If this was a PR fight then the former Ibrox manager would not only have seen his rival off the premises by now, he’d have chased him down the motorway, out of the city and down the road to Yorkshire from whence he came.
And Smith would have had the nation’s media in the posse with him. If Green looks at a newspaper he must wonder what magic Smith wields in this world. Doubts and suspicion about his own bid – and rightly so – and yet a coronation for the man who only appeared out of the woodwork on Thursday when the club had been liquidated. There was a cringe-making story from Smith the other day, one that had him consoling a Rangers-loving mate on the telephone and knowing in that instant that he simply had to do something. Smith said he wanted to save the club and, on Thursday, hours after Rangers had been liquidated, he made his move. It was akin to busting in on a funeral with a defibrillator.
The excitement about Smith’s late bid is wholly understandable, though. Unless Bill Struth came back from the dead you couldn’t think of anyone better to protect the long-term interests of Rangers than the former manager. The fact that it was his axis of excess with David Murray that caused so much financial heartache in the beginning at Ibrox is now air-brushed out of history. Smith can be trusted and he’s packing some heavy-duty firepower in his group. Jim McColl is fabulously wealthy and a good guy. Douglas Park has huge financial means of his own and his love of the club is well known. They are the perfect consortium for Rangers. They tick every box you could think of.
The only problem is that somebody else got there first and the somebody else is perfectly entitled to say: “It’s all very well you galloping over the horizon on your white steed, Walter, but where the hell have you been all this time?” And it’s a fair question. Since the beginning of this saga we have heard so much about the importance of Rangers men getting hold of the club and looking after it following on from the horrors of the Craig Whyte months. The Blue Knights were supposed to be that band of men but they were out bid. They can bitch and moan all they like about why they got out bid but the fact is that, between them, they had more than enough financial muscle to blow Green out of the water and they didn’t do it. The harsh reality about the Knights is that, when push came to shove, they didn’t value the club highly enough, they didn’t do what was needed to be done to see off Green (or, to be frank, Whyte before him), a man they had – and have – considerable doubts about.
The fact that Smith and McColl and Park, and whoever else might be involved in the Dream Team, have left it so late in the day to get moving means that Green is now holding some aces in this struggle. He has the club and he’s allowed to put whatever value he likes on it. When the new non-executive director, Imran Ahmad, talked about numbers the other day he mentioned the £5.5m his group had invested (apparently) in buying the club plus £10m they had spent (allegedly) in legal fees, a total outlay (if you believe all this) of £15.5m – and he wanted a “multiple” of that number if a sale to Smith and chums was to be countenanced.
This was on the same day that Green announced that Ian Hart was part of his group when, in fact, he is not. It was also announced that Glenmuir Ltd was another backer but a statement from its managing director, Colin Mee, made you wonder about the precise nature of their backing. “The Glenmuir shareholders were introduced to Charles Green by a mutual acquaintance who has been a longstanding business associate of the Glenmuir shareholders with a view to providing the new company with assistance on sourcing apparel product for its retail operations. Glenmuir is delighted to play a small part in the huge task of rebuilding Rangers.” Not entirely convincing, is it?
Everybody recoiled when Ahmad mentioned that big number. “What a chancer!” But these are the guys who own the club now. Smith and his consortium allowed this to happen by standing back for so long. Green and company are at liberty to ask for whatever sum they want. Whatever you think of them, they’ve done the hard yards, they’ve got the deal over the line and now they’re expected to “step aside” as Smith puts it just because there’s a new show in town? It’s nonsense.
Would Green’s investors do a deal to sell? You’d have to think they would. From what we know of them, they’re not getting involved out of any great devotion to Rangers. They see it as a business deal and, like all business deals, you’d imagine they’ll cut and run if the money is good. Green has said that himself. So it comes back to this: How much do Smith and McColl and Park actually want this club? They think it’s going down the pan under Green’s stewardship, and they might be right, so what are they prepared to do about it? The bid is believed to be in region of £6m-£8m. They’d have been the owners if they came in with that kind of money a month ago but they didn’t. Their prevarication may cost them more than that now. In one sense it comes down to what value they place on making good on their mission statement: “Our over-riding objective is to ensure that the stadium, the history and everything else magical about Rangers Football Club is protected and nurtured back to good health and provide a platform for Rangers for generations to come.”
Of course, key to their campaign is the support of the fans and herein lies a compelling battle within the battle. It was no coincidence that, on the day Rangers were liquidated, a story appeared that Ally McCoist was being plotted against by Green who, it was reported, wanted to sack him. Whether the plot was real or a figment of Dave King’s imagination – it seems that’s where all of this started – is not really the point. The point is that plot or no plot, McCoist doesn’t believe in Green and this truce that seems to have broken out looks decidedly uneasy. The fans look at an unhappy McCoist and they rebel in even greater numbers against Green, vowing to withhold the season ticket money that he desperately needs to switch the lights on every day, bombarding him and his investors with messages telling him that McCoist’s line that Rangers people don’t do walking away doesn’t apply to him. He can walk whenever he likes.
If there was plotting last week it was more likely to have come from the Dream Team than the Green Team. The McCoist story dropped on what was already a heavily emotional day. The ferment grew in an instant. Hours later, over the horizon came Walter Smith, the second act of a pincer movement against Green. The Rangers supporters suddenly had a glimpse of nirvana and they like what they saw. Now there seems to be a substantial will among them to choke Green’s group by holding back on the millions they would normally part with in season ticket cash.
Can Green and his group proceed when the fans have been mobilised against them? Might they think that the prize isn’t worth the hassle and cut a deal? Was the multiple of £15.5m that Ahmad referred to designed to discourage Smith’s party or was it merely an opening gambit of a consortium that suspect that they’re now surrounded by angry Bears and their iconic leader?
It is the kind of engrossing drama that warrants the attention of a movie maker. What would you call it? If it wasn’t already taken, Power Rangers.