Meanderings make some valid points but fail to put a lid on the latest shenanigans that have subsumed Ibrox, argues Andrew Smith
There is only one place to begin with the Rangers statement issued on behalf of club chairman Dave King yesterday – at the end of the meandering missive chronicling the Ibrox club’s version of events that resulted in manager Mark Warburton, assistant David Weir and head of recruitment Frank McParland being relieved of their positions on Friday night.
It is only in the final paragraphs we are told that the “outcome” of a meeting on Monday “was that the agent [of the trio, Dave Lockwood] subsequently offered that Mark, David and Frank would resign with immediate effect without compensation as long as the club, in turn, agreed to waive compensation from any new club that they signed for. After discussion the board accepted this offer and employment was immediately terminated. In order for us to achieve our ambitions we need employees that, like your board members, will always put Rangers first.”
The statement then adds: “While we were dealing with the admin and press releases relating to the resignation, the agent again contacted us and asked to defer the resignation until the management had secured a new club. I assume that the new deal had somehow collapsed at the last minute. The board met to consider this request but resolved to hold them to the original agreement.”
These claims require translation because, while Rangers maintain that Warburton, Weir and McParland resigned, Scotland On Sunday understands the men have told legal representation they “definitely didn’t resign in any shape or form”. And the fact is, the statement says as much itself.
Patently, Warburton and his two close associates had picked up the vibe that the Rangers board believed he and his team had outlived their usefulness following a Premiership season that King says has failed to meet expectations. In turn, Warburton never seemed entirely at one with Scottish football and – as King details with the “stepping stone” comment he attributes to the Englishman – he appeared to pine for a return south.
What do you do if you are agent Lockwood in those circumstances? Well, you see if you can broker a deal whereby there can be a quick, clean break between coaching team and club as appears to be sought by all parties.
So it would seem that Lockwood has said to the club’s managing director, Stewart Robertson, something to the effect that “if I can get my guys another club, would you waive the right to the £1 million severance package that is written into their agreements?” Rangers take this to mean they have stated their intention to leave and when Lockwood later argues that he never suggested they would jump overboard without a life raft, the club push on with jettisoning them as they see a chance having presented itself to save on any severance pay from the Ibrox end. And so we have the current sorry, soggy mess of claim and counterclaim surely destined for the courts, where it has appeared obligatory for Rangers sagas since the Ibrox club’s descent into liquidation in 2012, to end up.
There are many and various self-justifications King crams in before directly dealing with the Warburton situation in yesterday’s statement that are reheats, as he sets out once more the plan to restore Rangers’ name to the top of the Scottish game. Yet, the South African businessman also opens a new front in essentially blaming Warburton for the fact that the club are behind schedule. Set against the club’s £11m football budget, and the fact that “a large portion of our wage bill was not even seeing regular playing time” as King puts it, his criticisms of a Warburton Rangers side that are 27 points behind Celtic and behind an Aberdeen team operating with half the budget is hardly without justification.
Or as King is quoted in the statement: “This season we did not stick to our plan of signing five or six players because the manager appealed to the board for additional signings. Despite the concern about departing from our plan of prudent phased investment, the board backed the manager’s request for accelerated investment. This placed us significantly above the football resources available to our competitors (other than Celtic) and was expected to ensure that we finished a strong second in the league and had a squad that could be added to, close season, to make a strong impact in the Europa League qualifiers. While I still believe that we can finish a strong second, I am stating the obvious to admit that we are not where we anticipated we would be at this stage of the season and we have not repeated the success that we had with our signings from the previous season.”
King also deals with the thorny subject of the £30m investment he promised in taking over Rangers in early 2015. He has been unfairly maligned over this, in truth. Such a sum he claims will probably be exceeded, maintaining that £18m has already been spent... at a club that continues to be a loss-making operation, and won’t be anything other any time soon.
“Ultimately, the overall investment in any football team is driven by the net player spend and, given that we are behind target with our squad, there may be a further need to accelerate investment at the end of this season,” his statement reads “It is my present personal view that we will, in all likelihood, invest more than £30m before we are where we want to be but this will be revisited once we have a new permanent management team in place.”
Rangers appear to face intractable problems that recruiting a new manager won’t solve. Warburton may not have derived value for the money he was allowed to spend, but King and his board appear unable to raise the funds to challenge Celtic for whom, according to their manager Brendan Rodgers, £15m wouldn’t be enough to buy striker Moussa Dembele’s big toe. That sort of sure-footedness places them outside of Rangers’ orbit. And that surely means more vicious turning on managers, and more biblical-length verbiage to vindicate such, at various points in the Ibrox club’s not-too-distant future.