Rangers 5-1 East Stirlingshire: Rangers fight back on rousing day at Ibrox
The saga of The Rangers FC continues.
Scorers: Rangers - Little (14,41,74), Sandaza (64), McCulloch (90); East Stirlingshire - Quinn (pen 3)
Saturday’s astonishing crowd of 49,118 set a record for a fourth tier league game while chief executive Charles Green’s pre-match announcement that Rangers have already sold 33,000 season tickets was testament to the undying loyalty of the Rangers fans, with more season briefs to go on sale this week.
Manager Ally McCoist described the season ticket figure as “staggering” and on any objective basis, that is correct – not that objectivity is in plentiful supply when Rangers are involved. “It is quite unbelievable, it’s incredible really,” said McCoist. “I looked out the office window at 1.30pm and Edmiston Drive was absolutely choc-a-bloc. It’s fantastic, and really is a statement.
“It is really, really encouraging from the staff and players’ point of view, and when you are getting support like that you can only go one way. We must go forward.”
Both Green and McCoist said at the weekend that they would challenge the SFA over the association’s charge of bringing the game into disrepute.
Green, who alleged that recent decisions against Rangers had been taken because of bigotry, has already mentioned “freedom of speech”, presumably on human rights grounds, and if he wants advice on how far that will get him with the SFA he need only ask the national team manager Craig Levein.
More pertinently, the club was reminded on Saturday that part of their history may – stress that word may – be tainted.
The SPL announced the names of the three-man commission who will investigate the allegations – strongly denied by Sir David Murray – that Rangers operated a dual contract system using tax-avoiding Employee Benefit Trusts (EBTs) between 2000 and 2011. The tax tribunal has still to rule whether the EBTs were illegal, and it is not fully clear what action – if any – could be taken against the newco Rangers by HMRC.
But the three-lawyer independent commission, led by Lord Nimmo Smith and also including Charles Flint QC and Nicholas Stewart QC, will investigate what oldco Rangers did, and that may lead to SPL sanctions against the club.
This is the crux of the matter that faces newco Rangers. Green cannot exclaim “Rangers then, Rangers now, Rangers forever” as he did in his inspiring pre-game speech and expect the club to escape the punishments, albeit historical ones, that the commission might hand down, which could include the loss of SPL titles. If The Rangers is still the same club that was founded in 1872, and 49,118 people on Saturday and many more elsewhere obviously think it is, then they look likely to have to accept the verdict of the commission – not forgetting, as so many have done, that oldco Rangers are innocent until proven guilty under the correct processes.
Should Rangers be found guilty and given the title-removing sanction their manager has already said they would contest, the club would then have the right to appeal to the SFA and ultimately the Court of Arbitration in Sport, so this saga is likely to run and run. And we still have no knowledge of what the liquidators intend to do to Rangers old and new.
You could almost sense the relief around Ibrox that the place was hosting league football again.
The atmosphere was simply extraordinary, a celebration of all things Rangers that sadly included anti-Tartan Army chants in support of Ian Black, the Rangers midfielder who was booed at Easter Road when making his debut for Scotland against Australia.
The vast majority of decent fans of the Scotland side know that the booing of Black was mindless, and the vast majority of decent Rangers fans will hope that this spat over the former Hearts player will soon be forgotten and that we can all unite behind Scotland as we try to end 16 years of pain and qualify for the World Cup. Paul Quinn’s third-minute penalty temporarily put an end to the joyful air at Ibrox, but normal service was soon restored, Andy Little cracking in a hat-trick and Fran Sandaza and Lee McCulloch adding their contributions.
Ryan McWilliams was unlucky in the East Stirling goal. The goalkeeper saw two top-class saves end with the ball dropping at the feet of Little and Sandaza respectively for two of the Rangers goals. He had little chance with the other goals and with his doughty defenders he stopped Rangers from running up a cricket score.
The Shire were also affected by David Greenhill having to leave the field at half-time to attend the bedside of his father – long-serving Edinburgh Evening News journalist Colin – who died in St Columba’s Hospice in Edinburgh on Saturday.
McWilliams will today resume his ‘real’ job as a classroom assistant at All Saints Primary in Greenock. “There will be banter with the kids,” he admitted, “and a few wee smart ones will be waving Rangers scarves.”
The primary 7 pupils can be proud of ‘sir’, however. The 22-year-old former Largs Thistle, Morton and Ayr United player is on loan from Albion Rovers and has yet to record a number of senior appearances in double figures, but performed very creditably.
“We showed we are capable of competing at a higher level,” said McWilliams, “and for myself I felt I had a good game, even losing five goals. Having a couple of great saves and then seeing tap-ins is a pet hate. But we just need to keep plugging away and hopefully get a result next week.
“Going 1-0 up at Ibrox is not something you’ll see a lot of teams doing, so we just need to take confidence from that. It is just mind-blowing how much the Rangers fans get behind their team. And it was a great occasion for everyone.”
It was all of that. Bizarre, spectacular, astounding and ultimately satisfying for Rangers. The death of David Greenhill’s father put things in perspective, however. There really are more important things than football, whatever division you play in.
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Weather for Edinburgh
Sunday 26 May 2013
Temperature: 8 C to 16 C
Wind Speed: 15 mph
Wind direction: West
Temperature: 8 C to 12 C
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Wind direction: South