NO DAY in the recent story of Rangers is complete without something surreal taking place. And so Ally McCoist, his suit soaked in champagne, celebrated the lifting of the Third Division title by saying that he’d happily fetch Johan Cruyff or Frank Rijkaard from the airport and let them do his job if that is what the club wants.
Scorer: Aird 32
McCoist mercilessly mocked a dossier written by a Rangers investor some months back and leaked to the media on Friday. The document, apparently presented to former directors Imran Ahmad and Charles Green by a shareholder with a background in electrical engineering, called for a new broom at Ibrox that involved football in the style of Lionel Messi’s Barcelona and Cruyff’s Ajax, a vision of the future that demanded, said the blueprint, the appointment of somebody such as Cruyff or Rijkaard in place of McCoist and his coaching staff.
The Rangers manager dealt with the story by utterly taking the mickey out of it. “I believe that [the] person that wrote it was an electrician,” said McCoist. “Somebody told me that. If that’s the case I’m heading off to do a thesis on electrical engineering and I’ll hand it in to you on Monday morning – The Way Ahead For Electrical Engineering. Remember, brown is live at all times.
“On a more serious note, if the gentleman who wrote it can get Johan Cruyff and Frank Rijkaard I can tell you exclusively that I will drive over tonight and pick them up and bring them back and they can sit in the office and get on with the job. I would certainly move sideways for those two. Gallows humour is an amazing quality to have and gallows humour has kept us going over the last two years.”
While he was in the mood for looking at the big picture, McCoist offered up Bayern Munich as the perfect model for Rangers, a club driven on by great players in its past in all departments. “I have said all along that the club I respect more than any is Bayern Munich and I would like us to get a similar type model, a spine of people within the club that feel for the club. I’m not necessarily saying that all our business people should have blue blood – far from it – but I think it’s very healthy if you’ve got the John Greigs and the Sandy Jardines and the Walter Smiths that the fans can relate to and have confidence in. I just think that our club needs a spine of people that fans can look up to and trust and believe in. We’ve lacked a lot in the last two years.”
There was some debate beforehand as to how Rangers were going to celebrate the winning of the Third Division title, this being trophy handover day. There was a school of thought that said it might be relatively low-key at Ibrox as befitting the modest nature of the achievement in the club’s overall history. Another school of thought had it that they would let rip like it was the Champions League they’d won, not Scottish football’s most humble bauble. You didn’t need to be inside Ibrox to know what road their people went down. It was pretty evident on the approach to the ground. Not since the royal couple got hitched has there been so many Union Flags in one place at one time. They waved them high and waved them proud.
Rangers fans do not like the word “defiance”. Some rail against those who use it to describe why they have turned out in such vast numbers to support their team in this league this season and you can understand why the supporters don’t like the reference. They call it loyalty not defiance. But defiance came to mind yesterday. Defiance in the face of those who have brought havoc to the club: the Craig Whytes and the Charles Greens and the Imran Ahmads and the forked-tongue culture that has gripped this place for too long.
Defiance against all sorts, manifested by ticker tape and streamers and balloons in the red, white and blue and represented in song, too. In the preamble, the atmosphere was electric – and once again at the end – but it couldn’t be sustained in between because, as ever this season, the people in the stands got little encouragement from the guys on the field. If this was a grand celebration it was a performance that typified what struggles Rangers have had to get to this point. It was a grim display from the home team. Another joyless grind in a season that has had so many.
It’s hard to know where to place this victory, achieved by Fraser Aird’s 32nd-minute header, in the list of underwhelming Rangers efforts. In the box marked “Same Old Story”, perhaps. We have become utterly immune to this kind of thing, this bizarre scene of a huge support watching a jalopy of a football team. Yesterday was another example. The 50,048 crowd and the ticker-tape and the streamers and the trophy did nothing to camouflage the rank mediocrity of this Rangers team.
Yesterday the stadium felt like a fortress at the beginning and at the end, when the final whistle went and the trophy was brought out and they brought the curtain down on their season. There was a party and they deserved it. Given the mayhem that has gripped this club you’d be hard-hearted to deny them their moment.
“The lifeline of this great football club is everybody in this stadium,” said McCoist in his on-field address to the fans. “With your support, we’ll be back to where we belong.” He called it phase one complete. “We are the people,” he said, to raucous approval. Defiant to the last day.
Rangers: Alexander; Faure, Gasparotto, McCulloch, Mitchell; Templeton, Black, Hutton, Macleod, Aird; Little. Subs: Kelly, Crawford, Naismith, Hemmings, Cole
Berwick Rangers: McCallum; Jacobs, Hoskins, Townsley, McLean, Gielty, Notman, Janczyk, McLaren, Dalziel, McDonald. Subs: McCaldon, Easton, Lavery, Brydon, Morris