I recently had the pleasure, and I mean that literally, of reading Sebastian Junger’s magnificent book A Perfect Storm.
I put it away in four sittings, over the course of two days, because I was enthralled in it from first word to last.
It was brilliantly written and superbly researched, but above even those things it was a book with real humanity, telling a heart-rending story in a way that was not sensationalist or sentimental in the least.
There is a particularly chilling section of the book that deals with the sound of the wind at sea. The effect of this is measured on what’s known as the Beufort Scale, going from 1 – 12, with 10 rating as a storm, 11 as a violent storm and 12 as a hurricane. Junger spoke to many fishermen during his research for the book, and they told him that an experienced captain can tell how powerful a storm is simply by listening to the sound the wind makes against the rigging cables.
If the wind screams, you’re looking at a Force 9. If it shrieks, you’re in a Force 10. A Force 11, which no fisherman ever wants to hear, is a moan. At Force 12 the noise is like nothing ever heard before on land, a deep tonal vibration like a church organ without a melody.
I wonder what the sound of the wind sounds like as it rushes through the Ibrox Blue Room at the moment. One thing is for certain; that club is at the centre of the storm.
When you look at the unfolding calamity at Ibrox it is difficult to avoid the conclusion that for it to have gotten this bad there had to be a collective loss of sanity inside the walls. In Junger’s book he talks about how fishermen who have survived a couple of close calls start to think of themselves as invulnerable, and take greater and greater risks as though going head to head with God himself. At Ibrox the same insanity clearly rages. The identity crisis, whereby they refuse to accept they are not the club which died in 2012, has blinded them to their own mortality. Instead, they view the death of the OldCo as a “lucky escape” … and now think they can’t be killed.
Around them, the sea is rolling fiercely. They are being buffered by waves which tower over the small frame of the boat. Sooner or later they will hit what mariners call the Zero Moment, the tipping point where a ship’s position becomes unrecoverable, and down the whole thing will go.
The news all this week has been grim, as grim as that the Andrea Gail must have been getting as it sailed into the hurricane off Sable Island. Perhaps, inside the walls, they still tell themselves, as Billy Tyne must have told himself, that everything can still work out, that they can reach a safe port with the catch, that one day they’ll look back on these days as the closest call of their lives.
They are wrong. There is no coming out of this intact.
Deep down, I am sure most of them realise this. They can look out the portside windows and see that the sea here isn’t blue and calm. A Force 10 has high, cresting green seas streaked with white foam. At Force 11 the foam appears in large patches all over the rising and falling water. Where Sevco Rangers is now, the seas appear almost white, there are 50 foot waves and higher, and the visibility is almost zero as the spray fills the air. No-one will mistake this for anything other than a disastrous situation from which escape is unlikely at best.
Last week was a series of dreadful news days, one on top of the other, battering the psyche of everyone connected with the club. These waves are called flounders, and enough of them will eventually sink any ship, no matter how good the captain.
First is the slow progress of the share sales, which is bad enough for what it portends in the weeks and months to come, but on the heels of it came the news about Mike Ashley and his takeover of the Rangers Megastores and all their staff, and the revelation that he owns the naming rights to the stadium, which he purchased for just a quid.
These waves had already battered in the cabin windows, threatening all on board, but even as the crew were trying to patch up that damage, in suicidal high seas, the next huge wave rolled in with the news that Imran Ahmed, Charles Green’s “little Paki friend” had returned to court for a third time, to try to ring fence over £600,000 which he claims he should have been paid as a bonus.
The courts had already twice decided not to grant him that request, believing the club was still in good shape and capable of making it to any future trial. This time, with the shareholders being asked to put their hands in their pockets just to keep on the lights, the judge agreed with Ahmed’s contention that they are in choppy conditions with a watery grave beckoning.
It’s hard to think of a more damning verdict, or one that does more damage to a company which is actually out there seeking fresh investment.
Of course, the media still pins its hopes to the idea of a saviour coming along, someone with the money to pour into this bottomless hole and make them “competitive” again. The latest candidate, after Jim McColl, Brian Kennedy, George Soros (can you believe we actually read that crap in a national newspaper?) and the eponymous Dave King is Newcastle owner Mike Ashley, a man who’s widely reviled on Tyneside because he won’t spend his hard earned cash on a club in a league where he might actually be able to turn a profit.
What chance does our media and the Sevco support think there is of this man pouring millions into a club that swallows money like a black hole?
Ashley is like all the other vultures circling above this carcass. He smells blood. There is a quick buck to be made here, nothing more. He is not interested in being the Hero of Govan. As Mason Verger says in Thomas Harris’ Hannibal, “when the fox hears the rabbit scream he comes running … but not to help.”
Today there is growing fear inside Sevco that they may be unable to pay their players this month, which would incur automatic SPFL sanctions. This news puts them a hair’s breath from an administration which will wreck their chances of gaining automatic promotion.
The damage it will do to their club, its share price, its financial viability and its hopes for the future will be truly astronomical. Their supporters, who saw the original Rangers go through an administration where nothing really changed will be shell-shocked at the manner, and the effects, of this one. Their playing squad will be smashed. There will be no late efforts to sign players this time. Their cost base will be slashed. If McCoist keeps his own job it will only be because he’s been forced to part company with much of his backroom team.
Their fans will never have seen anything like it. The shock to the system will be like getting battered by a fifty foot swell.
Junger’s sources told him the first thing that happens in a sinking boat is water floods the engine room and shorts out the power and out go the lights. Over at Ibrox we must be only a few months away from that, and that’s if they get lucky.
Junger’s book charts what New Englander’s called The Storm of The Century. It was a natural phenomenon. People facing it could do nothing but try to stay out of its way. It swept up the East Coast of the United States and devastated it.
The storm front that has erupted off Ibrox is entirely man-made. It was manufactured inside the walls, and like an experiment that has escaped the lab it threatens to engulf and destroy those who have created it.
We have watched it rise in power, steadily, over the last couple of years, cycling up through the Beufort Scale from a stiff breeze to the full-blown hurricane we see today, and now all of Scottish football should be battening down the hatches as it roars inland.
As Springsteen says, “Bring on your wrecking ball.”
This won’t be like last time. This one is going to hit that club like a hammer wielded by God.
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