YOU wonder how many more times Dave King is intending to speak about his hopes and fears for Rangers before he actually does something about it.
On each occasion that King pipes up, there seems to be a collective flutter of Rangers hearts at the prospect of the Return of the King, a vision of the future that sees him cast in the role of the great redeemer banishing the spivs to the wilderness before training his guns on Celtic and an assault on their dominance in the Premiership.
Where King is concerned you just want to shout: “If you’re going to do something then bloody well get on with it!”
Many people have played to the galleries in the Rangers story and, although King, through his wealth, has more substance than any of the chancers that have gone before him, he can still legitimately be accused of grandstanding.
The other day, he outlined his vision anew. He said that, if the incumbents at Ibrox start running Rangers on the budget of an East Fife, then Rangers will shrink to the size of East Fife. Nobody has ever suggested that Rangers are ever going to be run on the budget of an East Fife, so it was a ridiculous thing to say. And he said it more than once. “I don’t feel the club should respond by cutting the costs to the point of saying: ‘We only have to do what is necessary to beat East Fife or whoever.’”
King seemed to want to play on supporters’ fears. The gist was: ‘Watch out! This cost-cutting is going to turn us into a small-fry. We can’t have that’. Well, do something about it then, Dave.
He went on to talk about Rangers’ return to the Premiership and imagined a scenario of them finishing – shock, horror – sixth “or something like that.” Horrendous, said King. “And certainly contrary to what I would want to do with the club.”
But what does he want to do with the club and why hasn’t he done it? He clearly has a brilliant business mind and it’s believed he has, er, an off-the-radar amount of rand. So it was hard to read his concern for Rangers in this cost-cutting age without casting the mind back to the various opportunities he has had to eliminate those concerns and never done so.
He could have bought the club from David Murray, but didn’t. He could have made a move in the summer of 2012 and blown Charles Green out of the water, but he didn’t do that either. When Green was found out, King could have gone to war and started hoovering up available shares to get himself in a position of some kind of influence at Ibrox, but he didn’t get involved.
He might argue that there was good reason for his lack of action; the spectre of the big tax case in the first instance and his refusal to line the pockets of Green and company by buying their over-priced shares in the last instance, but none of those reasons sit particularly well with the image of a man who is supposedly desperate to see Rangers restored to full health and challenging for the biggest prizes in Scottish football.
Fergus McCann provided the template in all of this. He saw his club heading for extinction and he went and made sure that it didn’t happen. He didn’t showboat with the fans, didn’t talk big to journalists, he just went in there and did the deal, end of story. No doubt, along the way, he had to agree to things he would rather not have agreed to, but that’s the situation he was in and he accepted it and he saved Celtic. Because he truly wanted to, no matter what.
Even though the South African Revenue Service relieved him of upwards of £50 million in cash and assets following his epic tax dispute – and conviction – sources in the revenue service still believe King to be an exceedingly wealthy man. So, he could have saved Rangers an awful lot of heartbreak had he used some of that wealth to take ownership of his club, a la McCann. He didn’t. Instead, he talked. And he’s still talking.
And too much of what he says speaks to the kind of attitude that brought Rangers to this point in the first place. King had his own role to play in that, too. Graham Wallace, who took over a ship heading for the rocks again and who is now attempting to steer it to safety, must feel he is being dictated to by a guy who, in the words of an SFA judicial panel report, didn’t do enough to stop the club going under when he was a serving director on Craig Whyte’s board.
King could have done so much more. Instead we’re hearing a strange hybrid of part financial realism and part classic Rangers hubris. It’s as if he can’t fully bring himself to accept that the club needs to downsize while it gets its act together, that it needs to rebuild from the bottom up, that, in this scenario, the most important thing is not so much challenging Celtic in the short-term but righting itself for the long-term.
King said, if that you cut costs too much, then Celtic might win 10-in-a-row. “We could be so far behind them that, even when we are back in the Premiership, we are not in a position to catch up.” That’s pretty skewed thinking. It’s the mindset of the old guard.
“Cost-cutting is not going to help us when we get to the Premier League,” said King. So the alternative, presumably, is to throw money at it?
How much money? Celtic have made the group stages of the Champions League in back-to-back seasons. That’s about £35m, give or take a few million either way. They sold Victor Wanyama for £12m, Gary Hooper for £6m and they have another multi-million pound asset in Fraser Forster, who may well end up in England pretty soon.
By the time Rangers are back in the Premiership, Celtic will have had a shot at two more group stages of the Champions League. Even if they are unsuccessful both times, they’d still be so far ahead of Rangers that it would make the eyes water if you tried to figure out how many millions it would take for the Ibrox club to become a serious challenger to them again.
King’s fighting talk has it that Rangers cannot risk being “battered 6-0” at Celtic Park. And “we can’t start losing 3-1 to Hibs and Aberdeen and accepting it. Saying ‘we are in a period of adjustment, it’s not too bad a season’ is not an option. It’s totally unacceptable.”
King is ignoring Rangers’ new reality. He’s stuck in a timewarp. If the club has to go through a few seasons of losing 3-1 to Hibs and Aberdeen, what difference does it make as long as they are slowly getting stronger?
If they take a few hidings from Celtic and have to watch them win more titles it shouldn’t matter in the grand scheme of things, so long as Rangers are building steadily for a solid future.
But, if King really wants to see Rangers hit the ground running in the Premiership, then more action and less talk is required.
He has allowed others to seize power at his club. No newspaper interview is going to put pressure on these guys to give up power, no matter how many interviews he does and no matter how many lovely visions of the future he dangles in front of supporters.
So, if he means business, then he’s going to have to get into the bearpit and fight for the club.
Talk is cheap. And, since this Rangers farrago began, that is all we have heard from him.