Last year, as Rangers Football Club entered its death spiral, I wrote a number of pieces on the subject, especially as the end drew near. Sometime during that period, I changed my CQN moniker to call myself “The Emperor of Ice Cream.”
The more literary minded would have gotten the joke at once. It was, and is, a reference to the Wallace Stevens poem of the same name. That poem tells the tale of a wake held at a dead woman’s house, and the central character is “the roller of big cigars”, the man who works in the kitchen to make the eponymous party food for the rest of the guests.
Ice cream. At a funeral. You see why the poem makes me smile?
I’ve always liked the poem. I first saw it printed in Stephen King’s book ‘Salem’s Lot, which I read once a year, usually around about this time. It was on my annual read through this week that I was, once again, reminded of how it spoke to me about the Death of Rangers in a way nothing else did except, perhaps, Bruce Hornsby’s song “The Show Goes On.”
They are both about death. They are both about the aftermath, and about how we, the living, must seize the day. They are both about the transitory nature of grief, and about how we come out of it at the other side. See, grief is important, because the final stage is acceptance. The Rangers fans never got to that stage.
They cling to the notion that the “man in the long coat with the long list of victims” never knocked on the door at all. They look at the body lying in the bedroom, they see “how cold she is” but never make the deductive leap.
The first of its two stanzas ends with the words, “Let be be the finale of seam. The only Emperor is the Emperor of Ice Cream.”
The crucial part here is the repetition of the word “be”. Let be, be. In other words, let what is be what it is. Don’t try to sugar coat this or change it. The corpse’s face is covered by a sheet, but her feet are sticking out the bottom. So what? She’s dead and she doesn’t care. So the boys bring flowers wrapped in old newspaper. Big deal. The departed don’t complain about these things. Let be, be. It is what it is.
A lesson the media has never learned, and don’t seem willing to learn now.
The poem ends with the words, “Let the lamp affix its beam. The only Emperor is the Emperor of Ice Cream.” Interpretations vary on what Stevens meant, but I like the one that says the lamp beam falls on the future, not on the corpse, on the good times to come.
So, let me one last time assume the role as the Emperor of Ice Cream, the man who puts the fun in funeral. What follows is something I wrote at around that time.
It’s a death notice for Rangers.
Happy anniversary, friends.
“Tonight, after a long illness, Rangers Football Club has passed into the Other World, where there is no Sky deal, no Lodge 218, no SFA President and no Neil Doncaster.
“The corpse now lies naked in the Hall of History, there to be judged, frowned upon and condemned by all honest men. This death, like the death of many a tyrant, will be mourned by many, but celebrated by many more, as a great period of darkness has lifted, and a great source of conflict, and evil, has been removed from this world.
“The death of Rangers was reported this afternoon, by all the media outlets which had previosuly said it was unlikely. Our predictions, in the days and weeks prior to today, that what ailed this club would kill it were denied and condemned.
“We were sneered at and laughed at, and our motivations were questioned. Our sanity was cast in doubt. Tonight, the truth is out there, the Internet Bampots have won, and Celtic is the most successful surviving club in the history of the Scottish game.
“Throughout the last twelve months, as Whyte has become Green, as what the press called fiction has turned into fact, as rumour and speculation have hardened into reality, the mainstream media has obfuscated, misinformed and sometimes lied in order to shield Rangers fans from the truth about what was happening to their club.
“They did this for their own selfish reasons, to drag out the story, to maximise their own revenues, or to maintain cushy relationships which otherwise would have been at threat. They have proven themselves utterly untrustworthy.
“It therefore falls on us, the Celtic fans, to write the obituary of Rangers Football Club, to shine a light into dark places, and to present the facts the media will try to ignore. Let the scribes record it for the historians to study, for the future to remember, and for all who come after us to read with fascination and wonder.
“Rangers Football Club 1872 is no more. What follows is their obituary, as written by those who saw it coming before it was announced on the BBC.”
RIP RANGERS FC – THE OBITUARY
Rangers Football Club was founded in the year 1872, by four men. One of them later went insane because of financial problems, and died in an asylum. He was entered into the Rangers Hall of Fame in 2010, the year the world learned about EBT’s.
Another of the founders, inducted into that hallowed place the same year, was a bigamist, died in a poor house, was described as an “imbecile” and was once indicted for fraud, although he was cleared.
Rangers won their first league title in 1890, and in common with some of their recent “successes” it carries a slight taint; they did not win it outright but “shared” it with Dumbarton. In 1919, Bill Struth became assistant manager. He moved to the top spot shortly thereafter with the death of then manager William Wilton.
He quickly gave the club its modern foundation, by introducing a sectarian policy of not signing Catholic players which was in place for nearly 70 years, and made the club a pariah in the eyes of all neutrals.
One of the most successful spells in Rangers’ history came during the Second World War, when this quintessentially British club, which later became famous for supporting the troops, retained nearly all of its playing staff, even as other sides sent their players off to the fighting.
Ironically, Rangers’ abilities in unarmed combat were so notorious that Hitler himself was said to be visibly relieved when he was told that most of them would be staying at home.
Experts we spoke to have stated their view that Berlin could have been reached by July 1944 had Dawson, Gray, Simon and Young been in the vanguard of Operation Overlord on D-Day.
After the war, Struth constructed what became known as the “Iron Curtain” defence, known by its more common name “anti-football”. This sustained their “success” for the next seven years. When the Curtain came down, Struth was succeeded by Scott Symon, who presided over the worst cup final defeat in the history of British football when, in 1957, they were beaten 7-1 by Celtic in the League Cup, at Hampden.
In 1960, he was there for a 12 – 4 aggregate defeat at the hands of Eintracht Frankfurt – a Scottish European record to this day, despite the best efforts of Walter and Coisty to match it. They did reach a couple of third tier continental cup finals in this era, but lost them, whilst Celtic went on to triumph in the main event in Lisbon, in 1967 … which sowed the seeds of the destruction to come.
In the 1970’s, Rangers did finally win Europe’s third tier competition, but typically their achievement was mired in shame. Their pariah status was confirmed when they became the first club to win a European trophy and be presented it in a dressing room, when their fans rioted in Barcelona during the Cup Winners Cup win in 1972.
The manager, Willie Waddell, also thrilled the fans with a League Cup during his reign, but was a dismal failure in the league, as a rampant Celtic, frequent contenders in the latter stages of Europe’s top competition, skelped them with hilarious regularity.
In 11 games against Celtic, he managed a solitary win, and was given his jotters after a devastating campaign when, in the days of two points for a win, Celtic won the title by a storming 16 points.
His position was taken over by Jock Wallace, who achieved some success before giving way to John Greig, who was to play an historic role in Rangers future.
Greig’s time as manager was to mirror his later performance as a director, which is to say it was a disaster. The club failed to win a league title, attendances plummeted and in one unforgettable season they failed even to qualify for Europe, slumping to fifth.
The following year, perhaps in an echo of days to come, they entered the Anglo-Scottish Cup in a money making exercise which ended in farce as Third Division Chesterfield snatched a draw at Ibrox and then turned them over 3-0 at home, sending them out before most of the English constabularies had even been put on alert.
Greig’s cards were marked, and the only miracle was he lasted five years.
Jock Wallace’s return to the club saw them continue on the path Greig had charted, that of mid-table ignominy and low attendances. Wallace’s second spell at the club saw the first evidence of Rangers determination to buy success; unfortunately, much of the money they spent was on dreck like Ted McMinn and Cammy Fraser.
With Wallace’s resignation, followed by the club’s takeover by David Holmes, Graeme Souness was appointed manager.
The era of The Beast, and of Financial Doping, had begun.
His era at Rangers began with a red card in his first game as player manager, in a malefic glimpse of the thuggery which was to come. His assault on George McCluskey, of Hibs, has lived long in the memory of all who saw it.
That tackle, and others like it, along with images of Davie Dodds throughout the production, resulted in the rare “Simply the Best of Souness” DVD being the one and only Scottish football commercial publication to receive an 18 certificate.
Souness’ legendary thuggery can best be expressed by a simple philosophy; “If it moves, kick it. If it doesn’t move, kick it until it does.” Many in Scottish football were to bear witness to its effectiveness, and over time he brought in others, like Terry Hurlock, who were of similar, rabies infected mind.
Two years into the Era of the Beast, David Murray took over the club, and the financial doping was escalated to a whole new level, as the new leader at Ibrox, consumed with jealousy at the shimmering sight of the European Cup at Celtic Park, embarked on a period of spending which was not to be equalled until Victoria Beckham first got her hands on a Gold Amex Card.
Yet David Murray’s Rangers, like her early wardrobe, was built on Someone Else’s Money. Living off your spouse is one thing. Rangers’ living high on the hog was subsidised first by the customers of the Bank that Couldn’t Say No, HBOS, and then by the tax payer.
Something else aided Murray during those first halcyon days in charge; the abject poverty of Celtic, and a board of directors that didn’t know a CVA from a JCB, an education Rangers fans may shortly have to face again, as the latest crisis at the Newco brings the roaring engines of the latter ever closer to the Ibrox gates.
Celtic, however, were about to be transformed, and it would present major problems for David Murray and his giant ego. The catalyst for this change was Fergus McCann.
McCann’s transformation of Celtic, including the rebuilding of Celtic Park, turning it into a genuine European footballing arena, and seating 10,000 more than Ibrox, as well as his presiding over the return of the league to Parkhead in the Year We Stopped the Ten, pushed Murray to the greatest excesses of his time at the helm at Ibrox.
His borrowing reached fever pitch. His spending began to match that of the Soviet Navy and for the first time HBOS fund managers voiced their concerns. One panic stricken director, when faced with the size of the Rangers/Murray debts, was openly heard to state “If they go, we go”, as red ink began to drip onto the boardroom floor.
In 1998, Dick Advocaat was appointed manager, as Murray’s eye became more and more fixed on Celtic Park, and his frustration climbed to levels only equalled by Anna Nicole Smith on the night of her wedding to J Howard Marshall.
It was during the Advocaat era that the seeds of Rangers demise were sown, when Murray’s hubris caused him to embark on the suicidal “for every fiver” policy, of matching Celtic’s spending by two to one.
The most potent symbol of this was the £12 million purchase of Tore Andre Flo from Chelsea, to one up the signing of Chris Sutton. In fact, the transfer fee for Flo would not only have bought Sutton, but there would have been enough in the kitty to do a proper medical for John Hartson, and they could have had him as well.
It was during this period that Rangers began to implement its EBT scheme, after getting its advice from a struck off accountant and producer/star/director of porn named Paul Baxendale Walker.
The intention was to stiff HMRC, using the Viagra of a tax avoidance scheme, to get Rangers performances up on the park. The results were meant to be them pumping all opposition in Scotland, albeit with their standard premature ejaculation in Europe. As it turned out, not only was the scheme badly run, but there were X-Rated scenes on the pitch too, as first Martin O’Neill and then Gordon Strachan, routinely humped them and made a mockery of Murray’s spendthrift ways, by winning leagues and cups with a regularity which rendered Rangers’ spending impotent.
Murray stood down once, as Rangers financial spread sheets began to resemble a George W Bush popularity graph, and then had to step back in with a plan to stem the leak by tapping the Global Rangers Family well. Sadly, for him, he didn’t strike oil as much as he hit a sewer pipe and instead of money pouring in from all across the globe, Murray found himself covered in shit.
The myth of billionaires with King Billy tattoos on their arse was shown up as the joke we all knew it was, and once again Murray put it all on his flexible friend … but this time, for the last time.
In 2008, the global banking crisis hit, HBOS was taken over by Lloyds, and the party was over. The accountants who looked over the toxic balance sheet of what had been Scotland’s largest banking institution found out they had not bought an organisation run by a George Soros like genius, but one more akin to Barings as run by Nick Leeson.
The hole in the balance sheet, due in no small part to an £800 million debt owed by Murray International Holdings, sparked a hitting of the breaks and a reigning in of the lunatics who had taken over the asylum.
Oddly enough, it was at around the time when Rangers crisis first became publicly known that they had their best season in years, when they reached the UEFA Cup Final in Manchester, on the back of some of the most atrocious football seen since the “Iron Curtain” of Bill Struth fame.
In yet another echo of Rangers’ bygone days of yore, the supporters, already mired in the scandal of being found guilty of sectarian singing and giving the Nazi salute in Israel, turned Manchester into a battlefield as rioting broke out all across the city. For all that Chelsea fans were later blamed, the truth was much simpler, and known to all but the most closed-minded; Rangers supporters, many thousands of them, had reverted to type, and caused widespread destruction.
Rangers’ thus became the first team whose fans caused riots at two European Finals, entitling them to the optional two Buckfast bottles on the jersey, an honour they turned down in favour of five stars, one of which ought to be pumped full of steroids, as it will forever carry the taint of EBT use.
On May 6 2011, a man named Craig Whyte, who the Scottish press had blindly referred to as a “Motherwell born billionaire”, took over the self-styled “biggest club in Scotland” for a pound. The euphoria of the Scottish press was almost unanimous, although on Celtic websites, who had started investigating Whyte the moment he emerged as a frontrunner in the takeover saga, the mirror image view was already hardening; Rangers, part founded by a financially irresponsible lunatic, were placing their survival in the hands of another.
Between the media’s lack of scrutiny, Whyte’s lack of scruples and Gordon Smith’s lack of any skills whatsoever, the club which Murray had once called “Scotland’s Second Biggest Institution After the Church” was heading towards a disaster. Whyte began with-holding monies from HMRC and before long the club was in the throes of crisis.
On 14 February 2012, Rangers announced that they would be entering administration. A period of hilarity unrivalled in the history of the Scottish game followed.
First, Rangers fans tried to set up a website to raise funds. Within hours, thousands, like Therea Houseineworleans, Bill D. Gallows, Hector Tacksman and Jude Illigence, had raised hundreds of thousands.
Within a day, with kind hearts such as Owen Cash, Ishmael T Glove and Henrik Larceny making pledges, the numbers were in the millions.
Rangers administrators, Duff & Phelps, were momentarily delighted, then shocked, as they realised these were fake names from mocking Celtic fans.
When Rangers officials set up a fund their ad campaigns contained some noticeable spelling mistakes, and an error with the email address diverted those making pledges to a company which hired out clowns.
On the pitch, the final season in their history was winding down to a close, with a 15 point league lead having been surrendered, along with two early exits from Europe and similar ignominy in the domestic cup competitions. Far from making it four league titles in a row, the final season in their history ended in total collapse.
Manager Ally McCoist, more and more coming to resemble a man for whom Greggs was becoming a habit too many, with hair receding faster than Whyte’s hopes of attending an end of season dinner dance in Linfield and eyes which looked as if Jack Daniels and Ron Bacardi had become his best mates, would have been sacked by any other club.
He kept his job, and vast salary, by virtue of an appeal to the intellectuals amongst the Rangers support, who adopted his “we don’t do walking away” comments as a slogan of defiance, even as all around them their club continued to rot and their players were getting out as fast as their sports cars could leave Murray Park.
In France, Paul LeGuen was heard to have ruefully said “if only I had known rolling up my trouser leg and pretending to play the flute would have kept me in a job. I could have gotten a bigger EBT ….”
Numerous attempts to save the club had floundered, and failed, leaving a hitherto unknown in the driving seat. Charles Green, a disastrous former chief executive at Sheffield United, with a string of failed businesses behind him, emerged as head of a consortium of unknowns aiming to buy the club and save it from the inevitable liquidation.
He failed to do so, and the club which was formed in 1872 has now been pronounced dead following HMRC’s rejection of a pennies in the pound CVA.
A new version of the club has emerged, weakened but not shamed by the actions which secured them a place in Scottish Football history which they never saw coming and never wanted, that of the first senior club to be killed by arrogance, ego and malpractice.
You could make a list of those who are responsible for the long slow death of this institution, but the truth is that an end like this was in the DNA of the club itself, at least since the Struth era, when they embraced the latent sectarianism boiling in sections of the poor white trash of the Scottish Protestant working class.
The arrogance, hubris and notions of Empire, which were allowed to flourish and grow, transforming Rangers from a mere football club into a pillar of the Scottish establishment, have led to their demise, aided and abetted by a subservient media whose dependence was engineered like Pavlov’s slabbering dogs.
Whatever comes next, however, the club we knew is no more. It has died.
Amongst the mourners are the old guard of the Scottish press, the SFA, Neil Doncaster and everyone who ever attended an Orange Walk. For the rest of us is only the joy of seeing something fundamentally corrupt gone from this Earth.
Floral arrangements should be laid outside the ground. Hearses will drive past and honk their horns. Flags at the Louden are already flying at half mast, and Greggs are putting their staff on notice in case Ally goes, and the Christmas Staff Night Out has to cancel the free bar. The clubs of the SPL are continuing to cop the flak for not embracing Frankenstein’s FC when it reared its head in the aftermath of Rangers passing.
Meanwhile, across Scotland and the world, the stocks of Ben & Jerry’s are once again running low, as crisis builds on crisis at the Newco, and people start waking up to the fact we might, once again, be on the verge of the Mother of all Wakes.
Somewhere, a man, The Emperor of Ice Cream, is rolling cigars and making those “concupiscent curds”, as Celtic’s tanks are advancing, and outside Ibrox the bulldozers are revving up their engines.
Rangers Football Club died one year ago yesterday.
Rest in peace and rot in Hell.
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