When I posted over the weekend about their reaction to the arrests of the former owner of Rangers and the man who set up Sevco, I got the usual inbox of anger and denial. Some even tried to justify their fury, as though Whyte and Green simply steamrollered them.
They still blindly refuse to accept any personal responsibility for the shambles at the clubs. They aren’t seeing it, and they don’t want to see it.
I am under no illusions at this stage about “getting through to them.” That’s not the intent of this piece. Instead, this is undisguised mockery, at how dumb many of them are.
Their reaction to every piece I put up is the same these days; this pitiful “obsessed” comeback. It’s a woeful line, beyond puerile, and it ought to be clear that it has no effect on me and other bloggers at all other than to generate a snigger or two.
But they persist with it anyway.
This is one of their weird wee psychological quirks; they really do believe it when they say it, and that speaks volumes about their self-absorption.
There is an episode of The Simpsons which, frankly, is one of the finest things ever put on television. In it, Mr Burns is fined $3 million after dumping toxic waste in a park. The town meets to decide how to spend the money and, as ever, it’s Marge who makes the best suggestion (if you exclude Bart’s plan to spend it on giant mechanical ants which eat the school); they will use the cash to fix the public roads system, especially Main Street, which is seen as a crumbling ruin like something out of a Third World country.
As the town is about to endorse this unsexy but perfectly responsible scheme, a voice pips up from the back of the meeting hall. It’s a travelling shyster called Lyle Lanley and he has a plan; to use this sudden windfall to build Springfield a monorail system.
Everything about the episode is hilarious. I watched it recently, and I laughed my ass off, and not only because it’s hugely funny. No, I was struck by how prescient it was.
In my last article, I mentioned that Phil, Paul Brennan, myself and a few others were wondering as far back as 2008 whether Rangers would go under. I’ve always been proud that we spotted their financial troubles so early, and commented on them at the time.
What I realise now is that this was small beer.
Marge vs The Monorail pretty much envisioned the Whyte and Green years, way back in 1993.
The parallels are uncanny.
In the show, and in real life, hapless fools were taken for every penny.
Fantasy and reality merged somewhere. Life imitated art, in nearly perfect sync.
At their most basic level one fundamental thing links them. These schemes relied purely on the stupidity, and ego, of the audience, that and a little flattery put to good use. Neither Lyle Lanley nor his real life contemporaries could have managed what they did without a clear understanding of human nature, and in particular the nature of the audience they were shooting for.
Let me tell you what the essence of a good confidence trick is; at its core, the confidence trick makes you feel good about yourself.
One of the best movies about the business is House of Games, where Joe Mantegna plays a con artist who takes a bored female psychiatrist, with her own dark turn of mind, on a wild tour of the pool halls and hotel rooms where he plies his trade, and in that film he explains it to her.
“It’s called a confidence game. Why?” he asks her. “Because you give me your confidence? No. Because I give you mine.”
This is the literal truth, the one that dare not speak its name in Sevco Land.
For their club was not randomly chosen by these people.
It was targeted, and not because it was a sleeping giant, ready to be rewoken.
It was selected because it had a pliable customer base who would swallow anything.
At a time when football fans were cynical about the nature of the sport and the surrounding hoopla, the Rangers fans had an over-blown sense of their club and themselves and this is what made them such an appealing target for those unscrupulous men.
Lyle Lanley has the people of Springfield in his pocket before he even tells them what it is they’ll be buying. Like Whyte, and then Green after him, he was acutely aware of what he had to say to get everyone on board.
“I come before you good people tonight with an idea,” he says. “Probably the greatest …” And at that, he turns away, surprising the audience, and that’s the hook. “Ah,” he says, walking towards the exit without looking back. “It’s not for you.”
Then, he turns with a knowing smile. “It’s more a Shelbyville idea ….”
And just like that, he’s got them and it’s the community’s corrupt, self-interested, leader Mayor Quimby, for once, speaking for all of them, who confirms this.
“Now wait just a minute! We’re twice as smart as the people of Shelbyville,” Quimby says. “Just tell us your idea and we’ll vote for it!”
It’s as simple as that, when you’re dealing with saps. Compare. Contrast. Flatter. Deceive.
Above all else, know why your audience should desire what you’re selling.
Remember this; way back in the day the medicine men weren’t making the real money selling actual medicine; they were punting stuff that made your hair grow back. Stuff that would increase your virility. The magic gook that would turn you into a superman.
Theirs was an appeal to ego. Vanity. Self-delusion.
A perfect strategy, really, for selling to The Peepil.
And so it was with Whyte first, a guy who couldn’t have cared a whit for the fans or the club, but who’s first act was telling them that the club was special – the one that was sinking in a sea of debts, the one the bank were so concerned about they’d put their own guy on the board, the one that hadn’t won a trophy living within its means for nearly 20 years.
His second act was saying that the fans were special too; pitching in particular to a bunch of backward relics, veterans only of Saturday night drinking games in grubby backstreet pubs, the glorified commemoration society for a 17th Century war where their own side was funded by the very people the foot soldiers were supposed to be fighting against.
I always get a kick out of that fact.
If these people had any appreciation of “history” which extended further than the superficial nonsense they believe in their own heads they’d recognise even their “culture” for the sham that it always was and always will be, based as it is on a central deceit.
Theirs was, allegedly, a struggle for “freedom” and the rights of man. In actual fact, their ancestors and forefathers were simply cannon fodder in a game far larger than their stunted comprehension could grasp, and which they struggle with even today.
They can talk until they are blue in the face about how they fought against Catholic rule. But they were funded by a Pope, who had his own reasons for doing so, not wanting a rival, in James, to emerge on the European stage, claiming a divine mandate.
If they knew at all what that would actually have meant – the probable end of the Roman Catholic Church as a major force, replaced, instead, by hereditary royals like we have now, only of a slightly different persuasion – they’d not be quite so jolly putting on their sashes.
Their leaders in the battle they commemorate every July were no more than pampered princelings on one side of a vicious war between two power elites, neither of whom gave a monkeys for the rank and file in their own armies, far less the wider population.
But every year these people dress up like circus clowns and go marching, drawing around themselves the sash and the flag and letting the superiority wash over them. To outsiders it all looks like some garish piece of performance art; you have to see the ugly side of it up close to know just how seriously they take it, how literal it all is to them.
It is really a surprise that emotionless men watched this from afar and laid their plans to take full advantage?
In the end, neither Whyte nor Green had to part with as much as a penny of their own personal wealth, such as that was.
They didn’t hold up a bag of money; they simply held up a mirror.
Those who gazed into it saw exactly what they wanted to see and they acted accordingly.
At least the people of Springfield got a monorail out of their transaction, although on the way back from the meeting where Lyle Lanley has just sold it to them the Simpson’s go down Main Street and the car stutters over every bump and crack in the road.
When Marge expresses her dismay that the money won’t be used to correct these very real deficiencies, Homer tells her she should have come up with a song “like that other guy.”
When it came to the supporters of Rangers, and then Sevco, Whyte had a song alright, and Green sang one that was even better.
Whyte told them they’d be restored to the glory days under Murray, tapping into their need to continue living outside of reality.
Green went even further after he formed the newco, and spun them an alternate version of reality, one where their club had survived despite the “enemies” who had conspired to do it in.
Those sweet sounding tunes warmed the hearts of their fans long after the cold should have begun to seep into their bones.
Both men were smart enough to know that they had to get supporters on their side early.
What makes it amazing is that both pursued exactly the same strategy.
That Green was able to follow through after Whyte’s behaviour had poisoned the ground is incredible to me.
What they did was go on a question and answer tour, appearing in front of fans to sell them on their “vision” for the clubs.
No-one amongst the supporters wants to admit it now – as none want to admit that they’d agreed with Green in the first place when he said failure to get a CVA meant losing everything, the history included – but those fan groups lapped it all up at the time, writing glowing reviews on their websites and tweeting their approval of what they’d heard.
Lyle Lanley did exactly the same thing, appearing in front of an audience of Springfielders to answer their monorail questions, but he leaves nothing to chance, because when he does it he’s not addressing the Springfield Chamber of Commerce … he takes his questions in the elementary school, from an audience of kids, who didn’t even have a vote on whether the town bought the thing.
One person – of course, it’s Lisa Simpson – asks a tough one, about why the town needs a monorail in the first place and Lanley is impressed, on the surface anyway, and that’s where the flattery comes in.
“Young lady, that’s the most intelligent question I’ve ever been asked. Oh I could give you the answer … but the only ones who’d understand it would be you and me,” he tells her, with a wink. “And that includes your teacher ….”
Lisa giggles, and he thinks he’s off the hook.
(She’s actually playing along, and still harbours doubts about the whole scheme …)
Nevertheless, Lanley isn’t about to make the same mistake twice …
“Next question …,” he says, pointing at another kid. “You there, eating the paste ….”
Likewise, Whyte and Green chose their audience well in advance, and knew what to say to each section of it in order to get their approval.
It’s no coincidence that one of the first places they hit was the North of Ireland, to get the lunatic brigade on board.
Their genius in these public appearances was in allowing each member of the audience one question apiece.
They spun this so it sounded like open democracy; in fact the result was to give every person in the room the same level of “respect”. Thus, the guy who wanted to ask about the catering was lent the same weight, and got the same attention, as the one who wanted to know what guarantees the fans really had that the promises would be kept.
And so, in the end the audiences lapped it all up. Once Whyte and Green threw some mild sectarianism into the mix that was it, and the minute the Goon Squad was convinced it was easy to sell everyone else on their ideas.
Yet from the first, there was ample evidence to suggest that neither of these guys could be trusted.
It was just that none of their supporters wanted to hear that.
Whyte, in particular, was an open book. When the papers were running stories of his “off the scale wealth” it was easy to check that out. Had he been a bona fide billionaire the Sunday Times Rich List would have included him. He was nowhere to be found on it, although the most exhaustive version included those with wealth in the low tens of millions.
Even his registered offices were like something from a bad movie.
There’s a moment in Marge vs The Monorail where Homer catches a commercial about becoming a monorail conductor. At one point in the advert a shimmering building appears on the screen after the voiceover talks about how everyone selected for the program must attend training school … with the obvious impression being given that said location fills that role.
But listen to the quick-fire voiceover that accompanies that moment, one that’s been toned down and speeded up so it’s almost over with too quickly for you to make it out.
“Actual institute may not match photo.”
In the end, the “monorail school” is held in a classroom, with a hand written sign taped to the door.
One of the first things the Internet Bampots did when checking out Whyte was to go to the addresses which were registered in his and his companies’ names, and they posted the pictures of what they found on the internet to an incredulous Rangers support which refused to believe them.
The first was an office in Glasgow, which turned out to be a single locked room with nothing in it but a rusty file cabinet.
The second, hilariously – because it was the location from which the “takeover of Rangers” had been “plotted” – was a porta-cabin in a field full of cows.
That picture was in the public domain for months before The Sunday Mail put it on their front page, and even then they tried to spin it as being more than it seemed.
None of this would have been possible without the media, of course.
Their role in this, as cheerleaders for both these men, was crucial in selling the fans on the reputations of these dodgiest of dodgy geezers. The love affair with Whyte turned to puzzled bafflement when he didn’t immediately spring for the “war-chest”, but continued long enough that it was well past too late by the time the fans twigged to how bad things could get.
With Green they were even more extraordinary. It’s not an exaggeration to say that most of the media here in Scotland loved Charles Green, who knew how to play them – and through them the Sevco fans – like a piano concerto.
The one newspaper which didn’t fully support him was The Daily Record, but this was nothing to do with good journalism.
As far back as 2013, they were fully on the side of the “Real Rangers Men”, who had singularly failed to purchase the assets when they were freely available. They were reluctant to give Green the same lavish press he was getting elsewhere, lest it upset the likes of Walter Smith and co, but once he joined the board even they joined the chorus.
In spite of all this, there was plenty of information about Green out there in the public domain, waiting to be discovered, by those who wanted to go out and look for it. He, like Whyte, had a string of failed businesses behind him. There was information to suggest at least one serious scam. He had also served as Chief Executive at Sheffield United, where the fans had plainly hated his guts, where he’d sacked two managers and even challenged one to a fight in the carpark (although he bottled out when the guy agreed.)
He was soon rocking the Ibrox boat to full effect.
I won’t go into his many ridiculous assertions, barmy comments and distortions of the truth. They are well documented elsewhere on this site. Some of them will be the focus of my next article, which is going to be pretty damning of other people involved in these affairs. What I’ll say is that it’s not just Dave King about whom the words “glib and shameless liar” can be levelled.
In a very real sense though, Green’s public demeanour was even more brazen than that of Whyte, because much of his treatment of his own fans verged on outright mockery, such as when he told them, through The Daily Record that “I’m a Yorkshireman. I’ve got big hands – God gave them to me so I can grab a lot of money.”
I think those Sevco fans who expect Green’s conduct at the club to be labelled as criminal by a court are going to be in for one big surprise, but he certainly knew how to leech every available penny out of the place and he did so with such gusto I have to applaud him for it.
But from early doors, his intentions were all pretty much out there, for all to see, even before fans stuck £5 million into the club via a share issue.
PT Barnum was right. There really is a sucker born every minute.
The media was lamentably unprepared to dig into either man, and the fans didn’t really want them to anyway.
Whenever there was a critical article, the lunatic brigade hollered their anger and frustration at full volume. That might have put off even those who did possess the will, and there weren’t many of them in the first place.
The media gets a brief mention in Marge vs The Monorail, when Lyle Lanley holds his first symposium for the conductor’s class. The first question he asks the room is if there are any investigative journalists there and those who identify themselves as such are politely asked to leave, and immediately do! It’s not hard to draw analogies between that and the standard of Scottish journalism; it’s not for nothing that PR firms think they can get away with telling award winning (chortle) hacks to “tell people he’s a billionaire.”
But for all I’ve written about the media’s lack of scrutiny, and for all I’ve said about the way they helped Whyte and Green take control, and exercise their power once it was in their hands, the real blame falls hardest on the fans themselves and in particular their “supporter reps.”
The reason so many of them were willing to cheer these guys on is obvious enough, I suppose, and the same reason some of them have switched sides at every juncture here, like the most shameless characters themselves, as the faces at the top of the marble staircase have changed.
They want something. Seats at the table. Premier match tickets. Influence. Status.
There’s a nearly perfect analogy for their own behaviour in the episode, and it comes when Quimby and Chief Wiggum are arguing over who takes charge of an emergency once it becomes clear that the monorail is a deadly menace.
The discussion begins in the control tower, as they watch it speeding out of control, but ends up in City Hall where they go to scrutinise the town charter. Although they’re supposed to be looking for key information, Wiggum’s attention is soon drawn to a clause he hadn’t known existed.
“Hey according to the Charter, as Chief Constable I’m supposed to get a pig every month … and two comely lassies of virtue true …” he reads aloud to the Mayor, who instantly comes around the table.
“Keep the pig!” Quimby tells him, the plight of the townsfolk forgotten in an instant. “How many broads do I get?”
This, of course, ties in perfectly with Barney’s line from the famous Monorail Song, and Lanley’s answer to it;
“What about us braindead slobs?
“You’ll be given cushy jobs …”
You can almost hear them calling Chris Graham’s name, can’t you?
King has been spinning the same type of yarns as the men who are Public Enemies 1 & 2 around Ibrox at the moment, using virtually the same tactics and even some of the same language. He, too, has a background you wouldn’t normally wish for in someone running a thing that you love, and shows no inclination to back moonbeam promises with cold, hard cash.
Indeed, he’s already on record as having told the fans that the only way the club will compete with Celtic, long term, is if they are willing to spend more money than we are … as upfront a way of saying that it’s not coming out of his pockets as you’ll find.
In spite of all of this, their fans believe otherwise. They’re expecting front loaded transfer warchests and big signings.
King is not short of admirers amongst the hacks and the supporters, most of whom – but for a few notable exceptions, who’ve seen and heard all this before and are ashamed at their club ending up in the hands of such a person again – are right behind his leadership. These fans were even ready to embrace Mike Ashley, dreaming of his cash, before his true intentions were revealed.
(And what do you know? They turned out to be the ones we’d been predicting all along.)
One of my favourite moments in that classic Simpson’s episode comes right at the end, after Homer has saved the town with a makeshift anchor and the help of donuts (“Is there anything they can’t do?” he asks rhetorically.)
Marge, who’s initial suggestion to repair Main Street would have been the wisest course of action before Lyle Lanley came along, pontificates on how the monorail was “the only folly the people of Springfield ever embarked upon … except …”
Except for the popsicle stick skyscraper, a giant 50 foot magnifying glass and my personal favourite; the escalator to nowhere.
I trust I don’t have to explain how that one fits into this article.
(This piece was edited as I’d originally put that Green was at Sunderland rather than Sheffield United. Thanks, Mark, for spotting that.)
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