Denny Johnstone, the former Celtic player now at Cappielow, said his team went to Ibrox confident that they could get a result. Sides no longer fear going there, even second tier ones.
Chris Jack, one of Scotland’s “up and coming” sports journalists, a guy who simply can’t bring himself to write unemotionally about the club he loves, said no-one in the crowd should have been surprised.
A bad performance, he said, “was coming.”
Indeed it was. It had been “coming” for months, and in case he’s failed to notice it wasn’t the first time they’ve struggled badly. In fact, Warburton has been dropping points left, right and centre and his club was very lucky a late penalty decision didn’t go against them (I know, I laughed too) and that Hibs spent much of their game against Falkirk with ten men … because without those things the pressure would be unbelievable.
It’s mounting up.
What amazes me is that Jack, and others, are proposing a wholly unrealistic solution to the club’s problems; spending money.
There’s an obvious obstacle here; they’re skint.
It seems we can go over this issue over and over again, but some folk just aren’t getting it.
This baffles me, as I’m sure it baffles many of you.
Not the issue itself; we understand that just fine, as we’ve written and discussed many times.
What baffles us is that they don’t get it, and we wonder how they can keep on living in denial as they do.
Let’s go back in time for a minute, to the start of this season.
King was promising “overinvestment” but that talking halted the minute the team started to win a couple of matches. Most of us were never convinced by this nonsense talk in the first place; the figures, some as high as £20 million, were sheer pie in the sky.
They spent virtually nothing on transfer fees, and the pursuit of one player – John Eustace – became so convoluted that it was hilarious. One Celtic blog – Video Celts – got in the habit of ending every piece with the words “Mark Warburton expects to complete the deal in the next 24 hours.”
It remains unsealed to this day, and the player is a free agent.
Don’t be surprised if his name appears on the list of targets.
Let’s not forget that just six months ago we were being told that the club had plenty of money.
Back then, when hacks mentioned the Sports Direct £5 million, the word was that there was cash in the bank but as it wasn’t actually a loan there was no immediate need to pay it back.
All of a sudden, at the EGM, they announced that they’d need £2.5 million to get through the season.
No-one bothered about the £5 million at that point because there were other issues and most of the media had accepted the story about there being no need for repayment of that particular debt.
Now something else has changed.
At the recent AGM they told their fans that the money was going to repaid.
Of course, at that time they had no idea they’d lost the crucial resolution at that meeting, the one that would have given them option of selling more shares to raise some capital.
When they found that out they should have ceased with the bombast.
But King needed a way to bamboozle the Sports Direct lawyers last week, and so his legal team told the court that the bill was now paid. That didn’t turn out to be 100% accurate, as we all know well, with them now claiming they’re £500,000 short.
Do the sums.
Even if the court cases had cost them nothing at all the club that was going to have borrow £2.5 million from its directors to get through the season suddenly has to find £5 million more.
If they’ve almost paid it off, where did they get the money?
Let’s try to look at this logically.
As far as we’re aware, they were under no real pressure on the £5 million.
If Sports Direct were asking for repayment they were doing so quietly, and under the radar. They appeared to understand that forcing the club wasn’t going to help anyone.
Sevco itself was dealing with the matter appropriately. There were bigger fish to fry, because the need to get through the season without administration is obviously of monumental importance.
If they hit the skids tomorrow they’ll be in serious trouble and promotion will look unlikely at best.
The cash to finish the current campaign needs to be found, at all costs.
The signing of players was always going to come second best to that and Warburton needs to start grasping that fact, and quickly. That he’s keeping the faith is admirable, I suppose, but he’s probably not studied these matters, or those he works for, as much as we have.
So some belt tightening was already going to have to happen, and the manager’s chances of getting anything to spend were already going to be somewhere between slim and none.
The decision to pay the £5 million – if indeed it was taken – appears ridiculous in light of that, even if you accept the contemptible nonsense King was talking about at the AGM, of the club’s financial position being “the envy of world football.”
The paying back of £5 million you don’t have to … that’s just dumb.
Who made that decision?
King himself, or so it seems. He told the AGM he had a teleconference with the other directors and they agreed that it should be done. From that, we can infer that the proposal was his.
So what motivated it?
Was it to avoid the court cases?
Maybe, but Sports Direct’s case of last week appeared pretty weak, at least as far as King going to jail was concerned, and on top of that Ashley doesn’t give off the impression that he’s willing to negotiate a settlement at this point.
If the club finds the money he’ll take it, but I would bet on it changing nothing in their relationship.
The more you look at this, the more King’s decision looks like pure ego on the one hand sheer presumption on the other. After all, the cash, if it’s coming, isn’t coming from his own pockets here.
As far as the manager goes, it hardly matters what the reasoning was.
Warburton wants a transfer kitty at a time when the club needs to find anywhere between £3 million – £7.5 million – depending on whether you accept that they need the full amount or are only £500,000 short – before the directors give him a thought at all, and this doesn’t take into account their voluminous legal fees or whatever the ongoing situation with Ibrox maintenance is going to cost them.
How much money do they really need?
There are a lot of unknowns.
But one thing I know for sure; the manager isn’t getting a fortune to spend on players, not even the Scottish equivalent of one.
From where I’m sitting, Warburton would be better trying to pull rabbits out of his magic hat than waiting on King coming through with the cash. Even if your business knowledge extends further than Sums Sevco Style there’s no easy way to raise that kind of cash.
I’ll tell you something else too, and it appears to be largely ignored by their fans and the press; when a manager has a playing budget four or five times bigger than any other club in the league and still needs to spend money in the January transfer window in order to be sure of success then I’d suggest he’s just another chequebook boss without a clue as to how to really build a football team.
That’s another aspect of this the media would rather not go into.
But the window is nearly open.
By the end of it, the eyes of even the blindest Sevco fan will surely do the same.
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