The Great Pretenders

One of the most interesting features of the latest crisis at Rangers is the way in which the media has been used to wage war via leaks and briefings.

It’s almost like a miniature version of Westminster politics in that it looks snide, bitchy and does no-one any good whatsoever.

With every leak comes the expectation of more. Indeed, some leaks are designed to send people scurrying about for further information. It is destabilising. It is embarrassing. It keeps the rest of the world at arm’s length, and it treats the Rangers fans like mugs.

Rangers supporters are shortly going to be asked to put their hands in their pockets, and stump up for next year’s season tickets. Those inside Ibrox have a brass neck for even daring to ask. They have given the fans nothing but garbage. They have kept them in the dark. They have cut them out of the most important discussions. They have allowed the club to drift back into darkness, and they’ve done it lying to the supporters all the while.

If you believe the spin from Ibrox, everything is alright. We all know it’s not. To pretend otherwise is to insult the intelligence of every person watching.

As someone who has been watching for a long time, I can see clearly that trouble is never behind Rangers anymore. It’s simply on the other side of the wheel, coming around again.

How did it get like that? It got like that because since the 1980’s that club has never had to live within its means. Fans have been spoon-fed notions of superiority until the idea is grossly entwined with the psyche of the support. When Ally McCoist threw “We are the people” at a Sky Sports News journalist recently, a section of the Rangers support applauded like performing seals who’d just been tossed a fish. The rest of the world – including much of the club’s own fan base – cringed. McCoist was not simply playing to the gallery. He was playing to the gutter.

It’s hard at times not to strongly dislike McCoist. The man with so many friends in the media cannot possibly be the cynical, arrogant, bitter, angry and reckless individual who so often comes across these days. He strikes me as someone underhanded, someone sneaky, someone of low cunning who resorts to feigning ignorance when he has raised a storm, or provoked a controversy. He knows his friends in the media will give him an easy ride, and he is well aware that he has a loud, vocal following amongst the support.

He plays to this following constantly, most notably in his now infamous “we don’t do walking away” speech. This has been held up as an example of how he will fight Rangers corner to the bitter end, but of course it is no such thing.

His refusal to walk away from the tribulations at Ibrox is not purely down to his allegiances. In case it has escaped the notice of the fans, this guy is in a well-paid job, which he’s doing badly. If I were in his shoes, I wouldn’t walk away either, especially as it’s very likely to be his last in management. I would hang on in there like grim death. I would not leave voluntarily under any circumstances. I would not go until they used pliers to pull my fingernails out of the desk.

Allow me to be blunt. McCoist knows what Green knew and what Whyte before him did. He knows how to appeal to a section of the Rangers support. He talks the talk. He says the things they want to hear. He is “one of them” and speaks their language. He does all of this because if he didn’t, if he was just another football manager, he would have been fired long ago as useless. He won his first trophy as manager a few weeks ago … the Third Division title. With the second most expensive squad not in that league, but the whole country. His team were awful to watch, which is the hallmark of his teams, from the minute he took over in the post.

Let’s be honest; even when he had a full strength Rangers team, utilising talents such as Jelavic and Davis and McGregor, they were dire. Cup exits, European disasters, throwing away a double digit league lead … this is the managerial record which lies behind the “Rangers till I die” exterior, and this is the very reason for it. If he was not “Super Ally” everyone knows he’d be long gone.

McCoist has a salary that is large beyond belief, given to him when the club was still in the SPL and Europe. On top of that, he has a very nice package of shares, and doubtless he is well aware of what would happen to the value of those if he was to throw up his hands and say “enough is enough.” If Rangers fans are waiting for leadership from him – real leadership – they’re going to have a long, long wait. He’s not shown any yet, and he won’t.

There are other people at Ibrox playing the same game. Foremost amongst them is, of course, Walter Smith. That’s another unpopular opinion to hold, but I stand to it all the same. Quite how this guy can brass-neck it in his non-executive post I do not know, but it’s widely believed that it was his decision to take a seat on the board that lent the early legitimacy to Green and his people which sold the successful share issue. How did Green get Smith on board? Not by being open, and transparent, with him, surely? Because then Smith would never have taken a seat. I know a £70,000 job for life didn’t hurt, nor did the offer of shares to go with it.

Smith is one of the people pushing an agenda through the media. But he’s doing it from behind the curtain of intermediaries and “friends of” attributions, rather than simply walking out of the front door and calling a press conference. If Smith gave a damn – if he genuinely cared about the Rangers fans, as he has spent a career claiming – he might be willing to put aside his Ibrox pension plan and his nest egg of shares. Say whatever you like about John Brown. He did it. He resigned from his job, and tried to tell the fans what was going on. He looked like an idiot doing it … but he was right.

In contrast to Brown, who put himself on the line, and did it by stepping into the front line, it is tempting to look at Walter Smith and say he’s bought and paid for, that it’s the money he values, not the supporters. Rangers fans looking for leadership need not bother looking to Smith. His conduct as manager is part of the reason they are in this shambles – a big part. His is a short-term outlook.

Tomorrow is all that matters to this guy and tomorrow he’ll still be on the board.

Short-termism is a big problem at Rangers, and it’s the reason their supporters need to start bracing themselves. That club has problems so huge that quantifying them is a monstrous task. Between a media that feeds them a constant diet of bullshit and the mendacity of those who are in positions of responsibility at the club there are real problems there and the fans don’t know a tenth of it. What can we say for sure? It will be a long road back.

This is where Rangers fans have to wake up and smell the coffee.

The club is in a real bind right now, and everywhere they turn the bonds get tighter and the options narrow further. With losses of £1 million per month it is evident to almost any person with a modicum of sanity that they can’t increase their spending, as has been mooted in the press. Without over-draft facilities, without the understanding of a bank – which they don’t have and will not get – who the Hell is going to carry that debt when the well runs dry, as it will?

Forget the possibility of others investing. Forget that utterly, and entirely. With the present owners, and the people waiting in the wings, that is simply not going to happen unless these people are deep Rangers men … and we’ve already seen the mentality of deep Rangers men like McCoist and Smith. No-one is going to chuck money down a bottomless pit just so a football club can climb back up through the ranks of Scottish football. It is ludicrous. At the present “burn rate” it would cost a minimum of £12 million per annum to keep the Good Ship Rangers afloat. The higher the club climbs the higher the annual outgoings … and the higher the level of debt.

Don’t be fooled into thinking a swift rise will see money pile up in the bank. I said earlier that this club hasn’t had to live within its means for almost 30 years, and that mean an entire generation of Rangers fan have grown up seeing success built on someone else’s money. They are simply not psychologically built for anything else. Trying to explain to them that the club can only spend what it earns is like trying to explain Pythagorean theory to a six year old. Charles Green spoon-fed them an entire banquet of bollocks earlier this year by talking about how the club could earn £100 million per year, and put them on a par with Real Madrid and Man Utd … it was fantasy, but without a doubt there are people out there who believed every word.

Celtic, with a complete infrastructure, fully integrated and organic, at the height of their earnings, made £70 million one year, with Champions League football. It was a one off and we’ve not come close to it since. Even “healthy” Rangers never came close to that kind of annual income, with European football, season ticket sales and a good team on the park. How in God’s name could anyone believe they would do it from a standing start, marooned in the lower leagues and without access to European income of any kind? Madness.

At the present time, Rangers has no infrastructure far less the kind needed to raise that kind of money. To invest in that stuff properly costs millions, and the payoff doesn’t come for years. The youth academy is sucking money out of the club like a vampire drinks blood, but the idea of cutting back on that is insanity, because that needs to be the production line for the team in the future. But to get that up to snuff won’t be possible with cuts … in fact, multiple millions more will need to be spent on that project in order to make it work right. That’s a scouting network, a coaching network, money for signings, investment in new facilities and technology … all these things are going to cost money to build and worse … they are an on-going expense.

Why did I mention cuts? I did so, Rangers fans, because that is your future, if you want to survive. And it’s well past time someone was straight with you about that. McCoist telling the world about wanting six or seven new players, of talking about raising the standard of the squad – and I say again, the second most expensive squad in the country – is leading you to one place only; the abyss. The club cannot afford it.

The immediate future is about creating a sustainable business, not chasing pipedreams of a Scottish Cup with blue ribbons on it.

The talk that “real Rangers men” will be next to own the club should scare the bejesus out of all of you. Because if these “real Rangers men” come in with a plan to spend their way back to the top of the Scottish game you are on a road to nowhere. The last thing you will see are the rocks as the ship once again runs aground, and you will deserve everything you get for letting the club fall into the hands of people who have no long term goals.

Here’s what needs to happen. Rangers needs to make drastic cuts across the board. Far from adding to the playing squad, it needs to be slashed. Bye-bye big earners. You can no longer afford them. That’s a simple fact of life. If you don’t believe me look again at the figures; losses of £1 million a month my friends. That’s a loss of £12 million a year, and if you think that should be easy money to recoup, let me clue you in. Say you increase season ticket prices by a £100 each. Providing you sell 40,000 of them, you’ve bagged £4,000,000 extra. Say you sell the naming rights to the stadium, and that brings you in the estimated £1 million. Say the new bar makes £1 million a year in profit … which is quite ludicrous, but say it does. You’re only halfway home, but now in order to break even you only have to make £6 million worth of cuts.

If you cut a player earning £4000 a week that will save you a little over £200,000. Cut six of those players and you’re only a fifth of the way there. Do you get it now?

Do you get how deep the hole is?

Do you get how heavy, how horrendous, those cuts might need to be? Say you had players at the club earning £10,000 a week. Cut five of them – your five best players, your top stars, the guys fans pay to go and watch every week – and in the scenario outlined above, where you can add £6,000,000 to your earnings, you will break even.

But in that scenario, will you be able to sell 40,000 season tickets? Will you sell any? The stands would be empty, but that, whether you like it or not, is the future … if you want to have a future.

There are people on the board advocating exactly the course of action I’ve just outlined. A huge rise in prices, and a huge drop in costs. Those voices, believe it or not, are the only sane people at your club. They deal in hard numbers, and in reality.

Instead of pursuing that path people are talking about opening talks with Kris Boyd and Nacho Novo. Have you learned nothing? I heard one fan say the other night “Novo would run into a wall for the Rangers jersey …” and I have no doubt he would. Slowly. Another fan talked about how quick he looked in the Rangers “charity” game recently, apparently without realising he’d been playing alongside an out of shape, overweight fifty year old …. I stipulate that I too would look like Usain Bolt in those circumstances.

Yet even if it were true, even if Novo had lightening pace and the ability to open up defences with one flick of his boot, what would be the point? Rangers will be playing in Division 2 next season, Scottish football’s third tier. Do they need Nacho Novo and Kris Boyd to get out of a league of part-time teams? What kind of vote of confidence is that in the youth setup? What does it say about the mentality of the management team?

These people are gambling with the future stability of your football club (such as it is) for the sake of what? A quick fix.

There is no quick fix. There is no easy way out. Rangers is facing a journey that will take years and years, and winning the Third Division is not a sign of forward progress, because the club is still going backwards.

It’s spending money it hasn’t got, it is living on borrowed time and planning for a future it might not have. Every penny should be a prisoner. Yet they are talking to Jon Daly and Cammy Bell and putting out feelers to other SPL players. Surely utilising the best of Rangers’ youth is a better bet than that? Surely that’s the sensible, sane thing to do?

Yet McCoist will bleat that his hands are being tied, as Walter Smith once did when the cuts began to bite. Had the bank not put the brakes on Rangers’ running up of debt there would have been no need for Craig Whyte and his ruinous term.

The club would have gone to the wall anyway. Those who blame the bank have no idea what they are talking about. The only rational course of action was to cut, and cut to the bone. When the club refused to do it for themselves the bank decided to do it for them, and even that was resisted.

Was it resisted for the benefit of the club? Of course not. The best interests of the club would have been served by its surviving.

The people who defended their right to spend their way towards the grave are those whose names are held in the greatest reverence by the supporters they have betrayed, let down and failed; Smith, McCoist, Paul Murray, John Greig.

This is the future? It reeks of the failings of the past. Rangers is not moving up but, to paraphrase Bill Paxton, are on an “express elevator to Hell … Going down.”

That’s the inconvenient truth. These people are not going to save Rangers. They are part of the problem. They are the vested interests. They hold the shares, they draw the big salaries, they are looking at their own prosperity, and their own balance sheets, at their own CV’s, and their own places in history. They are not going to walk away, because it’s not in their interests to do so.

They talk a good game though. They talk about having the club’s “best interests” at heart. They are the Great Pretenders. They are inside the walls, peering out. If they were as dedicated to the cause as they claim, they would give it to you straight. They would walk out together, call a press conference and tell you what’s really going on. That would require an act of sacrifice, not platitudes and weasel words.

It’s not going to happen. These are not the leaders Rangers needs.

I strongly suspect they are what the club will get.

The lessons haven’t been learned.

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James Forrest

James Forrest is a writer and blogger from Glasgow, and the author of two books, Fragments and Believers, which are available on Amazon.

34 thoughts on “The Great Pretenders

  • 10 May, 2013 at 6:05 pm

    Another brilliant post James but I had tae go for a shave…….twice.
    In all seriousness,yer spot on,Sally won’t leave the nest until he’s shoved,but tae be honest if rather you praised Sally many of us think he’s doing a great job….for us.

  • 10 May, 2013 at 6:15 pm

    James,why worry about that mob they and their “freens”,did their best to keep us down for decades.The MSM say Scotland needs a strong sevco ,what they mean is they do….by-by sevco……….A tad to much !!! perchance…….good.yours in Celtic TC.

  • 10 May, 2013 at 6:26 pm

    Amazing, let the whole stinking scum die. Good article James.

    Hail! Hail!

  • 10 May, 2013 at 6:53 pm

    Brilliant. Possibly the best thing I have read on the whole sorry sevco fiasco. And I hope that you are correct with the predicted outcome. HH.

  • 10 May, 2013 at 7:05 pm

    Great post. They need an action group but no-one has the guts to stand up and go face to face with the ‘vested interests’. They will die

  • 10 May, 2013 at 7:13 pm

    I’d been looking for a thorough, well written breakdown of the Sevco disaster, so thank you for that. It was brilliant!

  • 10 May, 2013 at 7:35 pm

    they were told in the past but didn’t listen because it was ‘ceptic propaganda’. they still don’t listen. stupid huns.

  • 10 May, 2013 at 8:28 pm

    brilliant , but they will not listen ,they will still chant we are the people .

  • 10 May, 2013 at 8:40 pm

    Absolutely brilliant analysis James. These are the things that are being said and whispered in corners and behind closed doors away from the Sevco support because they just can’t handle the truth. They have never been used to having to handle truth. Murray shielded them from everything – including his cheating ways. But did they care? Not a bit.
    Now we have ex- Hearts and Scotland manager Craig Levien saying that the end justifies the means when it comes to trophy’s. That getting into financial trouble was worth it for Hearts to win two trophy’s. What an absolutely stupid and irresponsible thing to say. Who are these peepil? Have they no idea? No scruples? No credibility? No sense of sporting integrity?
    James Traynor recently banned the BBC from Ibrox. Why? Was it because the BBC are not being impartial enough? Not giving the truth on the Ranger’s story? Nope! Its plane and simple. Traynor knows full well that the BBC are sycophantic towards Ranger’s and it simply because they (the BBC) are not acting like that P.R machine that Traynor was when he was with the Daily Toilet Roll and he knows full well that they (the BBC) will do anything to back into the good books with the Sevco club. You just need to look at the actions and words of the BBC ”journo’s” to realise that this is indeed the case.
    That being said I honestly don’t think that it would make any difference to the Sevco’s fate even if the BBC complied with Trayor’s myopic view of Sevco. . .the writing is on the wall for them and no amount of P.R spin will defuse the times that is Ranger’s. The silence from the SFA is deafening and sooner or later they will also need to putting the Rule Book into action the same way that they treated Neil Lennon for his revolutionary terrorist actions on the sidelines by uttering a sweary-word in public. . .and they WILL as we will all make sure that they do!

    There are three seated zombie resin figures going for sale on E bay just now. They are Hear No Evil; Speak No Evil and See No Evil.
    Just about sums up the situation really!

  • 10 May, 2013 at 8:43 pm

    The situation over there is not getting any better. This week, McCoist has said he’s going to sit down with the chairman (or whoever runs things; it’s unclear), to discuss the budget for next season. Eah? What budget? He’s a tier three manager, who’s club is losing a million a month. In any other footballing landscape this guy would be laughed out of the room.

  • 10 May, 2013 at 9:03 pm

    Accurate, objective, truthful and to the point Jamie – excellent article. The big worry for me is still the negative, adverse effect that Sevco still continue in poisoning the whole atmosphere of the Scottish game and prevent it moving forward. The Green & Whytes of the scenario are obvious “”Arfur Daley” type conmen who fed off a dead carcass of a club (but undeniably a new company.) The real root cause of the Rangers downfall (Sir Minty Murray, Smith, McCoist et al) are the real parasites feeding off the Rangers fans blind, zombie like behaviour and still continue to feather their own nests built on a mix of deceit and failure.

  • 11 May, 2013 at 1:37 am

    Is it not possible that Dave King will salvage Sevco?

    As far as I am aware he now has the ability to access “known” funds and invest in the UK.

    Many wealthy people also have “hidden” funds in offshore tax havens, such as the Caymen Islands.

    This allows funds to be easily moved around the globe without the knowledge of certain regulators.

    Apparently, it is quite easy to invest in various financial vehicles without the source of the funds being transparent.

    Only one fly in the ointment I see is this:

  • 11 May, 2013 at 9:34 am

    Excellent blog and far more accurate and truthful than anything you’d ever read in the chip wrappers. Each and every one of them should be ashamed of how they looked the other as rangers headed over the cliff.

  • 11 May, 2013 at 9:38 am

    They are beyond help and they know it all,but they will be allowed to go on there merry way breaking all the rules and no one and not one club will say a word even Celtic shy away scared of them, this is the state of Scottish Football and we are all to blame, unless some one stands up and sais, “hold on you cant’t do that” as I said do not hold your breath they are UNTOUCHABLE.

  • 11 May, 2013 at 8:22 pm

    Just had the misfortune to have a peek at rangers media and bill mcmurdo’s blogs, the difference between there and here highlights the gulf in class between us and ra peepul, and i dont just mean on the field of play!

  • 12 May, 2013 at 12:08 am

    Is there a point to this article rather than just blatantly attacking Rangers and their fans? I see an unhealthy dose of ‘Old Firm rivalry’ in this and honestly, it sounds stupid and ignorant. If Celtic had to be put into administration do you think their fan base would be as strong as Rangers has been? I’d think at most it would diminish by a fair amount, far more than Rangers has anyway. The support has been far better than had been expected and the fans have been nothing more than amazing to show in numbers in the Third Division. Ally McCoist has stuck with a club that has gone through hell. Most of the Rangers players either parted with the club or were sold for minimal fee’s, other than Lee Wallace, Ian Black, Templeton and maybe Dean Shiels, could you name any other players who would survive in the SPL? My guess would be no. So Rangers dropped down 3 leagues, lost most of their players, have been in financial turmoil all season and have been expected to dominate a league which should not even be a challenge. How many other clubs have done this? How many other clubs have been hurt so badly, financially and internally but have achieved what has been asked from them? Right now I can think of none. This article is nothing more than a swift jab at a club who you envy. Rangers are the most domestically successful football club in the world and no matter how many times you say their titles should be taken away, as long as their fans still remain then so will their success.

  • 12 May, 2013 at 1:57 am

    Is it just me who thinks John here has missed the subtext? It is just me who thinks he’s living in a fantasy land?

    Is it just me who thinks he needs to read the article again – AND THEN AGAIN – until the POINT gets through?

  • 12 May, 2013 at 9:20 am

    The realities of the situation are not what the “peepul” want to hear , they simply refuse to look at simple economics . Their club , having won SFL3 received £44k prize money , apparently just over 2 weeks salary for their manager , contrast this with Dundee , relegated from the SPL but still awarded £800k , thats nearly 20 times the amount won by The Rangers Football club , yet they spent multiples times less than Rangers to earn it .

    If we assume that The Rangers had ( as stated ) £22 million in the bank on January 1st , then allowing for some additional non season ticket gate receipts we scale the losses down to £800k per month , its now May so £4m will have come out , plus an additional £2.5 spent on buying the Albion car park and Edminston house , so maybe they have £15 million left , the we have pay offs relating to board room departures ( Mr Green rumoured at £750k and Mr Ahmand at £500k ) so that takes another £1.2m or so leaving £13.8m . So ignoring lawyers fees for former players and other legal costs , at best there is msybe 14months of cash left assuming the current cost base remains .

    So Rangers fans have a choice , wake up to the reality of the situation or prepare for another trip into administration possibly within the next 12 months .

    Seeing Dave King or Paul Murray as possible saviours is fantasy , given the fact that roughly 50% of the shares in Rangers were issued to original investors before the IPO. That means just to gain control the cost at todays share price is £18m , before you spend on stadium or players .

    Wake up and smell the coffee.

  • 12 May, 2013 at 12:25 pm

    @John What a remarkable feat. Just how you typed that rant with your head in the sand is beyond me.

  • 12 May, 2013 at 1:06 pm

    At Celtic Park, I sit beside an old fashioned football guy who does not use online forums etc. Yesterday I was telling him about Ally’s national TV ‘We are the people’ sign off and he replied ‘you are joking, has really to come to that for them’ ? His response summed it up.

    After the recent Under 17’s game as Firhill where seats were ripped up by teenage wannabe football casuals, Rangers fans took to forums to JOKE ‘Celtic have offered to replace the seats at Firhill with the empty seats at Parkhead’

    This is how far delusional they have become. To show the comparison in season 2010/11 (when RFC were still alive and competing in the SPL), Celtic’s matchday revenue was 43.4million and Rangers was 31.5million (Source – Deloitte). This is trailing Celtic by almost 12million yet Rangers fans think its funny and a joking matter.

    Fergus McCann did not just save Celtic, he also trumped RFC by building a stadium that holds 60,000 and 10,000 more than Ibrox. This is seems, is a source of amusement for them whilst they wallow in financial embarrassment.

    I can to a small extent, I get the defiant attitude of some but administration saved Ally McCoist’s job and he has shown himself up to be very conniving and very much addicted to his ‘celebrity’ status at Ibrox.

    Anything built on a foundation of lies and deceit will not flourish.

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