It is an established custom that the outgoing Chief Secretary leaves an advisory note for the person next in the chair, and David Laws found the letter from Liam Byrne in the traditional spot, in an envelope on his desk.
Laws opened it, to find out what wisdom Byrne had decided to impart. Instead of a series of suggestions and guidance, he found an infuriating note. It read, “Dear Chief Secretary, I’m afraid there is no money. Best regards, and good luck!”
Can you imagine what the next chairman of Sevco Rangers will find – if there is one – when he takes up his office on the day after the fans and the media has hounded the current incumbent out of Ibrox? Probably a letter telling him where he can find all the unpaid bills.
It was Thomas Jefferson who first said “Never spend money before you have it.” If he had been on the Sevco Rangers board Chris Graham would have called him an idiot and the Daily Record would have run him out of town on a rail before his seat was warm.
It amazes me how many people inside the walls of Ibrox still subscribe to Sevconomics (copyright Angela Haggerty), otherwise known as the Walter Smith School of Economics Grand Theory which says that a club carrying the name Rangers and playing out of that stadium must always spend money, even when the cupboard is bare, the creditors are banging at the door and the car’s already been towed away to pay off a crisis loan.
Today we see in the newspapers that the board had an emergency meeting last night in London, and that another was due earlier today. At the same time, we have the very same sports pages filling up with stories about potential new signings for McCoist. The disconnect here, the mental gymnastics it takes to embrace reality on one hand and deny it on the next, is hard to fathom.
(I won’t even comment, in this piece, on the ‘coincidence’ of the club’s former PR man and their former finance director being on the same flight. It is too surreal for words, and a potential subject for an article on its own. But anyone who believes this is a ‘coincidence’ … well I’ve got a bridge you can buy. Just one owner. Painted blue.)
That the club hovers on the brink of insolvency is a known fact. It is denied by those inside the walls because to admit the truth would bring the roof down, but anyone with an ounce of skill at even the most basic mathematics, and possessed of even fractional common sense, realise it all the same.
Across the internet, an argument has been raging for the last two and some years and it shows no signs of abating. For me, it was a decided issue a long time, in every sense that was important, and it baffles me why so many people seem determined to turn it into a fight to the death when it’s largely irrelevant in real terms. The debate is, of course, over whether or not Sevco Rangers keeps the history. The idea is nonsensical to any person who’s not viewing the world through a blue tinted drug haze, and I suspect some of those who continue pushing it realise this, but to me it doesn’t matter anyway because in every way that counts their death is just undisputed.
The prestige has been stripped away. That Rangers was once a huge and influential institution is without question. That version of the club went to the grave nearly three years ago now, and whether the present club has its history or not the days of glory and pomp are gone for good. The smugness remains but there’s no longer any reason for it. They are signing 34 year old has-beens and claiming it as a masterstroke. Nothing could more acutely define the new parameters in which they exist than the signing of Kenny Miller.
There’s only one area in which the history is important, and that is the way it affects the mind-set of the club and its supporters.
It was most clearly expressed by Ally McCoist himself, a graduate of the Walter Smith School of Economic Theory, when he defended the club’s policy of continuing to whisk its players away to luxury hotels before games with the words ‘We are still Rangers Football Club and have always attempted to be as professional as we can. That will never change as long as I’m manager.”
And therein lies the dilemma for Sevco Rangers now and going forward into the future. To maintain the illusion that the club lives on, they must cling on to the “Rangers way” of doing business, although all involved, and the entire watching world, knows that the “Rangers way” was built on spending someone else’s money and makes the current incarnation, which doesn’t have a sugar daddy to lean on, resembling a suicidal basket-case.
This is how we get to the bizarre and mind-bending place where a board meeting to decide on how to progress with limited funds can coincide with the manager running wild through the halls with his “targets list” like a housewife who’s just won Supermarket Sweep.
The “continuation of history” comes with more baggage than Terminal One at Heathrow. The club remains a totem pole for the crazies and the narrow minded, with the latest marketing decision, to turn their “Ramsden’s Cup Away Top” into an ad board for the Union flag, so short-sighted and ludicrous as to defy conventional understanding. They continue to bind themselves ever tighter to this limited audience and constricted identity, not realising that if the next generation has different ideas about the world – as every new generation does – they’re quite literally watching their own existence ebb away. The oft-used come-back to those who call us “obsessed” for pointing this out is “your grandkids will be Celtic supporters …”
It’s not really a joke, is it? When a football club chains itself to an ideology it can only live as long as the ideology does … and this whole 17th Century battle commemoration nonsense has a limited appeal outside the lunatic fringe and is ultimately doomed.
It has survived up until now due to a combination of historical forces and factors, many of them related to events in Ireland, but they are less relevant as time goes by.
In September even the Union itself is up for grabs, and after that we might be confronted with the utterly incredible sight of a dead club’s fans clinging to the flag of a country that is no more. Imagine how much mileage Celtic fans are going to get out of that?
The seeds of insanity, infecting the whole club, growing like a weed, are found here, in this clinging on to the past, and this notion of superiority which long ago ceased to be real.
The more you watch this whole series of events the more Sevco Rangers comes to resemble a ship without a captain, heading straight for the rocks whilst everyone on deck runs around looking for an empty lifeboat. There is no plan, no strategy, no vision and no goal except “catch Celtic.”
It’s nice to have goals, but like Del Boy telling Rodney “this time next year we’ll be millionaires” there needs to be some kind of underlying reality to what you’re aiming for.
When Vladimir Romanov said Hearts wanted to win a Champions League within three years everyone laughed. He left the club an utter shambles, tottering on the edge of financial ruin, with his objective about as close to accomplishment as it was when he bought them.
Yesterday’s meeting in London was supposed to be a discussion about how best to raise the funds required to make the club “competitive”. This is folly, folly springing from arrogance and ego and this need to pretend that what’s dead is still alive.
Because, of course, there is an alternative to this scrambling around in the dirt, this rattling the tin cup for any spare change, and it is to accept a few fundamental facts of life.
The club can start making serious, heavy duty, spending cuts. They can tell Ally that the second biggest wage bill, the largest squad and the highest salary of any coach in this fair land really ought to be enough to win the second tier title race, and order him to get on with it. They could sell off resource draining assets like the training ground and the car park and consider whether even Ibrox is affordable. That sounds drastic, but I wonder how long they’re going to need a stadium that large if enforced cuts make it difficult to “compete.”
This craziness about “competing with Celtic” is dragging the whole club to the edge of the abyss, and this is before they’re in the top flight where the clamour for it will reach fever pitch. Reality and sanity have to be force fed to these people before then, or the pressure on the board will be enormous. This is the time for them to be honest with the fans about how bad it really is.
Dave King’s plans are a bust. They no longer have to fear him, or his idiotic brethren, like Graham, the man who backs every horse in the derby and still can’t pick a winner.
Instead of honesty, what we got yesterday was a familiar drum beat of nonsense, when Graham Wallace told the supporters that Scottish football is afraid of how strong the club is. I laughed so hard reading that I was grateful to be sitting here, at my desk, instead of out in the wider world. It would have drawn stares from people.
“There are many non-Rangers fans who support other clubs and who are genuinely concerned about the progress we are making and the momentum we are building,” he said, in all apparent seriousness, even as the details of the London meeting last night were staring up at him from his Day-Timer. “They know where we’re headed and they’d just love for us to falter. We’re not going to allow that to happen. We have a tremendous opportunity now to come together as a club and a fan base and unite to take us back to the top. Let’s not waste it.”
Then, in a moment of high farce, he said, “This is our time to put the in-fighting and the turmoil to one side, to unite across the club and back the club, back the team and show Rangers Football Club is well and truly back.”
Tugging on the heart strings, and appeals to the irrational, designed to get fans on board because otherwise the future is that they have no future.
The greatest damage done to Sevco Rangers in these past two years has been done by those who refuse to accept the death of the club they once followed. In choosing to view this as a continuation of that, they have embraced the insanity that destroyed what they loved. Their refusal, even now, to bow to common sense, logic, realism and, yes, even humility leads them back towards the cemetery gates. Their own directors accept there will be no resurrection this time. The Second Death will do what the first was unable to … it will stop this train in its tracks.
A little honesty is all the fans are asking for. They might even appreciate it.
In the early days of the New Labour government, back in 1997, when Brown and Blair had told their departments they were sticking to Tory spending plans for that fiscal period, William Hague stopped Harriet Harman in a House of Commons corridor and asked her why they were bothering. “We never would have,” he told her.
At around about the same time, Frank Dobson, the Health Secretary, went to visit the staff at a hospital in his new, sprawling empire. Upon his return, he told an amused Prime Minister that the trip had gone better than he’d expected.
“I told them there was no money, and everybody cheered,” he said.
Mind you, he was addressing rational individuals, not the Union of Fans.
Over on the Celtic fans sites, we continue to marvel at the madness of all this. The club that once lorded it over Scottish football has been reduced to a Fringe comedy act, complete with the clowns. With no sign on the horizon that even marginal sanity is going to dawn, the likelihood of Ronny Deila becoming a legend beyond his own lifetime at Celtic Park increases with every passing day.
Sevco Rangers fans, you are the last of your kind. Your grandchildren really will be playing with Celtic rubber ducks.
(Remember, On Fields of Green needs your support if we’re to grow. You can make a donation at the link, which is either at the top of the page or the bottom, depending on the smart gadget you’re using! Everyone who does so will get something back … we’re working on it at the moment!)
[calameo code=001382993bae7bcdb0e9f width=550 height=356 view=book page=47 mode=viewer]