IN THIS space every year we do an alternative review of the previous 12 months in the madhouse that is Scottish football.
It’s not so much an examination of what happened on the field but an exploration some of the gobsmacking sideshows that you find in the game in this country.
The quality of the product might be plummeting, but if you’re interested in peculiar characters and berserk goings-on then this is the place.
For instance, the top ten off-your-rocker moments from the past two years featured bombs in the post at Celtic, a sex offender at Hearts, two kidnappings, the whodunit involving Allan McGregor lying in a pool of his own blood outside his Glasgow flat, a bitter dispute between an evolutionary biologist and the media man of the Catholic church in Scotland over Hugh Dallas, a row between Charlie Mulgrew and bra boss Michelle Mone, Kyle Lafferty mistaking Charlie Nicholas for a cricketer and Craig Brown getting involved in a touchline punch-up with a mouthy Dane.
This year we’re making the review the alternative to the alternative. By that we mean it’s all about Rangers this time. And it’s not a top ten either. In an attempt to round up as many snapshots from the most historic, and most mental, year in the life of Rangers, we’ve made it a top 20 – and still we’re leaving stuff out.
At Ibrox, the year is ending pretty much as it began, with controversy and head-scratching puzzlement, the latest episode being this spat between the club and PFA Scotland that is mystifyingly complex and a small bit bonkers. Fitting, that, because complex and bonkers are two words that could easily summarise what has happened and what is continuing to happen at Rangers.
So here we are, then. A sideways look at the Rangers story in 20 vignettes.
20. James Traynor exits journalism to become the Malcolm Tucker of Ibrox, wooed by Charles Green who rewards his new communications fixer with an eye-watering salary and as much as succulent lamb as he can possibly eat.
19. A day in June when John Brown, outside the front door at Ibrox, did his own unique version of Martin Luther King’s I Have A Dream as he attacks Charles Green and declares that he’s putting together his own consortium to “buy them oot”. His audience is agog at his oratory. “People ask me who’s yer investors. Youse! My investors are youse!” Cue rapturous applause, much swearing and lots more Bomber.
18. Tennessee Tow-Truck tycoon Bill Miller, made preferred bidder by Duff and Phelps, only to change his mind when he finally realised what the hell he was letting himself in for. He claimed he didn’t like the look of the finances, but some abusive emails might also have had something to do with it. He can’t have been best pleased to be door-stepped by a Scottish tabloid either. We can only imagine his reaction when he realised that the Daily Record had stuck him on page one under the headline: “GERS TYCOON, 65, DATES BECKY, 37 – BILL’S BEAUTY QUEEN LOVER”. That was the last we heard from Mr Miller.
17. The rise and fall of rangerstaxcase, the blogging phenomenon that led the way on the reporting of Rangers’ EBT travails, only to get so emboldened by its own success that it misread the judgment when it finally arrived, tweeting about his victory only to realise shortly after that it was actually a defeat. Where has he gone? And will he return?
16. From June, the story of the two Glasgow businessmen, Allan Stewart and Stephen McKenna, who were reported as being ready to launch an £11 million bid for the club, only to do a Miller within 24 hours. Scandal upon scandal. One of them was outed as a Celtic fan.
15. Dave King swans into Glasgow in February after the club falls into administration, threatens to sue everybody and then goes away again to continue his fight with the South African Revenue Services.
14. The battle of the Lords as Carloway upholds the findings of the SFA’s judicial panel report into how Craig Whyte got his hands on Rangers and what, precisely, he got up to during his brief reign, and then gets undermined by Lord Glennie, who reckons the transfer embargo is out of order.
13. Walter Smith’s comedy bid to take over the club that came and went in the blink of an eye. Smith reckoned that Charles Green should have handed him the club for £6m, despite the fact that Green had already shelled out considerably more than £6m to buy it in the first place. Smith launched his “bid” on the day it was announced that the club would be liquidated, a delay that rather begged the question: “If the club meant so much to you, why didn’t you act sooner?” As we said at the time, it was akin to busting in on a funeral with a defibrillator.
12. Charles Green and his phantom transfer targets, five of whom were supposed to be playing in Euro 2012. We could do a top 20 on Green alone.
11. Duff and Phelps, paid a fortune to do not a whole lot from what we can make out, could also be the subject of a separate top 20. From a long list of contenders we pick just one cameo – their constant statements that HMRC would probably seek to do a deal for a CVA rather than play hardball and plunge the club into liquidation. “They [HMRC] have never, ever, suggested that they are going to be belligerent,” said the administrators. And for that sage analysis they were paid millions.
10. Ally McCoist reacts to the transfer embargo by demanding to know the identities of the judicial panel that handed down the verdict, despite his club agreeing that their identities should remain private for fear of reprisals, which came soon enough when the three-man panel was named. “Make no mistake about it,” said the Rangers manager. “This panel is not totally to blame for the death of our football club if it happens, but this particular decision could kill our football club.” Not McCoist’s finest hour.
9. Brian Kennedy’s involvement in the takeover story was always bizarre. “I’ll take it or leave it,” he said about his interest in buying the club. “I know this sounds a bit smarmy, but I feel a social responsibility to make sure this great institution doesn’t disappear. Maybe I’ve suffered a lobotomy without realising it.”
8. The plot against Ally McCoist. In the beginning, Charles Green was a baddie who was reported to be plotting to get rid of his manager, who did nothing to shoot down the story when it first emerged, the story being written by James Traynor, who is now Green’s big mate. At that point, Green’s goose looked well and truly cooked. You couldn’t see him recovering from this apparent act of treachery.
7. Charles Green makes Lazarus look like a warm-up act. He had John Brown baying for his head, he had the fans in a state of rebellion, he had McCoist refusing to come to his rescue and from that impossible position he was won everybody over. The man is a marvel. He’s even got Walter Smith in the door. Not long ago, Smith saw him as bad news.
6. The SFA’s judicial panel report and the things it said about Sir David Murray, some of them via Martin Bain. Bain said he expressed concern to Murray about his lack of due diligence on Craig Whyte before selling the club to him. He presented Murray with a copy of an investigation into the business background of Whyte but if Murray read it then he didn’t place much store in it. Later, Murray said Whyte duped him.
5 Clip art and Craig Whyte’s homemade invoices. You couldn’t make it up. Er...
4. The strange case of Mr Red as told in the FTT report. Mr Red was a senior member of the Murray Group’s tax function and the scourge of the tribunal. “The protracted and chequered course of the enquiry was largely due to a lack of candour and co-operation from Mr Red,” writes Dr Heidi Poon, the dissenting voice on the panel. A few days later, Rangers fans were still slamming the delays in the case being resolved. Murray’s man Mr Red was part of the reason.
3 Craig Whyte comes clean about Ticketus, kind of. Having said for months and months that he had lodged his own money in an account to buy Rangers, he finally admits that he didn’t, and that the money was from Ticketus. In the same statement he said he was considering donating his shares to a Rangers foundation and that he still saw himself as something of a hero in this farrago. Bonkers.
2. The porn star. Needs no further explanation.
1. The laugh out loud moment to beat them all. Whyte’s assertion that Prince Albert of Monaco was poised to invest in Rangers. Yes, Craig. Of course he was.
That’s the top 20. The sad truth is that you could do a top 100 and still not to get to the bottom of the craziness of the Rangers story this past year. God knows what awaits them in 2013.