AMONG those who claimed victory at Ibrox yesterday, no-one would have found the taste sweeter than Paul Murray.
For the best part of five years, Murray has been engaged in a quest to reclaim what he regards as the heart and soul of Rangers.
A board member from 2007 to 2011, he failed in his attempts to prevent former owner Sir David Murray handing the club over for £1 to Craig Whyte.
In the subsequent period of financial collapse and ongoing boardroom chaos, the Melrose-based financier then saw a series of bids for regime change also thwarted by Whyte’s post-administration successors.
Perseverance finally brought its reward to Murray yesterday when, as part of fellow ex-director Dave King’s requisitioners, he assumed boardroom control after a convincing victory at the general meeting of shareholders.
Murray will be interim chairman of the club while King subjects himself to ‘fit and proper’ scrutiny from the SFA and the stock exchange. Along with fellow new director John Gilligan, Murray will also assume daily executive duties until a new chief executive is appointed. For the 50-year-old, vindication has arrived. “Some people have called me obsessed,” admitted Murray.
“There were maybe hundreds of times when I thought I couldn’t carry on with it. But the way I look at things is, just because something is difficult, it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do it. If it is right, you have got to try and do it. In my view, from 6 May 2011, it has been all wrong here.
“The minute the club was sold to Craig Whyte it was the wrong decision. I said that at the time and, unfortunately, I was proven to be right. I don’t take any credit for that. I don’t feel good about that. But that is what happened. It has just been a succession of issues since then. You have got to do what’s right. I have made mistakes, but, hopefully, people will recognise that I tried to do the right thing every time. I have certainly put Rangers’ interests ahead of my own interests.
“The club is broken and, as directors, we have to repair it and rebuild it brick by brick now. One thing we shouldn’t do is forget what has happened in the last four years. We must never let it happen again. As long as I am on the board, I consider myself a custodian of this institution. It might sound a bit cheesy, but we are custodians and we are going to hand it on to the next generation, hopefully in a better shape than we got it in today.”
The re-engagement of the Rangers fanbase will be the first initial uplift enjoyed by the new board, starting with Tuesday night’s Championship fixture against Queen of the South at Ibrox. King believes the support should celebrate what he believes will prove to have been one of the most significant developments in the club’s history.
“We’re hoping for a full house for that and we are really optimistic we will see full houses for the rest of the season to help the team kick on,” said King. “Someone said today is as big a result as winning the Cup Winners’ Cup in Barcelona in 1972. That’s a difficult comparison to make but, as a day in Rangers’ history, it’s got the potential to be a watershed event.
“I’m confident it will turn out to be that. Because, in terms of the board, the team and the like-mindedness we have to take the club forward, at least we will be doing it with a level of certainty and that’s important.
“People ask how will we take the club forward – in actual fact, we are taking the club forward to the past. We want to restore the qualities of this club and that is part of the challenge we face here in trying to build a competitive football team and live up to what the fans expect.
“There is a value system attached to Rangers Football Club and this has been lost over the past few years. Rangers has been a club with traditional values. It’s had generational support and a pass-on from father to son. There’s been a consistency, an integrity and a loyalty.
“What we have seen over the last few years has been turbulence, change, lack of loyalty, lack of integrity. What has happened is the exact opposite to the values I associate with my club.”
Former Tennent Caledonian Breweries managing director Gilligan, also a lifelong supporter of Rangers, is simply determined to see an upbeat atmosphere restored to Ibrox. “Let’s get the growth into the business and a bit of fun, happiness and enjoyment because the place is absolutely flat,” said Gilligan. “Once you build all that, it all comes together.
“Everything is about growth for us now, proper growth in the business. Dave and Paul are the accountants, they want the bottom line. But we’ve got to get the top line to calculate it. It’s important that we have affinity and it’s easier to have that trust when you know that we are fans and that we want supporters involved in the club.”
Many supporters regard the appointment of a new manager as one of the biggest priorities but the new directors were all adamant that no quick decision would be made on that front. King believes it is too late in the current season to bring in someone who could make a hugely significant short-term impact. He is hopeful that what he describes as “tidal change” off the field will also galvanise the team in the final two months of a season when promotion to the top flight is firmly in the balance.
He also expressed his view that Rangers are now in need of a “coach rather than a manager” as part of a major overhaul of the badly-neglected football infrastructure at the club. Former players Stuart McCall and Billy Davies are among those who have been linked with the position currently reluctantly occupied on a caretaker basis by Kenny McDowall.
But Gilligan said the search for a new manager would not be restricted to those with a prior connection to Rangers. “You go for the best guy available,” said Gilligan. “If he’s not an ex-Rangers person, fine. If he is, that’s fine too.”
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