The Long Way Down

_83176180_kingAnd so it ends. Or begins. Or something.

When Dave King and his people waltzed into Ibrox the club was still within touching distance of the SPL. Their entire plan was based on reaching that Promised Land.

The media bummed up Stuart McCall. When he took over, they were five points behind Hibs with two games in hand. Despite beating the Easter Road club in the run-in, they finished a point behind them and were forced to play six games. That appointment – like much of what has happened since King took over – was a disaster in every concievable way.

Their strategy was predicated on the team having enough about them to get there, and make everything else work out. Now those plans (such as they are) lie in total ruins.

Already people are making excuses.

Commentators are still talking about the task this shambolic club faces in trying to “challenge Celtic.” And right there is what’s wrong, right there is the problem, right there is the issue and part of what is swirling around them.

The Survival Myth emerged from a need for people to pretend this is the same club. It emerged from the need to sell season tickets. It started out as a financial need but it was embraced by those who had an emotional investment, and now, finally, it is a comfort blanket for those, including many in the media and the governing bodies, who haven’t grasped it yet.

Here’s the truth. This is it. This is what so many are not getting.

The Survival Myth is about the continuation of history. It is about retaining titles. There is nothing else to it. Nothing else. Because whether you accept it or not, it’s all the people who follow this club have got left. This is a club that has spent three years in the lower leagues, and now they are doomed to a fourth and with no clear end in sight.

They need to rebuild their entire playing squad, find a permanent management team, spend vast sums on infrastructure … it is beyond King, beyond Murray, beyond Park, a Herculian task that they won’t come close to accomplishing.

This club looks certain to end up in administration and then liquidation again.

The Scottish governing bodies will buck efforts to make them start at the bottom once more, and we’re going to face a monster of a task to stop them giving them a safe berth … but with Ashley’s contracts watertight and other onerous deals sucking the marrow from their bones, there is no real alternative, because today they are looking down the barrel of the gun.

Rangers died in 2012. The stupidity of every person involved in trying to run the NewCo on “an SPL budget” has resulted in financial ruination and abject humiliation … and all of it because “this is Rangers. Rangers needs to have quality. Rangers needs to spend money.”

And every time I heard it back in the early days I wanted to scream; “Are you people nuts? This isn’t Rangers anymore!”

Now I just smile, because the longer they persist with this idiocy the longer they will suffer days like today, as history repeats itself over and over again.

It never ceases to amazes me that a lot of people – including a lot of Celtic fans – have not grasped the enormity of what happened after HRMC refused the CVA three and some years ago, and however bluntly I put it, whatever language I use, it still doesn’t quite compute.

That club was destroyed.

Get it? Destroyed.

Survival Myth or not, the entity we called Rangers, the one I grew up knowing was Celtic’s biggest rival, the one that won nine titles in a row, is gone. It was erased, as if it was never there. What was left was a stadium, a shell-shocked support which wanted to believe, a training ground which hadn’t produced any player of genuine class in its existence and a management team which kept massive salaries they weren’t worth.

But it also inflicted a mentality upon the club which was the worst possible thing for them. This notion that they were “still watching Rangers.”

They were not. They are not. They never will again, but rather than face it they cling to fantasies of “challenging at the top.”

It ignores so many facts, so much truth.

Because the truth was that that their club was a shadow on the wall in the first place, financially doped to the gills, running on bad credit and debt, without which they would never have been the colossus much of Scottish football feared and bowed down to.

When the global credit crunch happened in 2008 the writing was on the wall. The club would have started a long, slow slide had liquidation not taken place. They might never have been relegated or suffered this kind of humiliation, but there would have been seasons when they struggled to qualify for Europe and they would not have been winning cups on a regular basis.

People will say this is nonsense, but it’s not.

Without the bank letting Murray have a blank chequebook the collapse would have come long before it did. Rangers was always two early knockouts in Europe away from an epochal crisis. Had Gordon Strachan been able to secure four in a row it would have come in 2009 and we’d have gone on to win five and six, and we would right now have just made history and won the ten.

The three titles they won on the bounce glossed over a bubbling lava pool.

That club was a volcano just waiting to blow, and a lot of people have never faced up to the reality of what Craig Whyte did in 2012. When they were knocked out of both European competitions in August 2011 the eruption was certain.

He simply did not have any other choice but to act as he did.

Running costs were enormous, and as he told Neil Doncaster and Stewart Regan in October of that year, administration was guaranteed. This was not a secret. Some of our websites were writing about it daily at the time.

There’s an inconvenient truth that few in Scottish football have any interest in facing up to, but people like Paul Brennan over on CQN have been saying until they are, likewise, blue in the face. For some reason – although it’s perfectly simple – a lot of folk don’t appreciate what it means.

The costs of running a club with a sprawling training complex and a 50,000 seat stadium with all that entails, are in excess of £10 million annually, before you pay a single footballer or member of the backroom team. That is unsustainable for a club not playing in the top flight and with access to regular transfer income or European football.

Unsustainable. Pure and simple.

Once Rangers had fallen to a certain level the vicious circle of cutting, losing, cutting, losing more … it would have started to accelerate. Sanity would eventually have imposed itself and the whole operation would have been restructured … but it would have been painful and would have necessitated years in the wilderness.

Scottish football’s “Brains Trust” doesn’t have the imagination for such a scenario. That has now been forced on them. Reality is howling at the door, and there are already a number of clear illustrations, playing in England, that could have offered examples of how this happens. So many clubs that are relegated from the EPL drop another division within a couple of years, because they can’t reduce costs enough.

This is reality. This is Football Finance 101.

At least two huge clubs – Portsmouth and Leeds – suffered administration events so severe they plummeted several divisions. Both are clearly much bigger clubs than the leagues they are in, but neither can escape. The damage done to them in their initial crashes was so severe they’ve never adequately recovered from it.

If Sevco climbs to the SPL next season it will have taken four years.

As they will not qualify for Europe from the Championship they will spend at least five without European football.

All the while, they’ll be running the infrastructure of a continental giant.

The financial consequences of that are almost incalculable and King isn’t going to be able to counter that unless he risks his entire fortune trying, and this is a guy who would have gone to prison rather than give the South African government their due; overpaid footballers won’t be getting it.

If he’d made the SPL he’d have had to build what their fans regard as an SPL team. With more than a half dozen players out of contract he’ll have to sign what the club can afford this year and hope for promotion … but he’ll then need to rebuild again next year.

I would be shocked if he had the stomach for that.

The only way the Ibrox operation is going to be around long enough to make it to the top division is if everyone involved experiences what alcoholics call “a moment of clarity.”

What we saw today, what we’ve seen from Sevco this season, was an overdue exposure to reality.

It cracked open a door no-one really wanted to open, the front door of that big sprawling mansion in the cult classic movie The Money Pit, where Tom Hanks and Shelly Long buy a big, impressive looking house that is rotting from the inside.

That’s what Rangers was, and in trying to pretend that club survived liquidation it made sure that it’s all Sevco was going to be.

The money to “restore it” to the glory days isn’t there, and that’s partly because people still haven’t grasped that it was never really there in the first place. The “glory days” were a product of one man’s giant ego and one bank’s criminal largesse and once that was at an end a readjustment in the club’s stature was always going to come.

I have spent the better part of my life – I am 38 – watching this club spend money it didn’t have. Nowadays football is full of that. The English Premier League is virtually built on it, one of many reasons I wouldn’t want us to be playing there.

That league has financial revenues that dwarf any other in Europe, but even they are finally slamming on the breaks as TV money – the equivalent of HBOS generosity – reaches its zenith.

They know it won’t last forever, and they are acting accordingly.

On 14 February 2012 the crazy days ended, at Ibrox, suddenly, shockingly, permanently.

But the end was in sight before then, and it would have hurt in whatever shape it hit them.

What happened today dramatically realigned the shape of our game. In truth, that realignment occurred several years ago, but people have been able to deny the reality of it as the club “progressed” through the leagues.

No progress was actually made, but folk were distracted from that.

Today the proof of it is irrefutable. Everything has changed.

The convulsions from this result ought to shake football watchers to the core and force them into an evaluation of what Sevco, or Rangers, or whatever you are calling them, actually is now rather than making them cast misty eyes back to what it once seemed to be.

But that won’t happen, of course.

People are too invested in the Survival Myth and in the “duopoly” to understand that it’s over, and over forever.

The club currently has the second highest wage bill in the land, and that wasn’t enough to get them out of the second tier, but it was too big to see them through the season comfortably, making them dependent on the loans that have crippled them.

King talked about quadrupling the wage bill if they reached the SPL.

Ridiculous, and bound to end in tears.

It was one of many “promises” he made that he was furiously rowing back from last Friday.

The idea of doubling it sounded insane enough, so I doubt it would have happened even if they had gotten to the SPL this afternoon.

Tonight their whole club is shrouded in darkness.

Other clubs that fail to get promotion have full and frank internal discussions about what they can do better.

Sevco thinks it can make it on nothing more than the name “Rangers.”

They think it will happen by magic, because “that’s where the club belongs.”

All last week there was an assumption that because it was “Rangers” that promotion was a matter of course.

They finished third in the league, but that appears not to have terribly bothered anyone.

If you believed the press it was foregone.

The shock in our media class over Motherwell’s win on Thursday will be magnified a hundred times by the ease of their victory today, but denying reality won’t change reality any more than calling a fish a bird will make it fly.

When they use the word “Rangers” they still have the same awe in their voices as when the team was comprised of multi-million pound signings. This world in which they live … a cold win blows through it this evening.

It reminds me of a short story by the deceased horror writer James Herbert, one taken whole as a chapter from one of his wonderful books. In the story a woman prepares breakfast for her family, singing songs, looking out the window, pottering around the kitchen as if everything is normal. But it’s not normal. The world she looks out on – but doesn’t comprehend – is a nuclear devastated wasteland. Her family are all dead, have been for days, and she has tied their bodies to the kitchen chairs to complete the illusion of “normality.”

Sanity collides with fantasy when she tried to feed one of her children and the food falls out of his mouth, with the maggots, as her daughter’s body slides off the chair and onto the floor. And she screams. And screams. And screams.

I’m not screaming, I don’t mind telling you. I am enjoying the show.

The satisfaction I take from today is that which a non-football fan would get watching a drunken, arrogant bully, who’s been trying to throw his weight around in the pub, being taken outside and righteously leathered by the wee fella in specs at the end of the bar who’s been the butt of every joke and snide remark this idiot can spill from his fat mouth.

Today is historic. But this is a club that never learns from history and so is doomed to repeat it. At Ibrox, time doesn’t move on a straight line but in a circle and trouble is never behind them, just on the other side of the loop, coming round again.

Commentators have spent the early evening telling us that this is a disaster for Scottish football.

If that’s true it’s a wonder so many Scottish football fans are delighted about it.

Celtic fans, those the press never tires of telling us want Sevco there most of all, are gleeful.

Where are all these supporters who “miss Rangers games”?

They’re not on my Facebook or Twitter timeline or on any of the sites I frequently read and post on.

In truth, Scottish football will move forward, as it has been moving forward for the last three years, whatever the media, whatever the SPL and the SFA and others have said. Those are amongst the few people who have stayed stuck in the past, but only one club has stayed there with them. Just one has failed to adjust to the new reality, and there’s no sign of that changing.

That’s why the next crisis is already bubbling away.

Congratulations to Motherwell on two fantastic displays.

If they can keep playing like that, what an asset they will be to the SPL next season.

That aside though, keep watching the headlines.

This is going to be an interesting summer.

I think the fall has just started.

And it’s a long way down.

(I am a full time writer so your support literally pays the bills. If you like what I do, are able, and want to support the work the site does you can make a donation at the link. Many thanks in advance.)

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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.

23 thoughts on “The Long Way Down

  • 31 May, 2015 at 9:50 pm
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    Superb!
    Ref your nuclear analogy ..funny that ..for some time
    I have had this vision of 40000 cadavers in wheelchairs with RFC scarves wheeled into Ibrox every 2nd week
    At various points eg yellow cards etc controlled centrally via the wheelchairs they make cheering or jeering sounds and when a goal is scored they break into ..Hello Hello!
    I know you say the SFA etc will revisit but If they are liquidated it could be the Juniors because us wee diddy clubs will demand it
    The one thing that most of us would accept is if they totally dumped the sectarian bigots..I would let them stay where they are

  • 31 May, 2015 at 10:05 pm
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    Another great read James, love the wee guy in the specs giving the drunken bully a doin patter brilliant

  • 31 May, 2015 at 10:06 pm
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    james I don\’t like at people in pain but today and Thursday is different,I work with a few from the dark side and explained to one of them in Friday morning that in life you find your level,he laughed at me and twittered on about getting rid of Ashley and the seven year contract etc.deluded is the only word I can use to describe all the sevco 5088 followers.I tried to explain that that won\’t happen and he said just watch we will get rid of him ,I couldn\’t stop laughing they can\’t see the wood for the trees.\”totally delusional \” and long may it continue.

  • 31 May, 2015 at 10:32 pm
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    \”This club looks certain to end up in administration and then liquidation again\”

    Another cracking article but how can a club that\’s only existed since 2012 be liquidated again?

  • 31 May, 2015 at 11:07 pm
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    did not get notified of last two posts and cannot get signed up on your follow spot so trying this. Love love love this blog. Smashing writing James. Please do not post, only trying to get notifications back

  • 1 June, 2015 at 12:44 am
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    Give the media and Level 5 a day or so to get over the shock then league reconstruction will be all the rage………..Hibs will get mentioned in the same breath to legitimise the changes that the media will be promoting.

  • 1 June, 2015 at 6:59 am
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    Yup James, delusion reigns in football. I watched it at my club for years. Dundee FC. So many believed the \’sleeping giant\’ myth that we stayed down for many years instead of accepting reality and doing what St Johnstone did, running a financially tight ship and getting a decent manager in. Heyho, the story continues, all good for those without any attachment to that club. Just as iwith politics, too many believe what they read in the papers and online from people with their own agendas.

  • 1 June, 2015 at 9:37 am
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    Great read sir. I was a rangers supporter, but will NEVER step foot inside Ibrox again. My reason for this is because of their stance during the Referendum campaign. Thousands of other like minded people stopped supporting Rangers. The Orange Order run the stands at Ibrox and when they started burning Saltires, then that was it for me. and many others like me.

    I now support any team that is playing against Rangers and was so happy when the bigots missed out on promotion yesterday.

    I do hope the end is near for this dinosaur of a club.

  • 1 June, 2015 at 9:56 am
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    The big question for me is does Scottish football have the leadership to take the game out of the quagmire it entered in 1999 when the first ebt was established?

    Ogilvie will be gone soon. Regan will follow but changing personalities will not make any difference unless there is a total change of thinking.

    You mention the moment of clarity and one of the steps thereafter is to confide in another the transgressions committed against our game to give a hollow model the appearance of solidity.

    That can still come if the light continues to shine on those who either did everything in their power to keep that false model running or turned a blind eye when they knew it was running on empty.

  • 1 June, 2015 at 10:31 am
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    Absolutely brilliant read again.

    Couldn’t agree more about the media and SFA/SPFL leadership craving something that was a sham in the first place. That Rangers juggernaut that they all yearn for was utterly unsustainable, and isn’t coming back.

    The lack of imagination in the media and at Hampden is astonishing. They cannot conceive that our game could ever be anything other than ‘Celtic v Rangers*’.

    This is despite it being blindingly obvious that the game absolutely ISN’T that duopoly any more, and never can be…

    I have greatly enjoyed seeing Motherwell deliver a massive reality check to all concerned. Will they pay heed to it? I suspect not!

    If you or anyone else is interested, here are a couple of pieces about yesterday’s match, and what it means for Sevco and our game as a whole.

    https://theclumpany.wordpress.com/2015/05/31/a-massive-inconvenience/

    https://theclumpany.wordpress.com/2015/05/31/football-6-1-regandoncaster/

    Keep up the good work!

  • 1 June, 2015 at 11:25 am
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    Great article James.
    Hail Hail to you and to the wee specky guy at the end of the bar.

  • 1 June, 2015 at 11:30 am
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    Watched the match in my local, a mixed pub in a decent area.I am now totally convinced the so called fans of the dark side are delutional.Some of their deranged comments were comical, but they are convinced they will be playing in the Premier League next season thanks to league reconstruction

  • 1 June, 2015 at 12:05 pm
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    superb!!

  • 1 June, 2015 at 1:08 pm
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    Clear, concise, to the point and full off great examples of deluded thinking. I too have used the example of the bully in the playground who after years of bullying gets slapped about and everyone witnesses it, no one is feart anymore and no matter how many times they try the auld patter, no one looks at them the same way but everyone actually rejoices that they don\’t have to be subjected to their bile and grandiose statements of how big they are or used to be.. First time poster but like you, had to comment when I saw the disgusting behaviour of both players and fans who believe they just need to turn up cause their the \’rangers\’….

    Oh and also loved their\’ Don\’t do walking away \’ myth,,all they\’ve done for the last couple of years is walked away,, time and time and time again….\’ 70 mins,, I\’m off\’

    Gift that keeps giving…..

  • 1 June, 2015 at 1:29 pm
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    It will need to start from the top of the tree, and work it\’s way down. SMSM, SFA, SPFL and TV, will need to stop pampering to those zealous bigots, and tell it how it is. They died 2012, we have now reached 2015, and those Stenographers are still posting pish to the Zombie\’s who are devouring it like rotten flesh,and hanging onto every word these so called scribes put into print. I for one am sick of reading their shite I no longer buy a paper !!!. The cowering too this deceased Entity, the wanting to have it back where it belongs, it\’s rightful place in the order of all things Rangers. Their days are gone, their time is up, Scottish Football and more importantly Celtic have proved WE ALL DON\’T NEED THEM. So the longer the likes of Hugh Keevans keeps broadcasting the shit he pours out about the Sevconians the longer it will take to attempt to educate these people that sometimes The Truth and Life Is a Bitch. HH

  • 1 June, 2015 at 2:30 pm
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    Great writing on this site. Intelligent and witty. And truthful most of all. Keep at it and well done Dee for seeing the light.

  • 1 June, 2015 at 3:08 pm
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    a truly uplifting blog!!!! i was happy as a sand bhoy when i woke up today then i read your piece and my day just got bettter hh

  • 1 June, 2015 at 3:59 pm
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    Sorry it’s taken so long to post a comment but I’ve only just stopped laughing for long enough to b able to write something!! To those who believe that we needed them back in the spl for the competitive aspect can I point out that a team that finished 56 points behind Celtic just cuffed them 6-1, so what competition were they actually ever goin to provide?? I do have to say though that I for 1 will miss them if they r liquidated, if only for the sheer entertainment they’ve gave us since their inception 3 yrs ago!!! GIRFUT!!!!!

  • 1 June, 2015 at 4:41 pm
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    Gr8 read James, keep up the good work HH

  • 1 June, 2015 at 4:56 pm
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    A first class summary of exactly what has happened and is still going on in Scottish football. I still think that this past season could be the catalyst that will lead to much needed change.
    The one niggling doubt that I have is summed up in that old saying ” There are none so blind as those that will not see” I am totally convinced that Scottish football has more than its fair share of these. Reasons for this are in my mind quite simply self interest. Whether it is financial or belonging to the same clubs, as in funny handshakes or banging a big drum who knows ?.
    I suppose when you grew up with a total sense of entitlement it must be a hell of a shock to find out that you and your past beliefs were just a mirage at best and downright lies at worst. No wonder then that denial and not being able too see what is in front of
    your nose is your default mode.

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