There are two sides to every story. The first side I detailed in my earlier guest post “Football Is Worth Defending”. This is the second side, in defence of Rangers. This post is not an analysis of Rangers i.e. it is not an attempt to critique what is good and bad about Rangers. Instead, like my previous post, it is one-sided but with one simple condition: if I had to write down what is good about Rangers what would I say? Here it is.
What has Rangers contributed to the world of football? In reality, a great deal. To begin with, Rangers has given us players of sublime ability that could only have come from the Gods. Legends such as Bob McPhail, Jim Baxter, Willie Henderson, Davie Cooper, Ian Durrant, Ally McCoist, Paul Gascoigne and Andy Goram easily trip off the tongue; and then there is John Greig: their captain who played with his heart in one hand and his opponents testicles in the other.
Rangers has won more championships than any other club in the world. Let me repeat that: Rangers has won more championships than any other club in the world. That is a phenomenal achievement. Within their glittering array of silverware is the UEFA Cup Winners’ Cup and 9 successive league championships. In 2008 they missed out in repeating their UEFA Cup win in 1972 but lost out to Zenit St Petersburg, a team with far greater financial resources. Remarkably, that was the fourth UEFA Cup final in which Rangers had appeared: 1961, 1967, 1972 and 2008.
Rangers has suffered four great tragedies, two of which they overcame with great dignity, a third that they could do nothing about and the last, well, that is still unfolding. The first tragedy was the 1902 Ibrox disaster when 25 people died at a Scotland v England game; the third tragedy was the 1971 Ibrox Disaster where 66 fans died at an old firm game; and the fourth tragedy is unfolding before our very eyes. The third tragedy involves Johnny Thomson. He died in an accidental collision with Sam English, the Rangers striker. Johnny died for his bravery but what happened to Sam English was also a tragedy. After that fatal incident he was a broken man and his heart was no longer in football. Worse, he seemed to give up living. Two great men died on that pitch in 1931.
What has Rangers contributed to society? Once again, a great deal. They have given pleasure to many fans, and players, down the years. They have contributed to the financial well-being of Glasgow. Over the years their charitable work has been considerable. Every year the players’ visits to Yorkhill Hospital lighten up the faces of children who have heart-breaking illnesses, some of whom with only months to live. Whatever my views on some of the theatres of war entered into by our troops, their duty to country can leave them carrying horrific permanent mementos: debilitating physical and mental scars. Yet Rangers give them a day out that they will remember for the rest of their lives.
Now to the present day. The Rangers fans are not to blame for their current predicament. The villains of the piece are SDM, Craig Whyte and the main stream media. The first two everyone knows about, but the part played by the third culprit is interesting. When Celtic was heading for oblivion in 1994 the media were only too eager to inform the Celtic fans that their club was doomed. Remember the image of the broken crest appearing in the Daily Record? They did the fans a favour. We reacted immediately, banded together and forced the old board out, ending with the financial support of Fergus McCann’s share issue. With Rangers the media’s approach was very different and very fatal. They sat on their typewriters and neglected to warn the Rangers fans of what was happening. On the contrary, they told them repeatedly that a saviour was always just around the corner: SDM (again), Whyte, King, Miller, etc. In effect, they gave the fans zero time to react to what then became inevitable.
If Rangers had gone straight to the bottom division, as their fans wanted, rather than get involved with an abortive attempt to enter the SPL, then this would have saved much ill-feeling. This was not the fans’ fault but one caused by the SFA and the media pushing for this option. Charles Green was not to blame either. He was led to believe it was a viable option and like any leading custodian of a club, he jumped at the chance. Unfortunately for the image of his club, he was led up the garden path by a bunch of clowns.
Alistair McCoist. He did not walk away. Irrespective of the financial incentive to stay, he was entering the unknown that had the easy potential to go belly up. Without any training preparation, the loss of a full team of SPL players, and with the turmoil behind the scenes, he had to both manage the remnants of a team and become the trusted PR face of Rangers. He won the league championship at a canter. In addition, when Charles Green made a decision, and it was controversial e.g. boycotting of Dundee Utd or sacking of Sandaza, it was McCoist that was put on the spotlight. When the fans sang “inappropriate” songs at the Berwick game it was McCoist who behaved like a dignified leader to come out after the game to apologise. It was McCoist that was a pall-bearer at Tommy Burns’ funeral. God bless you for that Alistair.
The club. The one-million dollar question: is it a new club? My position is twofold: firstly, liquidation law mean the club is gone. Secondly, no law in the land can stop a fan following his team. Put on your Rangers top, wrap your blue and white scarf round your neck, take your usual seat in the stadium of your dreams and watch the light blues run on to that ancient field where the ghosts of McPhail and Baxter and Cooper still play when everyone has gone home. No law kicks a ball and no law can take that ball away. A football club is not the Chairman. Nor his Board. Nor even the owner. It is the living, breathing heartbeat shared by the fans and the players.
The Rangers fans supported the team when they had to, through thick and thin, in great numbers. They are not Huns or scum or the Klan. They are fellow human beings. We work beside each other. We share the same cinemas. The same hospitals. The same air. They are our neighbours. Our relatives. We are not defined by the colour of the clothes that we wear but by what is inside us and how we treat our fellow citizens. Collectively we do not have separate histories nor separate futures: for a brief time on this planet we inhabit the same space.
My best friend in my schooldays was of a different religion from myself and while I attended a Catholic school in Glasgow town centre, he went to the “proddy” one just down the road. I supported Celtic, he supported Rangers. We would travel on the same bus into town in the morning, sitting not beside our school mates but beside each other, and meet at 4.00 after every school day. Sometimes I would wait outside his school gates, sometimes he wait outside mine. Football never came between us. It’s only being a grown-up that fucks you up. Cam reminds me of him: same keen intelligence and cheeky humour. Which neatly leads me onto Internet bampots.
The football fans on this site are not bad people. On occasion we post some awful, instantly regrettable, remarks. What can start off as an intelligent and good-natured discussion can very quickly descend into a snake-pit of vitriolic bile. Our mothers would be ashamed at how we speak to each other. I admire the Rangers posters. Despite their club’s problems, they come out fighting. Unfortunately, we wind each other up and it can go too far. Cam I have mentioned: he’s a wind-up merchant and bloody good at it; but he’s a decent spud. Carson is a warrior. When his friends need him, he appears, plants his feet down, puffs out his chest and takes no prisoners. Richboy, Adam, Graham, 2 Sides, all have a contribution to make, some of whom have unfortunately departed from the blog shaking their head in disbelief. Those who remain need to step back and see what we have become. For the most part we have crossed the line from viewing each other as rivals to treating one another as enemies. Falter and you will suffer a metaphorical punch in the face.
I made the point in the first part of this double post that Rangers should also step back from adopting the militaristic language of enemies. At the same time others should extend the hand of friendship. Celtic should make that generous move. Rangers’ predicament is not Celtic’s doing but for the good of Glasgow, Celtic should re-establish cordial relations with Rangers. It is in everyone’s interests, not least the mothers who fret for their sons and daughters every time our teams meet in anger. A charity game at Hampden for Cancer Research, or an equally laudable cause, would be a start and present a different, new, fresh image of Glasgow’s football rivalry. Sooner or later both will meet in a competitive game – let’s cut each other off at the pass and meet for a charitable cause. Our own Charity Shield. Now there’s a thought. My two guest posts have very different endings, deliberately so. The choice is ours to make.
Now the SFA hierarchy, on the other hand, have shown no redeeming features.
Posted by JohnBhoy