THE gorilla in the room was a phrase given a regular airing during the last year of the old Rangers after former chairman Alastair Johnston used it to describe possible tax liabilities the club then feared.
Now, when it comes to Charles Green’s Rangers, the primate has given way to an elephant any time the matter in hand is the 140th anniversary celebrations being celebrated at Ibrox.
Yesterday, nine-in-a-row mainstays Mark Hateley and Richard Gough met the press to promote the jamborees for a football organisation it could be claimed is closer to 140 days old than any other time period; Green buying Rangers’ assets to create a newco in the summer as the oldco headed towards liquidation.
Predictably, the two Rangers big-game hunters were only too willing to fire off their blunderbusses when the elephant in question was trumpeted.
There are only a couple of complications for those maintaining that the current Rangers represent exactly the same club as existed previously. If such were the case, then the team now playing out of Ibrox would have retained its permanent residency within Scottish football’s top flight, instead of now being an associate member of the Scottish Football League sitting atop the Third Division.
Moreover, one of those who claimed that Rangers “history, tradition and everything that’s great about the club” would be “swept aside” if, as happened, the oldco failed to obtain a Company Voluntary Arrangement was none other than current owner Green himself.
Hateley believes the past five months will have alerted the Yorkshireman to the errors of his summer ways. “When he first arrived then I think he said a lot of things that he probably regrets and that will be one of them,” the former English internationalist said. “When you get an outside party coming in who doesn’t know what the football club is all about then it’s all new. That inexperience of coming into a huge institution is understandable, but there is a realisation of what Rangers Football Club is all about now.
“You will never break that history whether it’s an oldco or a newco. The 140-year history of Rangers is still there; it doesn’t get wiped away. The strength is there within the club through the tragedies, the Ibrox disaster, the glory of winning the Cup Winners’ Cup in 1972 – they can never be wiped away.
“If you are doing that then you are putting a black spot over the memory of the people who lost their lives. It is all a part of the football club’s history and Charles realises that fact now.
“The club means so much to so many and they have shouted from the rooftops that this is still Rangers Football Club. They are still working out of Murray Park and playing at Ibrox.”
Gough presents the newco/oldco switch as a business technicality and insists that “there is not even an argument” that Rangers in the here and now stand as a new club. “It is the same institution, even if there has been a change of ownership and everyone knows that. Celtic changed their name, their corporate shell, or whatever.”
A line regularly trotted out, the difference is of course that in 1994 Fergus McCann incorporated the old Celtic limited company in the plc he created. The whole point of Green’s asset-only purchase was so that he could bin the old corporate entity and the £58 million of liabilities that put that business under.
It is, however, entirely natural for Green’s Rangers to claim the old club’s heritage and reasonable for it to be generally accepted that they are a new incarnation of the club that used to be.
Indeed, as the officially endorsed boycott of the Scottish Cup tie against Dundee United at Tannadice demonstrates, their supporters, and eager-to-please new owner, are all too willing to imagine that there are old battles to be fought and old scores to be settled.
While Hateley backs this course of action, citing events of the summer – when the newco was refused entry to the Scottish Premier League – as still “raw”, Gough has broken ranks over the moves and stated, “thinking like the football captain”, he would prefer to see a 6,000 visiting support backing Rangers in the February fifth round confrontation. Gough also goes his own way when it comes to the Ibrox club’s league status. Green has said his club will not play in the SPL as it is currently constituted.
Meanwhile, the Rangers faithful have claimed they want to work their way through the SFL, confident that, by the time they do so, the SPL will have been replaced after crumbling without the Ibrox pound. Gough’s view is altogether different.
“The sooner we get into the top league the better,” he said. “I just want Scottish football to get back in a positive way again. I looked at Celtic getting through in the Champions League, and I congratulate them on that.
“Mark and I were lucky enough to play in [what was effectively] a Champions League semi-final and it is the best place to be. And it’s good for the country. We want to get up there to that top league and be playing Champions League football again as soon as possible. That’s our goal. If league reconstruction allowed us to get up there next year, rather than spend three years going through the divisions, that would be fantastic and I would love that. It would be for the benefit of Scottish football, too. And it should happen.”