Captain, my Captain - No way no how
Venue – The Lounge of the North British Hotel, Edinburgh
There I was a mere 14 years of age the day before and I had been smuggled into the corner of the lounge by my old man after watching us clinch the league an hour or so earlier at Easter Rd. Fourteen eh, no more of that crisps and lemonade papped to you as you stood outside the pub. This was the stuff. And then who came into the lounge but John Greig, Colin Stein and Bobby McKean. The captain of Rangers, the Rangers player who scored the goal that clinched THAT league title and one of my favourite new Rangers players. I never asked for autographs as I kept my distance just standing there in awe.
There were, I remember, other Rangers fans in the lounge that evening who were a few years older than me and draped in Union Flags and uninhibited by booze had none of my shyness or ‘awe'ness about them and happily bounded over to the bar to give the players A – a cuddle (I don't know if tongues were used) and B – offer to buy them a drink.
John Greig ‘unboisteroused' these guys at a stroke by at first humouring them and then telling them to be quiet as he ushered them away from the bar. But that's how it worked; back then the captain of Rangers, rather like John Lennon's working class hero, was something to be. The captain of Rangers FC, it was an important position in Scots society. Hell, even McBungle would be roped in as well to sit alongside Greig at Hogmanay for the TV cameras as the ‘Bells' ushered in the New Year to even up the proceedings.
When you think of the calibre of people who John Greig had followed in that position over half a century previous then how could it be otherwise? Tommy Muirhead, Davie Meiklejohn, Jimmy Simpson, ‘Tiger' Shaw, George Young, Ian McColl, Eric Caldow, Bobby Shearer, it was a select band and you had to live up to the responsibility that came with the position. In fact Greig used the captaincy at Ibrox as a bargaining chip in his first real conflict as manager in his contract talks with Derek Johnstone just three years later.
Since then a selection of individuals have taken on the role as captain of Rangers FC and have succeeded and/or failed to various degrees. Terry Butcher, at the time, was overwhelmed by the majesty of it all. Graham Roberts didn't half enjoy showing off the League Cup to the support back in 1987. Richard Gough certainly treated the position with the utmost respect. Even big Lorenzo was as proud as punch to have been captain of Rangers Football Club. It is not an honour that is dished out willy nilly or a position to be abused.
Until now that is. I have to confess that I dismissed the entire hullabaloo that surfaced about six weeks ago surrounding Paul Le Guen's take on how important the captain's role is, as opposed to Barry Ferguson's ideas on the role . For me it was the biggest load of guff I have heard since the yahoos claimed they were one of the top five clubs in the world.
I wouldn't think there are Rangers fans out there who know about the club's history that can disagree. After all, Davie Meiklejohn was not the club captain when he took that penalty kick in 1928 to banish the 25 year Scottish Cup blues away; but as a natural leader of men he took the onus upon himself anyway. Arguably the greatest centre half in Scottish football history, Willie Woodburn, was never the captain of Rangers Football Club. The records show that despite having the likes of ‘Tiger' Shaw and George Young alongside him, big Woody didn't need a captain to tell him how to play. Again, we are talking about a natural leader of men.
Let that great post war Rangers team trip off the tongue and savour what they had to offer. Brown, Young, Shaw, McColl, Woodburn and Cox. Waddell, Gillick, Thornton, Duncanson and Caskie. I make it that FIVE of that team would have been automatic captains at any club they played with outside Ibrox. Young and Shaw (who were captains at Ibrox) Woodburn, Cox and Waddell. And that is not including Ian McColl (who did become captain of Rangers when George Young retired) and Bobby Brown, who both became managers of Scotland.
Put me in the Le Guen camp here. In reality, a captain should only be a figurehead and there should be ‘captains' all over the pitch. Of course, I didn't realise or have prior knowledge while all this ‘the captaincy is important' stuff was going on that Barry Ferguson was in fact undermining his manager and running to the Scottish press.
Before we go any further, let me state that Barry Ferguson has been head and shoulders above any other ‘Ger' in terms of ability and performance on the park this season but his behaviour as captain of Rangers FC is something else again does now warrant some serious scrutiny. Whether you are in the Le Guen or Ferguson camp is immaterial now as the manager has fecked off back home. But we are still left with a captain on the pay roll whose prior behaviour simply cannot be dismissed by the incoming management team.
Ian King at ‘The Sun' told us all on Tuesday 2nd January that Barry Ferguson phoned him as he was leaving Auchenhowie the previous day that he had been dropped from the Rangers squad for Fir Park and stripped of the captaincy. This is as he was driving out the door. Was this conduct becoming of a Rangers captain? Of course it wasn't, but hey, it got worse. Because a few hours later a Radio Snyde front piece, one Peter McGuire, told us live on air that Barry had been onto him squealing his case also.
So here we have the Scottish press, so eager to plead Ferguson's case admitting he went running to them. Now running to Ian King, although I have no time for him personally, I can just about accept from Ferguson or any other Scottish Rangers player. Ian King and Co acts as valves to let off/out steam. But a Rangers captain running to Radio Snyde in times of stress? For me that is just not acceptable under ANY circumstances. Can there be any doubts now as to who has been the Rangers player leaking these stories of unrest in the dressing room throughout the season? It is hard to get away from the notion that it has came from the captain of the club.
I don't buy it myself but I am prepared to listen to those who would say that Barry's only crime was in loving the club and his behaviour was borne out of a real anger and frustration at the lack of ability round about him. But as captain of the club and a ‘real' bluenose also he should not have to be told that Radio Snyde is a no no.
Still on the subject of Barry; I'm sure y'all saw him live on Sentanta outside Fir Park last Tuesday. The Friends of Bazza spokesman; “Raingurs are nothing without Barry Ferguson” he said. That being the case, I want the club to fold immediately and let's start back at grass roots level. If we are now reduced to backing a captain who is happy to run to a Celtic propaganda station then count this bear out.
As Walter returns he has an immediate problem. That problem is Barry Ferguson. I have no doubts that Walter has the force of personality to squash Barry if he so desires but we've had enough bloodletting in all of this. All I ask is that he doesn't reinstate him as captain of our wonderful club. If nothing else it sends out a signal to the rest of the Scotia Nostra at the club that running to the Scottish press is not big and not clever.
Yours in Rangers,
The Govanhill Gub