Glenn Gibbons: McCoist and Smith fail to see true Ibrox saboteurs
FOR someone who is possibly the oldest rookie manager in the history of the game, Ally McCoist this week gave a flawless impersonation of an impulsive, vengeful and nasty-minded adolescent.
Notoriety attached itself to the former striker with the suddenness and potential devastation of a pernicious virus the moment he demanded the release of the names of the three-man independent review panel who imposed sanctions on Rangers in accordance with the seriousness of the Ibrox club’s breaches of football’s regulations.
The suspicion that his disturbingly sinister outburst – “I want to know who these people are, Rangers supporters want to know who these people are” – was a prime example of premeditated mischief-making did not take long to harden into certainty. It came with the revelation of an SFA spokesperson that the supposedly bemused manager would undoubtedly already have known the identities of the judges, since Rangers had a representative attend the entire judicial proceedings.
At a stroke, McCoist’s long-established image as an ebullient and irrepressible charmer was transformed into a hideous representation of spiteful retribution. Nor did the damage inflicted on his own reputation come anywhere near to being undone by his declaration the following day that he was “disgusted” by the thought of any Rangers fan visiting abuse on the panel members and issuing threats against them and their families so distressing that the police began investigations with a view to criminal charges.
“I would not for one moment want anyone to interpret my remarks as a signal to engage in any form of threatening behaviour,” he said. The picture of a stable door being bolted while, in the background, a horse at the gallop disappears over the horizon springs to mind.
It was noticeable, too, that McCoist’s attempt at a “rescue” did not even hint at the possibility of culpability on his part, far less an apology to the panellists and their distraught families.
He may be relatively inexperienced in his present post, but he has been in professional football for 33 years, all but a handful of them in association with Rangers. In the circumstances, he would, unquestionably, be perfectly aware of the potential for appalling behaviour among certain followers of the club.
If nothing else, he ought surely to have been familiar with the regularly-documented and legally-pursued instances of assaults, abuses, threats and attempts on the life of his rival at Celtic, Neil Lennon.
But McCoist’s injudiciousness simply chimes with the general transformation of Rangers over the past two decades from a trophy-gathering phenomenon into a magnet for bad management. The series of saboteurs ranges from David Murray, whose ego-driven excesses should be recognised as the single most significant factor in Rangers’ present predicament, through the questionable motives and actions of his successor, Craig Whyte, to the representatives of Duff & Phelps, now widely regarded as the most incompetent administrators ever to be charged with righting a listing football club.
Astoundingly, Murray seems still to command the loyalty of a reliable band of apologists, among whom his former manager, Walter Smith, may be understandably – and even forgivably – numbered.
But the attempts in certain quarters of the media to present a revisionist view of history – one in which Murray is totally exculpated in the matter of Rangers’ potentially fatal wounding – have been utterly shameless. It is as though the former owner/chairman, who is officially dead where football is concerned, continues to exert an influence on his former lapdogs from beyond the grave.
Smith’s recent exercise in condemning Whyte was such an example of unadulterated propaganda, complete with see-through inaccuracies, that it was easy to wonder if we were playing the old time machine game, returning to the Murray heyday.
Having expressed bewilderment over the speed with which Rangers seemed to have descended into penury, Smith insisted that he had, at the end of last season, left “a debt-free club” that was on a sound financial footing. Staggeringly, he insisted that the extravagances of the Murray tenure were an irrelevance.
“You can make your own judgment on what happened before,” said Smith, “but the fact is none of that mattered. In May of last year, all of that had disappeared.”
Well, all of it except the £18 million of bank debt that had been transferred to Whyte, the admitted £4.2 million bill known as the wee tax case, the millions owed to clubs in Scotland, England and Europe for a variety of reasons, plus a lengthy list of creditors from ancillary trades.
There was also, of course, the spectre of the big tax case, which could yield a further liability of upwards of £70 million.
To paraphrase John Cleese in Monty Python’s Life of Brian, “apart from that, what harm did David Murray ever do Rangers?”
As if Murray and Whyte were not enough for one benighted club to take, the administrators have, since their arrival, proved about as helpful as gatecrashers. Consultation with an array of qualified people in the financial and legal professions has confirmed that none has ever heard of a period of administration that has not produced a single redundancy.
What it has brought is further haemorrhaging, to the tune of £2.5 million in the first two months of the Duff & Phelps stewardship. Now the administrators, who seem not to have complied with even one of their own “final and binding” deadlines since they took the wheel on 14 February, are making confident noises about winning an appeal against the sentence of the judicial panel. Their optimism reportedly based on encouraging (private) words from the SFA chief executive, Stewart Regan.
Maybe Regan didn’t want to spoil the moment with a reminder that any appeals panel will also be independent. And quite beyond his influence.
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