SIR Alex Ferguson has described this week’s events at his former club Rangers as a “tragedy”.
The Manchester United manager, who grew up in Govan and played for the Ibrox side between 1967 and 1969, was speaking for the first time about the club being placed into administration. Ferguson, commenting prior to his side’s Europa League clash with Ajax tonight, said he wasn’t “surprised by what happened at Rangers”, with Craig Whyte’s takeover having been the subject of much speculation since it was confirmed in May.
“That was on the cards for a quite a while from since that lad [Whyte] took over,” said Ferguson, who followed the club as a boy. “It is a tragedy because it is a great football club. It is one of the best clubs you could ever think about. I don’t know what will happen there.”
Ferguson’s memories of his time at Ibrox are not completely happy ones. He joined the club for a then record fee of £65,000 from Dunfermline and scored an impressive 44 goals in 57 appearances. However, his stay at Ibrox was clouded by disagreements and at one point he was dropped to the third team by manager Davie White.
But the streets of Govan nurtured him and it is claimed that his ejection from Rangers, after a Scottish Cup final defeat to Celtic in 1969, fuelled his desire to succeed elsewhere.
Ferguson stressed that it there no need to “panic” about the likelihood of a wider financial meltdown in football in the aftermath of Rangers’ collapse. “As far as the rest of Europe is concerned, the top clubs have the ability to manage their affairs in the right way,” he said. “You get the odd one here and there that run into trouble, like Portsmouth.
“But in the main you are talking about a small percentage. It is nothing we should panic about. We are just disappointed in the ones who do fall aside.”
Meanwhile, a dinner at which the recently departed club skipper David Weir and former Scottish Cup-winning skipper Ally Dawson were due to be officially inducted into the Rangers Hall of Fame has been postponed by the club’s administrators, who said it would not be “considered appropriate” to stage the event at such a time.
The annual event, which was which was set to take place at the Glasgow Hilton hotel on Sunday night, will be rescheduled.
Described by the club’s website as a “star-studded” event attended by Rangers greats both past and present, the dinner was also due to honour former players Jimmy Bowie, Arthur Dixon, Jock Drummond, Neilly Gibson, Robert Hamilton, George Niven and Jimmy Simpson.
“The event will be rescheduled for a later date and all table sales and sponsorship commitments will be honoured at that time,” said a statement, from Paul Clark and David Whitehouse, of Duff and Phelps.
“Rangers would like to apologise for any inconvenience caused to supporters, sponsors and clients and we will ensure details of the rescheduled event will be communicated as soon as possible.”
Weir, who left Rangers in January after winning eight trophies in over 250 games for the club, had been preparing to travel north for the event this weekend from his home in Cheshire when contacted by The Scotsman yesterday. The 41-year-old was the first player to be inducted into the Hall of Fame while still
contracted to the club. However, Weir, who played only once this season, chose to leave Rangers four weeks ago, having decided that it would be more helpful for the club if his wages went towards a player who was likely to feature more regularly under manager Ally McCoist. Such a gesture has been rendered futile by the remarkable events of this week.
Dawson heard the news of the dinner’s postponement while travelling to Murray Park last night.
The former Hamilton Accies manager knows what it is like to operate amid financial strife, although he never thought such circumstances would befall Rangers, the club he joined as a 16 year old in 1975. He is now coach of the Rangers Under 14 team.
Dawson had been looking forward to this weekend’s celebration to mark the induction of another nine players in the Rangers Hall of Fame.
“It’s disappointing, but it is very understandable,” he said. “I don’t think guests would be able to enjoy themselves at this time. With all the uncertainty, I think it is correct to leave it for another time when we everyone can enjoy it.”
Dawson led the club to Scottish Cup final success with a 4-1 win over Dundee United in 1981 when he was only 22.
In total he made 315 appearances before leaving in 1987 to join Blackburn Rovers. He is now employed again by Rangers but on a part-time basis.
“I not only played for the club, but I supported them prior to that,” he said. “It’s very, very difficult,” he added, with reference to the current difficulties.
Dawson has not been present at any of the staff meetings held by the administrators since their arrival on Tuesday afternoon. Dawson is at the club three nights a week, and supervises games on a Sunday. “Until we know what is going to happen we are trying to put a brave face on it,” he said.
“We are just continuing around it. Because we get are sessional, and get paid for the time we are there, we are not privy to a lot of the meetings.”
Dawson’s most recent success was as manager of the Scotland homeless team, who won the World Cup last year. Having played for Rangers in the often-bleak days of the early Eighties, he is surprised to see the club placed in an even worse position than then. However, he stresses they are not yet down and out.
“It does not totally affect those of us who are working with the kids,” he said. “We are trying to keep them separate them for it. We try and keep things upbeat for them.”
As for Ally McCoist, his old team-mate, Dawson believes the manager will take advice before deciding on his next move. McCoist has been in talks with the administrators this week. “Whatever he does, he will do it in the best interests of the club,” said Dawson.