Alan Pattullo: Bury’s demise a sharp reminder of Rangers – another club sold for a pound

Craig Whyte makes a statement on the steps of Ibrox as Rangers revealed they were going into administration. Picture: Craig Watson/SNS
Craig Whyte makes a statement on the steps of Ibrox as Rangers revealed they were going into administration. Picture: Craig Watson/SNS
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Not having made the exact journey before, I stuck the two points into AA Route Master. Manchester United, the theatre of dreams, to Bury FC: 14.9 miles.

I did the same for Manchester City to Gigg Lane, Bury’s stadium – once famed for its lush pitch: 11.8 miles. Their record crowd was against Bolton Wanderers, the club with which they have been united in peril on news bulletins of late. And yet here they are, on the brink of liquidation, and having already been expelled from the English Football League [EFL] carrying a debt of around £8 million.

On the same day as Bury’s EFL fate was sealed there was a report regarding Alexis Sanchez, the misfit Chilean Manchester United player. He is being loaned to Inter Milan and yet Manchester United will continue to pay around £200,000 (of his weekly wage of £400,000) to not play for the team. It will take him a few weeks to earn the sum required to save Bury, such near neighbours of two of the richest clubs in the world. 
Football, bloody hell.

All clubs, they say, are one bad owner away from potential catastrophe – or a succession of them in certain high-profile cases. A report on BBC Scotland’s The Nine programme was roundly ridiculed for framing a report on the Bury situation with the question: Could this happen in Scotland? It already has of course. Just ask fans of Airdrieonians, Clydebank and, going back further, Third Lanark.

But these were not the examples most were thinking of when they took to Twitter and other social media sits to share the aforementioned clip. It was of course Rangers – or “The Rangers”. It’s against this backdrop of suspected soft-soaping by the so-called mainstream media, and on the weekend of an Old Firm derby, that a new book makes an appearance: Tangled Up in Blue: The Rise and Fall of Rangers FC by Stephen O’Donnell.

The author’s bold intentions don’t start and end with borrowing the title of one of Bob Dylan’s finest songs for a book charting the financial struggles of “the most successful team in the history of Scottish football and the ‘self-styled’ establishment club”.

With chapter titles such as “Thatcher’s Man” and “Agent McLeish” and references to “[David] Murray and his cronies” we can rest assured it’s not a hagiography. This might account for some of the reviews to date on Amazon.

Given the identity of some of those mentioned in the acknowledgements, it’s safe to assume that the author is reviewing events at Ibrox from a green and white perspective. It’s well-written but rarely charitable. “This is not a fairy story,” is the admittedly good opening line.

After hearing (too much) recently from Steve Dale, who bought Bury for a pound, the book is a reminder of someone else who lived in a fantasy world after managing to bag a football club for a quid.

The disappointment is that Craig Whyte only makes his entrance on page 314 of its 348 pages. Such a colourful character as Paul Baxendale-Walker, architect of the catastrophic EBT scheme, is fleetingly referenced while Charles Green makes a brief cameo towards the end. There are few fresh interviews with those closely associated to the club’s downfall and who might – might – have been prepared to offer some new insight as many as seven years on from St Valentine’s Day, 2012. There’s plenty blood been left on the tracks on the journey back.

l Tangled Up in Blue: The Rise and Fall of Rangers FC, (Pitch publishing, £19.99)