To read the papers in the last few days is to read an assault on the intelligence and integrity of the only people in Scottish football who actually matter.
Us. The supporters. The fans.
Without us, the game is dead. Without us, there’s nothing. That’s a fact so self-evident, you’d think it wouldn’t need spelling out. But it clearly does.Some people appear to have forgotten it. I have no problem using this particular article to remind them of the fact, and to ask that they show a little more respect to those who keep the blood pumping through the national sport. I don’t expect we’ll get it, but I am still going to demand it, lest these people think their views are all that count.
Let’s start with Charlie Adam, as good a place to begin as any. You really have to love this guy, a guy who did nothing to help Craig Levein keep his job and then decided to accuse the fans and the media of getting him the sack. Adam’s performances under Levein were woeful, and he was not alone in that. Levein’s own tactics were a bad joke, and his results a disgrace, confirming what those of us who harboured doubts from the beginning believed, so where is the honesty in blaming the fans and the press for his dismissal? In what parallel universe does that bizarre logic apply?
If the fans had been polled I wonder if Levein would ever have been hired. The press can take some of the blame for the fact he was; many of the same people hammering nails into the coffin are conveniently forgetting they were amongst the loudest voices for his appointment. What else do we expect from the Fourth Estate?
Woe betide the SFA if they make the same mistake again. The media is screaming for some of its own favourites to get the gig, with the most bizarre and dangerous hype surrounding the notion of a return for Walter Smith. Let me caution the people calling for it. It would be wholly unacceptable to the supporters.
Smith might be a hero to legions of Rangers fans, but they are probably alone in their belief that his resignation from the Scotland post was anything other than a breach of faith so egregious he should never again be allowed a role at national level. It was a betrayal, pure and simple. It annihilated trust at a stroke, and nothing Smith did following it repaired the damage. During his time in charge of Rangers, international call-offs from Ibrox became the norm, and we had the appalling episode where Barry Robson was sent home by the national coaches despite being fit, in an ill-conceived effort to divert attention from the number of players at Smith’s club who had pulled out in that particular week.
There are some who think Smith is out of the running, now that he’s a non-executive director at the club he turned his back on the country for. I don’t hold to that. Non-executive directors do less work in and around the place than the emergency plumber, and unless he wants to spend all day in the Blue Room playing with his ballcock there is the sum total of nothing for him to do inside the walls of Ibrox. His role is to turn up at matches every once in a while, and to act as a human shield for the increasingly bizarre Charles Green. His job is to help sell the share issue, and to be there in case McCoist presides over another collapse in form. He has no duties beyond those things, absolutely no responsibilities, and thus the door is still open. It should be slammed shut, closed forever, and the idea never mentioned again.
I said already there is one man for the job; Gordon Strachan. He needs to be locked in a room and forced to sign the contract if that’s what it takes. He, and he alone, can rebuild the national team and restore some semblance of pride in the jersey. He knows many of the players, he is a hero to the fans, he is media savvy and because of his outside duties as a TV pundit he won’t be as prone to the temptations of the club game as some will. We know full well that guys like Davies and co would take the role only as a means of grabbing another job, and so giving it to one of them is a slap in the face to the fans. As club fans keep their teams alive, the perilous state of our national team would be ten times worse without the Tartan Army. This time, the fans need to be listened to. This time, their views have to be taken into account.
One guy seemingly not in favour of taking the fans views into account is Neil Lennon. On Saturday, after another shocking home league performance, he got into a heated debate with a supporter, and following the game threatened to quit.
Neil Lennon, the man, is a hero of mine. He stood up and stood firm against appalling behavior in years past, the kind of behaviour that would have had any other manager in the land heading for the hills. Lennon’s courage is the real kind, the pressure he endured the hardest any coach in the UK has had to put up with. As a human being, his story is an example to all of us in the value of not buckling down to threats and intimidation, a story of triumph over adversity.
The same man sat in a press conference at the weekend and said that criticism could do what bullets and bombs did not, and drive him out of Parkhead. If he’s telling the truth that’s a shocker. I suspect, however, that it was simply the heat of the moment, and I would hope that in the cold light of day he sorely regrets what he said. His comments were an ill-considered, petulant rant, and he’d have been better fitted turning the anger where it belongs; on the pitch, and in the mirror. He needs to take responsibility for why this team, which secured one of the best results in the history of the club only a few weeks ago, and is on the verge of Champions League qualification, is failing to turn up for domestic games. Right now, as far as the league goes, this team is complacent, lazy, arrogant and unfocussed. It is not good enough, and Lennon knows it.
Lennon does not like criticism, of himself or of his team. That’s understandable, as there are times when the stuff leveled at him has been outrageous and out of order. Yet can he really have failed to grasp that the very people who defend him against it are the people he insulted at the weekend? In doing it, he gave the media a rash of sensationalist headlines and quotes which, mark my words, will be saved up and doled out again and again and again. Lennon has given ammo to the very people who have whipped up the witch hunt against him in years gone by, and he did it by attacking the people who stood shoulder to shoulder with him in that time. I cannot, for the life of me, imagine he actually intends to quit, so it was a ridiculous comment to make.
There are Celtic fans who will say my comments amount to sacrilege. That’s because many of them are guilty of falling in with a personality cult. I don’t do that. If Celtic under Neil Lennon is failing then Neil Lennon needs to be treated as anyone else would be. If Neil’s life was in danger again, I would volunteer to be a human shield to protect the man. But the manager is a different story, and he is only as good as the league table at the end of the season. Right now, we do not look like league champions, and the responsibility for that stops at his desk.
Lennon though has mitigating circumstances on his side. He had just watched a quite scandalous display, and was feeling frustrated. No such excuses can be made for the idiots with typewriters who have been using the FTT Tax Case verdict to attack the bloggers of the New Media. The pitiful posturing of Jim Traynor hardly comes as a shock, nor does Billy Dodds defending the EBT he once denied having. Tom English’s boorish, preening, self-important drum banging was truly retch-inducing though.
Amongst other allegations being leveled at us by English and others is the accusation that we were motivated by hate, something myself and almost every one of the bloggers would refute. Yet even if it was true, is this somehow more disreputable than being motived by sycophancy , fear, laziness, incompetence or self-interest? These are the default positions of any number of our “professional” journalists, those who were either too stupid, idle or scared to actually go after the tax case story in the first place, and it inspires contempt, and nausea, to watch those who sat on the fence daring to criticise those of us who actually took a stand and presented the facts. Did some people, myself included, go out on the limb and make a prediction as to how the case would turn out? Of course! But you may as well go after the journalists who sat in on the OJ Simpson murder trial and predicted his being found guilty before the stunning result.
OJ Simpson was certainly involved in those crimes, and few people are in any doubt about that. What sealed that view was the verdict in the civil cases against him, the book he co-wrote on the murders and his convictions since. In other words, time, and circumstances, have called the original verdict into question, until most people are no longer in any doubt.
Likewise, ask Tommy Sheridan about his own posturing outside court when the trial verdict in his libel case was reversed on appeal, only for him to be hauled into court for perjury during it.
These things happen, and they happen more than most people are aware.
What makes the editorials and commentary pieces in the media highly amusing is the way in which they’ve accused us of prejudging the event beforehand, whilst they blindly ignore the strength of the dissenting opinion and the near certainty of an appeal. Added to that is the staggering depth of contempt they show for us by trying to dismiss the charges against Rangers, being investigated by the SPL. It is willful ignorance or simply ignorance that leads op-ed writers to conclude there is no case to answer, when that case is spelled out clearly in the report, in both the not guilty verdict and the dissent?
Who believes the nonsense that “loans” to footballers do not equate to earnings undeclared to the sporting authorities?
It insults our intelligence to pretend otherwise, and it offends any sense of right and wrong to dress this up as some kind of moral triumph.
MIH and Rangers won the case on an interpretation of the law. The law has made a distinction which says I’s were dotted and T’s were crossed, and that is all it says. It does not make any comment on the morality of what’s happened, or the consequences to sporting fairness or the impact on society of “lawful” tax dodging. The verdict says “these guys wanted to legally avoid tax, and to the extent they paid attention to the exact detail of the law that’s alright with us”. What it did not do was say that Rangers paid up what they should have, that what they did was right or that what they did was moral and correct. It was legal, or so said a couple of judges, but you could find any number of judges who said the invasion of Iraq was legal too, because I’s were dotted and T’s were crossed. Yet most of us know full well it was a criminal act of war.
The SPL case could have been decided before the verdict in the FTT was even in, and it could be argued that the delays up until now have been deliberate so the verdict in the tax case could provide “cover” for a verdict already arrived at.
We’ll probably never know the answer to that one, but this case has absolutely nothing to do with the FTT, as the press knows full well. To use the verdict to try and influence this one is not only wrong but corrupt.
I have long argued that the footballing “community” in Scotland is a small, insular and incestuous one. Those on the inside, managers, players, officials, directors, media, all look out for one another’s interests, and promote one another’s causes in ways we probably don’t fully understand or appreciate.
Within the bubble, there is an unhealthy, and obvious, contempt for those who live out with it, and that has been demonstrated time and time again.
Yet the bubble itself does not exist by divine right. These people are not masters of the universe, born into these posts and dependent on no-one for the maintenance of the status quo. All of it, the entire universe in which they live, depends on us.
We buy the newspapers (or we used to). We attend the games. We pay the wages of over-rated players like Adam, and managers like Neil Lennon, and we have more right to be critical of what we see on the park than those people have to be immune from that criticism. On the day Lennon pays the mortgages of fans he can react with fury to the critics in the stands. Otherwise, he and others need to remember who pays their bills and often do so at the expense of their own.
I would rather he shut his mouth and focussed on getting the team to play, as I would rather Adam focussed on the numerous deficiencies in his game which contributed to his manager getting the bullet, and that Tom English and the people he works with grew some balls and showed some humility, and respect, for the people who have been beating them at their own game in the last few years.
Their reactions in the face of the fans is revealing of a deep disdain for the people who really matter. A greater man than any of them had it sussed when he said “Football without the fans is nothing.”
A lot of people best bear that simple fact in mind.
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