Does that seem funny to you? Not funny ha-ha, but funny unusual? Like one of those profoundly contradictory statements?
Well, not if you work at Ibrox it’s not.
Not if you work in certain sections of the Scottish sports media, who are about as good at doing their sums as some of the political writers have proved to be in the last few weeks.
The more I follow the independence debate, the more I’ve come to believe that we do have a media in this country that is made up, largely, of wet ends, people who are perfectly happy to write stuff which they know is propaganda and garbage and regurgitate that without a second thought as to what it does to political discourse.
But for all that, the writers for the back pages are still un-matched. It takes breathtaking brass neck to try and dress up an emergency dash to the kind of people Wonga wouldn’t employ as the complete opposite; saviours riding to the rescue. But out of Ibrox comes the word .. and that’s how it’s being spun. As it ever was, thus shall it ever be.
Except … this time it’s not working quite as well as it used to. As hilarious as the emergency funding seems to Celtic supporters, it has finally ripped the blinds off and given some NewCo Rangers fans their first glimpse of reality in quite some time. Few of them are kidding themselves any longer.
When you’re going for a loan to Danny Driscoll, all bets are off, and having Ally come out and say he believes what he’s being told just doesn’t wash any more.
It’s a truly extraordinary time to be a Scot, watching as our newspapers fall over themselves to peddle lies and half-truths. Three times now, in the last few years, I’ve seen the complete failure of the media to get its own way, using the familiar tactics of fear and smear. All have been connected to stories about football. All were in some way to do with NewCo Rangers.
The first, of course, was The Armageddon Myth. The media, spoon-fed black propaganda from the SFA, and in an effort to get NewCo Rangers out of their self-inflicted death bed, spent months shoving that one down our throats. Every club in the land – including Celtic – was going to pay a high price for the absence of NewCo Rangers. The SPL clubs would be cutting their own throats to deny the club playing out of Ibrox a place in the top flight.
I have never cared why they said it, never cared whether they all got together at the local Lodge to decide on the line, or whether their editors genuinely believed they were acting in the bests interests of the Scottish game, or if the SFA gilded the lily with their own internal reports. Their motivation never interested me and it doesn’t today.
For whatever reason, they were willing to paint a worse-case-scenario, to try and scare the fans and thereby the clubs into supporting the course they’d determined the game should take. There were times during those months when I felt elated at the way the fans were holding fast to their views and at others I sweated because I thought our united front might buckle, or that the clubs might just decide to ignore us, that the game would be sacrificed on the altar of money and that cheating would be legitimised and the OldCo’s sins forgotten.
I needn’t have been concerned. The line not only held, but strengthened. And when the NewCo was told it wasn’t going to get a place in the SPL, the SFL clubs were subjected to the same pressure, and once again they held their ground although every newspaper in the land, every voice on the radio, every “professional” pundit – and Neil Patey too – were telling them it was a disaster, that the game needed the stability NewCo Rangers provided (a bit like saying American households need the safety of having more guns), and that they had to vote the right way.
And they did vote the right way. They voted against the fear and the smear, and they put the integrity of Scottish football first. I have never been more proud to be a football fan.
The media has also failed in two campaigns to place NewCo Rangers in the hands of “Rangers men.” The first was in the ill-fated Smith takeover, when a group of “concerned individuals” appeared from nowhere the day after Charles Green had signed the paperwork giving him control. Smith had decided he wanted to play a role in the revolution after all, having sat for weeks without a word or a sign that he was even interested.
Enter the Scottish press, to bang the drum and to demand that the guy who had just put down the money and done the deal walk away from the table, after all his work, just because the darlings of the media had arrived on the scene.
Keith Jackson breathlessly predicted that Green would soon have to sell up and clear out, and that Smith and his people would sweep to power on the back of a fans revolution. The media spent weeks doing its bit to help that insurgency along … but it did no good. The fans paid no heed whatsoever, and whether you say now that they were stupid for trusting Green (as they were) you have to conclude that their rejection of the media demonstrated a complete lack of faith in anything they had to say. They gave them , as they say in Glasgow, a big deafy.
Third, and finally, was the media’s cack-handed and brutally botched attempt to swing the result of the “requisitioners” vote at the last NewCo Rangers AGM. They printed, verbatim, every press release from Malcolm and Paul Murray, they gave them more airtime than Alex Salmond has enjoyed since the referendum began, and they made bold predictions about NewCo Rangers fans rising up and sweeping the current regime out the door.
That regime is still in business, although no-one can say for sure how much longer.
NewCo Rangers fans purely and simply do not trust the media, and in that they are certainly not wrong. No amount of spinning out of Ibrox, no amount of calm reassurance, no press statement urging calm can convince them their club is in good health. Jack Irvine can scream from the rooftops that some of the club’s supporters – the customers who are the only chance they have of keeping the lights on for another year, far less for the long term – need to embrace “reality”, but none of that will divert the club’s fans from what they see in front of them.
For the first time in a while, the NewCo Rangers supporters are seeing clearly. They know full well that the same old tricks are being played, that the same old faces are talking the same old stuff they’ve heard before and before and before. It doesn’t wash any longer.
NewCo Rangers fans know the state their club is in. No-one who’s got a sustainable business-plan borrows at loan-shark rates to meet running costs. Graham Wallace’s “120 days” is one of the greatest, grandest pieces of bunkum ever inflicted on the club. When you are bleeding red ink, when the bills are piling up and the bank balance is whittling down, you don’t spend money hiring a guy to spend four months looking for ways to make cuts.
You can fool some of the people some of the time, but you cannot fool all of the people all of the time. Not even the Peepil.
NewCo Rangers fans aren’t buying it. It’s what else they might decide not to buy that should scare the club’s directors to death.
Crisis continues to engulf NewCo Rangers. A new reckoning has been postponed, not averted. This club is heading for the rocks. The captain and the crew might deny it. The band is playing on for the moment. But the passengers can smell the ice, and they know that in the bottom decks the water is starting to pour in through the cracks.
A little honesty is all they ask for. It’s the one thing our media is not set up to give them.
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