KENNY McDowall admitted yesterday that Rangers may have to settle for the play-offs after Hibernian registered their biggest win over the Ibrox side in 102 years.
The 4-0 drubbing at Easter Road was the worst possible start for caretaker manager McDowall. Replacing Ally McCoist, who has been forced to see out his 12-month notice period on gardening leave, the former Partick and St Mirren striker was hoping to relieve the strains on the Rangers faithful after a week of more off-field turmoil with a win in Edinburgh.
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However, it all went wrong as David Gray and Jason Cummings put the hosts two up after just 12 minutes and the Rangers supporters were flooding towards the exits well before the end when Scott Robertson and Liam Craig struck after the break, Hibs racking up their biggest score against the Ibrox side since a 5-0 drubbing in January 1912.
Second-placed Rangers now trail Championship leaders Hearts by 15 points after the Gorgie side won 1-0 away at Livingston and, with Hibs just four points behind the Glasgow club in third position, McDowall acknowledged automatic promotion may now be beyond his side.
He said: “We will see where we go. We just have to keep trying to win games and see where that takes us. If it’s a play-off, it’s a play-off. We’re prepared to go there.”
Hibs head coach Alan Stubbs said: “We were clever, intelligent, as close to a complete performance as I have come about in my time as a manager or coach.”
Off the pitch, it has emerged that bus group tycoon Douglas Park is fronting a new £6.5 million rescue plan for Rangers. The Ibrox side needs to find £8.3m before 1 April or face another financial meltdown.
Rangers are already steeling themselves for losing key player Lewis Macleod in the January window, with English Championship side Brentford the latest club understood to be interested in the talented midfielder.
Park, meanwhile, has joined forces with wealthy Rangers supporters George Letham and George Taylor to offer to underwrite a new shares issue.
The move comes after the Scottish Football Association announced on Christmas Eve that it had rejected Newcastle United owner Mike Ashley’s attempts to increase his involvement with Rangers.
The SFA has been informed of the offer, which would see Park’s consortium buy all 40,739,000 shares set to be issued after the board won a vote at last week’s annual general meeting giving it the right to raise new equity.
Park, founder of the successful Park’s Motor Group, is reported to have a personal fortune of around £78m. He was part of the Blue Knights consortium which tried to save the club from liquidation almost three years ago. Letham, meanwhile, loaned the club £1m earlier this year to stave off another disaster, while Hong Kong-based Taylor bought a 3.2 per cent stake just last month.
The offer – which also includes a demand for two seats on the board – was lodged with Rangers chairman David Somers immediately after he presided over the stormy shareholder meeting last Monday. With Ashley’s attempts to boost his stake in Rangers from 8.92 per cent to 29.9 per cent set to be blocked by the SFA, the club now face three choices. They could accept the Park
consortium’s offer, or instead turn to the rejected £16m investment plan lodged by former oldco director Dave King in October, which is still on the table.
Alternatively, they could challenge the SFA’s stance on Ashley through the courts and risk further punishment from the governing body in the meantime.
But Park’s group has already gone on the attack, criticising the decision by Ashley and Sandy Easdale – the football board chairman, who controls around 26 per cent of the club through shares and proxies – to reject resolution nine at the AGM. The motion would have given the club the right to have issued shares without first offering them to existing shareholders but the vote went 55-45 against it.
Observers viewed that as an attempt by the board to keep any fresh investment in-house and a spokesman for Park’s group said: “We find it disturbing that resolution nine, which would have made it possible to issue shares for cash to new shareholders, failed to gain approval.
“Everyone knows the company is in dire need of fresh and significant investment and yet shareholders represented on the board decided to vote against investment from new shareholders.
“Presumably, they believed the SFA would clear the way for Mike Ashley to increase his holding but we now know that this was not approved. The SFA would have been aware there is a credible alternative and we would like to make sure the fans are aware of that, too.
“Our offer was based on resolution nine being passed, but this was blocked. However, as existing shareholders, we still believe it should be possible for us to gain a significant holding and are ready to invest in a new share issue.
“Our money is in place, proof of funding has been shown to the chairman and the company’s nomad [nominated adviser]. We are trying our best to do what is right for Rangers and the supporters. Why on earth would anyone not want a hugely successful businessman like Douglas Park involved?”
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