CHARLES Green’s hubris has come back to haunt him, writes Tom English. Green says what he likes and likes what he says, and that has always been a problem for him and the club.
At some point yesterday, Charles Green travelled through time from the 1970s, where casual racism was the norm, and joined the rest of us here in the 21st century, where it is not. The Rangers chief executive apologised unreservedly for calling his associate, Imran Ahmad, his “little Paki friend” in a newspaper interview last Sunday. The fact that it took him half a week to do it tells you something about Green’s mortifying struggle.
On Monday, he sought to defend his words in the face of huge criticism, sought to pour scorn on his critics as a politically correct brigade gone mad, but last evening, wholly belated and terribly brief, came some kind of statement of contrition. It only came after the SFA announced its intention of charging him with making offensive and racist comments and after Walter Smith had himself made it clear that Green’s comments had been unacceptable. Green, it seems, was the last person in Scotland who twigged that calling somebody a “Paki” was an odious thing to do, regardless of context. Many would say he twigged too late. Many would say he should be removed from office as a consequence. And he should, no question.
The first thing you have to do these days when writing about Green is get yourself a good thesaurus that offers multiple variations on the word cringe. Wince. Flinch. Cower. Recoil. Squirm. Tremble. Over the entirety of his reign but most especially during the last week Green has tested the vocabulary of us scribblers who are tasked with the Herculean job of trying to capture his personality. In the business of his “little Paki friend” comparisons have been drawn with Bernard Manning and David Brent, but in other areas there’s also been the essence of Frank Spencer and a whiff of Mr Bean. Green hasn’t roller-skated his way down a ramp and on to the back of a London bus, as Frank once did, or head-butted the Queen while trying to free his finger from his zipper, a la Bean, but Green has become a hapless character none the less.
Over the past few days his hubris has come back to haunt him. Green says what he likes and likes what he says and that has always been a problem. Where do you begin in cataloguing his pronouncements? In no particular order – and by no means an exhaustive list – we have his vow to rename Murray Park that has not been delivered on, his claim that Manchester United want Rangers in the Premier League when their spokesman says they do not; the trippy notion that Barcelona and Real Madrid would have Rangers in La Liga when there is not even the slightest suggestion of a fact to back it up; the boast of a commercial deal in the offing with the Dallas Cowboys when the Dallas Cowboys knew of no such thing; the statement that a deal with Adidas was only days away when, in fact, it never happened; the declaration that Rangers have a potential worldwide television audience of 500 million or, in other words, seven per cent of the planet’s population and that all these untapped Bears would bring in £100m in digital revenues that is so off the charts that it gives you a sore head; the 19 signing targets last summer including five who were featuring at Euro 2012, none of whom ever signed.
All of this bluster came and went. Even though some of us in the media pointed out how daft it all was none of it really damaged him. The Rangers support threw their eyes to heaven at some of it but forgave him because he was the man who rescued the club post-Craig Whyte, the man who savaged Whyte in his every utterance, the man who stood up for them against the media and who delivered a share issue and millions of pounds to the Ibrox coffers where before there was just dust.
Green, though, has the self-awareness of a bull in a china shop and only half the subtlety. It was bad enough telling a newspaper about his “little Paki friend” without exacerbating it the following day. His communications man, James Traynor, would surely have made him aware of the almighty faux pas he had made on Sunday and then presented him with a way out of it. If Traynor gave him a roadmap out of trouble ahead of his STV interview on Monday then Green chucked it in the bin and steered himself back into the ditch. He was like a rabbit in the headlights in that interview. For once he wasn’t in control and he didn’t like it. For once he wasn’t permitted to bluster on endlessly and that clearly threw him. In attempting to answer questions about some of his past declarations, Green came across as a man you simply could not believe.
He failed on the Manchester United question, failed on the Dallas Cowboys question. He promised his interviewer proof that the Dallas Cowboys had sent an email and then never produced it. In themselves, these are small matters, but they add up to a question of trust and Green flunked it.
He failed again on the Whyte issue. Nobody believes much, or anything, that Whyte says, but the former owner has damaged Green all the same. Green’s defence continues to be that he lied to Whyte, he strung him along, he conned him. The words on the tape recordings make you wonder about that. The revelations about the six-figure sum lodged by Whyte into the bank account of Imran Ahmad’s mother raises alarm bells. Why his mum? The £25,000 cheque Whyte lodged to Green’s account is another episode that casts doubt over everything Green is saying. The cheque bounced. But why was Green looking for the money from Whyte in the first place? Was there more to the relationship than Green has previously admitted?
Green takes a pride in his straight-talking Yorkshire ways, so let’s deal in the kind of language that he will clearly understand. It’s over. He has become a liability, an embarrassment to the club. The fans, in rising numbers, don’t trust him any more, don’t buy his shtick of the honest man giving it to them straight. There are issues with Ally McCoist, issues with Smith, issues – of whatever import – with Whyte and those damaging tape recordings. There is silence from the chairman, Malcolm Murray, but we know there is no love lost there either. The SFA is on his case now as well and herein lies a clear illustration of the inescapable mess he has landed himself in.
Everybody knows the reality of the relationship between your average Rangers man and Stewart Regan and his people at the SFA. If Regan announced by way of a statement that today is Thursday very few Rangers fans would believe him. Some would check the calendar. Most wouldn’t even bother doing that. They’d assume he was making it up. There were those of us who thought that hell would freeze over quicker than a Rangers man agreeing with anything that came out of Hampden, but you’d have to say that many – if not the vast majority – of Ibrox fans have no issue with the SFA for going after Green. In fact, they support it. They are embarrassed by what he said about Ahmad and how he tried to justify it. In increasing numbers they are fed up with the sound of his voice.
Malcolm Murray, the chairman, has said nothing, but that is not to say that he will do nothing. He’ll get together with his board soon and if they have any sense they will stop Green from embarrassing Rangers any further by getting rid of him and replacing him with a guy whose ego is in check and who can get through an interview without making himself and his club a total laughing stock. Rangers need to move on from Green. And quickly, before the next calamity.