Do you remember a time when the club which plays out of Ibrox prided itself on things like efficiency, intelligence and know-how?
Do you remember the days when, whatever else you might have said about them, they tried to behave, at least publicly, with a level of professionalism and decorum?
Some might even say they brought a touch of refinement to proceedings. A former chairman described them as being “Scotland’s second biggest institution, after the Church.” That seemed preening and posturing, both then and now, but it’s an example of how they saw themselves inside the walls. They were haughty, arrogant, a wee big smug and superior. They were known for it. Back then, they took themselves seriously as a major player, and they acted like one.
I watched Peter Lawwell sign the Magners deal the other day, and I heard him take a direct question about Rangers, on whether Celtic had any comment on a website article on their site. Lawwell seemed amused by the suggestion, and his reply was artfully put, with real finesse. It showed the same deft touch with which the entire event was handled, and it dawned on me; people have been talking all season about “What if …” regarding the clubs being drawn together to play in the cup.
Unless there is a total calamity at Tannadice, that isn’t going to happen, and so the gulf which exists between the teams won’t be publicly exposed for quite some time to come, but I do believe the last couple of days have settled once and for all, in the minds of everyone with half a brain cell to process matters, just how enormous has become the gulf off the pitch.
The days of dignity are over. When Graham Speirs is hitting you from one direction and Bill Leckie is hitting you from another, when your club’s rival fans are howling in derision and delight, at the same time as a former gin-soaked hack who can’t get a gig is rattling the bars in his secure unit singing your praises … it’s maybe time to think about winding your neck in. The press is still printing your every word, but increasingly for the shock value – like tabloid pictures of a circus fat man having the walls of his house removed so they can get him to hospital for a stomach stapling op. (Any resemblance to any persons living or dead, or currently working in the Rangers media room, is purely coincidental, by the way.)
It’s newsworthy … but in the way a two headed dog would be. He’s talked about not leaving Ibrox until he hears the Champions League anthem. If he keeps going the way he’s headed I expect we’ll be hearing the theme tune from Loony Tunes long before that.
Yes, the Big House has become The Big Top. For all the threats to send out the lawyers they’ve taken instead to sending in the clowns. The club where they don’t do walking away have slipped on the cartoon feet, and are now talking about flip-flapping away instead. To anywhere really. Anywhere that will have them. They received some bad news yesterday, when the Yorkshire and Humberside Southern Farm District League 2 filled their last space for next season.
There has been talk about the MLS, and England, leading to one now famous tweet between concerned Rangers fans as to whether, if the club was allowed into one of these leagues, Ibrox would still be in Scotland. The question does not inspire a conventional laugh-out-loud; it is, instead, embarrassingly funny, like watching a guy walk into a lamp-post and knocking himself out. God help us … would Ibrox still be in Scotland … Seriously? Yet it’s no stupider than some of the utterances of the Idiot in Chief.
I suggest if they’re relocating the ground, they talk to the guy who sold Jack his beanstalk beans, and hoist the entire club … upward!
Seriously, why not? They can only go upward now because credibility has plateaued. Even the praises of the Laptop Loyal have dimmed, and open mockery has broken out across the sports pages. The only people still cheering are the Loonball Loyal instead.
But let’s be honest; how many Rangers fans actually are enjoying the spectacle, and how many cringe whenever he opens his mouth? How many look back, wistfully, to the days when the club conducted its affairs like a professional body, instead of like a low budget production at The Fringe? How many think it’s doing them some long term good, instead of inflicting appalling reputational damage? I would bet on the “fans” being a very small number indeed. Only someone with a very limited, very narrow view of the club they support could actually be enjoying seeing a once proud institution hijacked by this one-man-bandwagon, this festival side show, this circus of freaks.
Serious organisations do not handle themselves in this shoddy fashion. They take their business seriously, they take their customers seriously, they take their competitors seriously. There was a time when Rangers could call on a private jet to whisk top class players in for signing talks. How long before they’re bringing trialists to the stadium in a plastic car with yellow doors, and a red nose that squirts water when you honk the horn?
The club is in Scotland’s lowest league, playing against teams of car mechanics, shop workers, butchers, bakers and candlestick makers. The teams they come up against have tiny stadiums, collection can budgets and hedges where stands should be. Yet their chairmen act with a dignity and grace which is sorely missing when Ruprecht and the rest of the cast from Dirty Rotten Scoundrels come to town.
At Ibrox, we have a man in his pyjamas, knocking the ornaments off the fireplace because he wasn’t consulted before a decision was taken.
These other clubs act like professionals. When they talk, people take what they say seriously, because their clubs might be small, but they are thoughtful people who have made long term commitments and contributions to the Scottish game.
This is the difference between those who are in the game to give something back and those who are in it to take something out. Yet those kind of people have always existed in football. They don’t all claim their club is the centre of the universe, and claim 10% of the global population as secret followers. Say whatever you like about Vladimir Romanov, but even he doesn’t run around screaming, banging on his pans just to make noise.
Whether we admit it or not, everyone likes the village idiot, because he raises a laugh. Who doesn’t fall about with the giggles every time they hear Trigger say “If it’s a girl, they’re naming it Sigourney, after an actress. If it’s a boy they’re naming it Rodney … after Dave”? Who doesn’t have tears streaming down their face when they hear Frank Spencer talk about how Betty’s mother would have rather see her daughter marry someone else? “No-one else in particular … just someone else”, and there’s a great moment in The Sopranos where Tony tells Dr Melfi about a guy named Jimmy Smash who always wanted to be a tough guy, and hung out with the gang during the holidays, and who Tony and his crew only kept around because he had a cleft palate and they liked to make him sing.
But as Tony tells Melfi, “After a while, the laughs get old …” and when that happened, Jimmy Smash was no longer part of the gang.
It will take a while longer for the supporters of some of Scotland’s football clubs to run out of patience with the goings on at The Laughing Academy, but I suspect the club’s own fans would rather get back to the days when their club acted as if everyone in it was born with a silver spoon up his arse.
For the rest of us, the comedic antics can still raise a smile .. for now.
Because everyone likes to laugh at Ruprecht.
None of us would have let our sister marry his brother.
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