of behaviour, and they would be fully justified in doing so.
As for the bloggers fabricating scare stories, that too is nonsense. Frankly, we don’t have to. The number of bizarre and contradictory statements which flow out of the Ibrox pressroom on any given day could give us enough material for a month of articles.
Let’s not forget, for all the bluster out of Ibrox over this latest drama, one thing above all should be clear to even the most myopic supporter; this was not what Traynor and his hack-squad have claimed, not an anti-Rangers story, manufactured in the blogosphere or spun by a press that wants to do damage to the club.
The fundamentals of that story are right on. What was written, that an Asian company believes Rangers owe £400,000 and is willing to seek a winding up order unless it’s paid, is 100% true in every sense. At first, the basis of the story was laughed off, but it was never denied. The club claimed that an agreement to settle the debt was in place. Now we know it was not.
This story may not be one you wanted to hear, but I would stipulate you are better off knowing than not. I would suggest you be grateful for Thomson and the BBC for raising the issue, and pursuing it. They did you a favour here. They brought you the truth. Traynor and Green tried to spin it, and failed, and now seek to turn it into part of a conspiracy.
It is contemptible nonsense, and you are mugs if you believe it and stupid if you accept it and certifiably insane if you buy into it and go along with it.
I would not trust any man who told me and mine that the world was against us, and that all I needed to do to make it right was listen to what he said and ignore everyone else. That’s what Green and Traynor are asking you to do. They are asking you to forget the past, and hand the keys to your future over to them. Are you ready to do that? Willing to do that?
Maybe you are. But I advise against it, and my advice you can count on, because I am not saying what I think you want to hear, but what you need to.
I said a moment ago that if a man offers you a fifty with no strings attached, would you care about his motives? I said they would not be important. In this case, I would understand you if you had questions about mine. This article has just passed the 4000 word mark … so you would be correct to ask what motivated me to write it, and I’ll tell you.
There are two things driving me to finish this. The first is anger. I am furious that men like Green and Traynor can stoke hate and build paranoia and attempt to hide the truth behind such transparent and reprehensible tactics. You don’t have to look too far to see the same methods being used to frame much larger debates, like those over public sector jobs and benefit cuts. I think we owe it to ourselves, all of us, not to be seduced by such disgraceful appeals to ignorance, and I am morally and intellectually offended by the assumption we’re all too stupid to see it for what it really is. Anger is my primary motivation in devoting the time to this piece.
My other motivation is fear. Fear that the game I love, in the country I cherish, is about to be plunged into another scandal from which it may not recover, another crisis from which it may not emerge, another disaster from which it may not be saved. I am afraid that too much of the present structure is still tied up in the idea that the game here depends only on two teams, and that if your club falls into the abyss for a second time no version of it may emerge again, with results too calamitous to properly quantify.
For the record, I do not believe the game will die without a club called Rangers, any more than I believe it would die if both Rangers and Celtic suddenly found a new league in which to play. The game will survive whatever happens, in the way a car crash victim who has lost his arms and legs but not his life would survive. Technically, at least.
That the game here will be better off if both clubs are playing in it is not, however, up for debate, and nor is the notion that what the sport needs more than anything is a long, settled period of calm. More uncertainty over your future will be devastating.
We are not obsessed. We are concerned. We are concerned that a second extinction level event at Ibrox will not be limited to your club, but will have knock-on effects for every club in the land. We are worried about the potential fall-out if Ibrox experiences another nuclear summer. This is not an unreasonable worry, especially for those of us who have done our due diligence and do not believe a word that is spat out from the forked tongue of your CEO.
For all the imagined power of your club, for all the smug superiority of so much of your support, 12 months ago the rug was pulled out from under your feet. The trauma of it was made far worse than it needed to be, by a cacophony of delighted cheers from rival supporters but also because, like it or not, we had seen it coming and told you about it far in advance of the day. You ignored the message because you didn’t like the messenger … and it was the biggest mistake the collective which calls itself The Rangers Family has ever made.
A year down the line, with a new man at the helm, the tactics from inside the Blue Room are as familiar to we on this side of the divide as transfer window stories about us losing our best players. The media, then, did you all an appalling disservice in not going after the truth, even when it was online, everywhere, for anyone to see. The greater disservice was the one you did yourselves, by choosing the comfort of listening to your “friends”.
Your new “friends” are telling you to trust them, and nobody else. You’ve seen the results of that kind of thing before, and not so long ago.
Just this once … place your faith outside the box. No more living on a prayer.
Can you hear the drums beating across the street? The natives here are preparing a celebration. Somewhere, a countdown clock is ticking once again. Your enemies believe you are on the verge of a new disaster. The jelly and ice cream is being ladled into the bowls. The party tunes are being selected. The playlists of all the old favourites – We’ll Meet Again, Don’t Know Where, Don’t Know When – are being made ready.
You have been warned. This time you really ought to listen.
We have a nasty habit of being right.
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