Tom English: Self-styled No1 fan still the one who won't talk the talk

EVEN before Craig Whyte removed him from the board on Monday evening, Alastair Johnston had a deep-seated suspicion about the new owner of Rangers. We can only guess how he is feeling now. There must have been considerable animus in the air the other night. Johnston, we can only assume, must have been furious.

It was no surprise that Johnston spoke yesterday. As far as valedictory speeches go, though, his was a let-down. This was his chance to go nuclear in his war against Whyte, his opportunity to put meat on the bones of all those things he has been hinting at for a while now, all these comments he's made about Whyte maybe not being the right person to take Rangers forward, all that questioning of his motivation and his money.

If Johnston had damaging information about Whyte, yesterday, in the hour of the former chairman's humiliation, was the time to produce it in one heavyweight interview. But he produced nothing bar more of the same. The same old generalisations expressed in the manner of the drama queen.

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"He needs to walk the walk and not just talk the talk," said Johnston. Funny, that. Some would argue that, when Whyte gave Lloyds Banking Group 18m, that was a fairly clear signal that he wasn't just a mouth almighty.

We'll all see soon enough how he meets his promise of significant investment in the transfer market, but the 18m has already changed hands. It's done.

Lloyds are virtually off Rangers' back. But Johnston seems to give Whyte no credit for that, which is odd because, until Whyte turned up, that's all Johnston seemed to be banging on about - the debt, the bank and the damage done.

Rangers people will recall that when Johnston took over as chairman his stated ambition was to find an owner for the club.

He spoke about it at length. He wanted to rid Rangers of debt by finding somebody among his fabulously-wealthy milieu who would buy the thing from Sir David Murray. Johnston found nobody. His great contribution to the ownership debate has been to try and scupper things. If he has had substantial misgivings about Whyte, he has not really elaborated on them. If he sees something hair-raising in Whyte's plan for the club he has not said what it is. Who's talking the talk and walking the walk in this story?

All he said is that he wonders if Whyte has the money he says he has, while ignoring the fact that Whyte has already handed over 18m to get Rangers out of the financial pit that they were in. Johnston saw trouble in the Whyte proposal and yet he was apparently content with the flim-flam of Paul Murray's "bid".

And yesterday we heard some pearlers from him. You could almost hear the cattiness in his voice when he spoke (yet again, just in case we missed it before) of his lifelong devotion to Rangers.He said he was a Rangers fan - "a real one". That's presumably a snide go at Whyte, who he may see as not a real fan at all, certainly not as real as Al. But then who is? Johnston has, more than once, called himself the club's "number one fan". So there you go, all you people spending your hard-earned money on season tickets and programmes and DVDs and jerseys and hats and scarves and flags, the man in America who pays for nothing says his devotion is greater.

He says that the fans "need to remain vigilant and continue to exert pressure on Mr Whyte to support the club financially as he has publicly committed to do". Here's a question for Al. Does he think the Rangers fans are thick? If Whyte doesn't invest the money he has said he will invest, does Al think the fans won't notice? Does he reckon the average Bear will be sitting at Ibrox watching Davie Weir playing into his mid-40s and thinking "I know Whyte hasn't kept one of his promises, but I can't remember what it is"?

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"As far as I'm concerned," said Johnston, "the next time we see a photograph of him (Whyte] holding up the SPL trophy, let us all hope - especially me - that he has earned the right to do it."

"Especially me." The number one fan, remember.

Johnston reckons it's not what Whyte says that is the key thing, it's what he does. And with that insightful piece of analysis, he was gone.