As with most boys this replacement wallpaper phase began with He-Man and other age-appropriate heroes, later tending more towards the rock gods of the era but there remained a constant: from the age of five until a rather embarrassing point somewhere north of my teenage period one icon was never displaced. You may (or may not) have shared that love but you will surely know Alistair Murdoch McCoist.
I wonder what the young boys (and girls) of today will feel as they move inevitably to take down some of their Rangers-related pictures or stare at the photographs or autographs they are lucky enough to have collected.
When Ally retired I may or may not have suffered a freak hay fever attack, filling my eyes with the tears associated with trips to musty, ancient picture houses to see old black and white cinema classics. Players move on, father time trips them up, fate intervenes and relocates and ever was it thus. But the present forced and forceful exit strategy being deployed by members of the Rangers squad seems certain to leave permanent scars which even time may struggle to heal. And we’re only talking here about the adults.
Consider the captain of the Rangers, one Steven Davis. He is not the first of those who held that honour to discard it in favour of a move, nor indeed the first (or likely to be the last) to protect his earning capacity with a swift, southern exit. Even in the modern era we think of John McLelland and, perhaps more famously, Barry Ferguson. Ferguson, at least, had the decency to ensure he signed a new contract to enable the Club to benefit from a handsome pay-day. Davis has, to date, offered a statement frankly unbefitting of his status, with not even a mention of those who made him, on and off the pitch. And he will – legal flirting permitting – border-cross into the hosepipe ban counties to enjoy a bumper signing-on fee at another Club with the Rangers recouping not even the cost of his Panini sticker.
Sesame Street’s Count will soon lose the ability to indicate with his fingers the number of RFC players who are saying ‘No to NEWCO’. It’s understandable that a good few have no intention of hanging around waiting for expulsion or demotion to an as yet undetermined lower division, having been ignored all summer by the new men in charge at the Club. Leaving aside the fact that any income-loss felt as a result of the very impressive and commendable 75% temporary wage cut will be more than made-up by any golden hello collected from a new employer, it is telling that those who have been first to indicate their desire to leave for free are, by and large, not only the highest-earners but also a good number of supposed Rangers ‘fans’.
How are the real fans to come to terms with this rush by their favourites? It doesn’t help that the players who have gone public have, with the exception of Steven Naismith, offered little in the way of comment on the confusion at the Club. Indeed, the references to a new Rangers and talk of having no loyalty to the “new Club” will ensure that Steven Whittaker is unlikely to be welcome again at Ibrox.
Much of the jargon and terminology involved is entirely to assert the case the players feel they have in respect of their unsanctioned free exit but could, for instance, Naismith look his dad in the eye and tell him the Club is dead and this isn’t the same Rangers that stretch back through incorporation, changes in company number and name, all the way to the parks of Glasgow and the Gallant Pioneers? Of course not. But we have to remember that most of those who follow Rangers aren’t spending their days online dissecting the articles on The Rangers Standard or studying the finer messages on the various online forums. They are reading the Record and the Sun, watching SSN and listening to Radio Clyde. And if the message they are getting is a vanilla treat based on the available material then one thing is undeniable: the players are twisting the knife.
This begs the obvious question: why? There appears to be a romantic notion that it is in part due to a comprehensive distrust of Charles Green and Zeus and the players simply won’t back him but (some) would reconsider if, for example, the Club was under different control. Regardless of whether you can swallow that (and as fans it is all too easy to leave reason behind as emotion takes control) it is clearly based on two factors:
Players have a short career and they want to make as much money as they can.
Players fear the worst for that career in a playing sense if RFC is demoted or forced on hiatus by the ineptitude/borderline criminality of successive owners (including the present).
In black and white those considerations are easy enough to accept and were the players minded to be more frank and open about the reasons for their choice then all of this would be so much easier for all concerned. If it’s because of uncertainty at the Club and with the shabby treatment from Charles Green and co. then say it; if it’s due to financial security then yell it; if it’s a desire to get out of Dodge before it closes then be sure that people will never censure you for treating us like adults and telling it like it is.
Instead of this we have a situation where supporters calling players traitors or Judas or words I wouldn’t wish to repeat here is a common enough response and for all it comes from the passion and sheer love and wish to protect the Club it is also deeply-rooted in a culture where men (and other animals) don’t and simply aren’t allowed to grow up.
Fans have been lied to/and or misled deliberately by Murray, Lloyds, Whyte, Duff and Phelps and others and now Green seems singularly unable to either reveal his backers or prove to anyone still awake that his plan for Rangers is one to safeguard the Club and to provide the first step in a long overdue stabilisation, far less a fight-back. Over those years the activist support hasn’t grown either in numbers or influence and we’ve witnessed the type of internecine struggle between online factions that has done nothing but weaken those who are occasionally active and who should be setting an example, it all reaching the bizarre point where those who were actively backing the only group(s) willing to put money into the Club were seen in some way as, here’s that word again, ‘traitors’. Sadder still, there seems almost literally no point at which those on all sides who enjoy this will stop to reconsider.
In the meantime, the years, the decades, the lifetime(s) of accepting that the big boss will look after the institution, and those who speak out or question are disloyal and deserve to be condemned and attacked, have helped put us in this mess. A lack of political maturity, a willingness to stick two fingers up at the outside world while displaying a perverse lack of any internal RFC-family ability to organise, to support fan-led campaigns or to question quite why we should cling to outdated Medieval notions of fiefdom and servitude, means we are incapable of defending the castle when the monarch is crooked. The various supporters’ groups attached to Rangers are and always will be only as strong as the support enables them to be and there is no sign that the RFC movement has any broad appetite for such vehicles, far less the will to take them from the crawl of infancy toward a period where they can stand up strongly and proudly.
It also, quite unbelievably, seems that a simple lesson, taught without recourse to pity or adaptation for the squeamish, goes unlearned as people queue up to throw themselves unthinkingly behind another regime. Were it not so horrific and potentially fatal it might be worthy of a black comedy.
Today brings with it another development, as John Brown and other old favourites step back into the play just as the threat of the curtain beckons. We’ve had Rangers-minded businessmen fail more than once, and even with the added bonus of the public figurehead to beat them all, Walter Smith. The number of players heading for the exit now makes up a pretty impressive starting XI.
Tonight there will be a protest of sorts at Ibrox. It may well be too little, too late, but there really is no excuse for not lending your support. I want to take my daughter and her children to Ibrox one day. If there’s no movement in the next few days then not only does the threat to that prospect limp towards a terrifying shade of red, but we may face the nuclear option of Super Ally, my hero whose recent strength, dignity and humanity has allowed me once again to feel proud of him and the worship I indulged in as a child, having no choice but to quit again as the fairy-tale ends.
We can’t close the book. As adults we have to accept our responsibilities as fans and for the greater good and to on one hand try to distance ourselves from the regard and reaction we have to those mortals who will never live up to the fantasy – to put away those childish things - and to ensure that in years to come the support is never again faced with the dream turned nightmare and our future generations have a story not only to hear but in which to participate.