The salesman at Total Banner Solutions must have been clicking his loafers with glee, spending his bonus in his head and visualising the defeated expressions of his colleagues when they saw his name at the top of the company’s monthly performance league. The Union Bears had just phoned in their latest order for Ibrox.
“So let me read that back to you,” said the salesman, “‘No pride, no fight, nowhere to hide. Incompetent on and off the pitch. We deserve better.’ I’m pleased to tell you that qualifies you for our special April deal: 50 per cent off the next six words, and if you’ve still got something to say after that, it’s free.”
The Rangers ultras were delighted. They had lots to get off their chests after that chronic defeat in the Old Firm Scottish Cup semi-final. “Mindless behind the scenes, heartless on the pitch,” would read the second banner introduced at half-time in Sunday’s Premiership game against Hearts. Then just in case anyone had missed it, a repeat of the original heartfelt plea: “We deserve better.”
We deserve banners. Football loves them right now. I’ve no idea if there’s an outfit called Total Banner Solutions, any more than I’m aware of the existence of Banners for Bammers, but it’s a great time to be in the tarpaulin game.
Gone are the days of nicking one of your mum’s bedsheets and daubing it with the gungy remnants of black paint found in the shed. No one is going to take a picture of that and flash it up on Twitter. Banners have to be bespoke and professional as evidence of your club’s status, and if you can afford a small plane to fly them over the ground, as Arsenal fans did to mark the beginning of the end of Arsene Wenger’s reign, all the better.
The Union Bears’ Sunday sermon was wordy; you might even call it verbose. But this is a club with a theme bar next to its stadium which in big letters declares itself “The quintessential Rangers pub”. Gers fans are unafraid of using the word “quintessential” as they are of triple-decking their banners in the manner of a jumbo Loyalburger. Sometimes, though, brevity is best.
“Wrong One” – rather than “Chosen One” – was the view of some Manchester United fans to the underwhelming reign of David Moyes and who says fans of gallumphing global-brand clubs don’t have a sense of humour? “Captain, leader, legend” was a Chelsea banner celebrating John Terry. After referee Mark Clattenburg angered Blues followers with a controversial decision in a game against Man U, the latter’s supporters had their slogan ready for the re-match a week later: “Referee, leader, legend.”
What has been Scotland’s banner of the season? “Concomitant you Reds” was a cracker. That was the Aberdeen quip after Derek McInnes rejected Rangers to stay at Pittodrie. The word had caused consternation when it appeared in an Ibrox statement emphasising Rangers’ position in the natural order. You might have called this the quintessence of haughtiness.
Natural order – sound familiar? It was Craig Levein’s boast after Hearts had brought Hibernian’s unbeaten Edinburgh derby run to an end. When Hibs won the next clash, their fans threw his words back at him with the addition of a question mark. For boldness I think this banner wins the prize. Hibbies would presumably have had to burn it if they’d lost again, and endured much taunting if Jambos had rumbled their intentions.
Rangers fans are often taunted by Celtic supporters over their banners. They go on for too long and the displays are uncoordinated. But they can be long-winded themselves. And make odd boasts. Once at Easter Road, explaining at length how Hibs were their feeder team – not really a claim to fame – guess which word was spelled wrong?