The Rangers support in the 80s and today
I'm too tired
I'm so very tired
And I'm feeling very sick and ill today
I received a PM out of the blue, the other day from a guy who writes very fleetingly for the mag, but whose output is always thought provoking, and tinged with a rare talent.
I refer of course to that cheeky young scamp Hobbes. Now the PM didn't actually say; 'Haw grandpops, what is the main difference between the early to mid 80s and the present day. But it seemed like it. But then again, us auld yins can get awfully sensitive at times.
So to the subject at hand; what are the main differences in attitudes of the support between the gory, gory days back then, the Greig and Wallace #2 years and life as we approach the 2010s. It's actually a question that requires a bit of thought and should not be boiled down to a few throwaway statistics and/or remarks.
Of course, the chairman is correct when he mentions that the so called good old days were never exactly eras of wine and roses and the attendances back then were more sporadic. High could be very high but the lows could also be very low. But he is fooling himself if he thinks he was the catalyst for the higher average attendances we have nowadays.
The fact is the explosion in season tickets and catering for a fan base that was happy to pay their cash for the season in advance, was nurtured and exploited by the previous regime. As the Souness revolution unfurled in front of our very eyes, it made sense to say 'I'll have a piece of that thank you very much' by acquiring a season ticket.' Our 'roving' days at Ibrox were over.
On the park, I reckon a case could be made for saying the 80s started on Saturday 18th August 1979. There we were, the new Copland Rd stand opened, two goals up against the yahoos who were down to ten men after Aitken had assaulted Cooper over at the Centenary Stand. There were six minutes left to play and still we allowed them a share of the points. It was a result I don't think we recovered from.
The only saving grace from that season and indeed for a good few years thereafter was that Alex Ferguson's Aberdeen and Dundee Utd were there to make sure Timbo did not have a monopoly on the title. Because we sure as hell were not at the races.
Incidentally, in season 1979/80 we played Aberdeen seven times in the three domestic competitions. We could only muster a 2-2 draw at Ibrox in the league and put them out of the Scottish Cup at the semi final stage. We didn't know it then of course but those results would lay down a marker, were the shape of things to come for the next six years.
There are many theories and /or excuses for the malaise that basically started as soon as Jock Wallace up and left for Leicester. The incoming manager was a rookie and in a job that was far too big for him. He never replaced himself etc, etc..
An important thing for me is that the majority of the two trebles in three seasons side was allowed to grow old together. McCloy, Jardine, Jackson, Forsyth, Miller, Jardine, McDonald and McLean, they were all for the main part, still regulars in the first team in Greig's first four years in charge.
Although losing the league at CP in 79 was a bitter blow, it was tempered with an acceptance I think that we were just not supposed to win at that ground. This collective psychological torpor in the days leading up to an OF match at CP seemed to afflict the whole club as in players and fans alike and even spread into the Souness era.
However, nineteen eighty really did signal a real dip in fortunes. The Scottish Cup could have went either way and if Gordon Smith had his shooting boots on the Scottish Cup would have went back to Ibrox.
If it wasn't outright then there was possibly a latent acceptance by the support, especially after Chesterfield, that something rotten taking had taken a stranglehold of the club. Of course the Saltergate blues were banished three days after that particular humiliation when we beat you know who 3-0 at Ibrox.
There's nothing like beating the yahoos to make you take your eye off the ball. The Rangers support might not be easily pleased at times; tell you what, we're easily appeased. And thast includes in the present day.
The next few years told us that we were going nowhere as a club on the park but off the park we knew where we were in the grand scheme of things. Ibrox was now re-built and despite the jokes about Ibrox being a multi-coloured flop shop, we knew no one in Britain could touch us in the stadium stakes.
There was also the Rangers Pools to keep our dander up. At its peak, it was six times the size of Manchester Utd's pools and twelve times the size of the yahoo version. I think someone from Dundee won over 100k in the early 80s. That's how big the Rangers Pools had become. If only the vision and competence in that part of the club could be transferred to the pitch?
I think it was at this point that Man Utd approached us and asked if we could get together in a joint pools initiative called 'Rangeman Promotions'. The Rangers support at large gave that a body swerve. No way were we jumping into bed with that lot, or anyone else for that matter.
Another marker for me came in 82 with the acquisition of Davie McKinnon for £30,000 from Partick Thistle. 'He's a good buy for 30k' my granda told me. And McKinnon was well worth the transfer fee no doubt about it. Unfortunately however, top class full backs a'la Stevie Nichol were going down south and the going rate was over £200,000.
This type of buying was reflected in the results on the park and mediocrity was now being accepted as the norm; and as they say, the league table doesn't lie. Fifth in 1980, a couple of third places and then fourth in 1983. This was unacceptable by any previous Ibrox standards.
Something had to give, and a defeat at home to Motherwell in October 1983 was the straw that broke the camel's back. A few thousand demonstrated outside the ground afterwards demanding the resignation of John Greig as manager. He did just that the following Friday.
I was there, stood on the periphery after that Motherwell match. It wasn't nice but it had to be done. In the first nine league games, we had won three, drawn one and lost the other five. John Greig had to go. I was truly sad when news came over that he had quit, but the needs of the club had to come first.
What the club did back then is eerily similar to what happened at Ibrox just two years ago when Paul Le Guen left. We brought the old guard, in Jock Wallace, back to Ibrox to 'steady the ship.' Sound familiar?
There might have been a reliable face back in charge but Wallace was operating under the same stringent financial conditions as his predecessor. For instance he wanted £1.2m to bring in three up and coming Scottish players; Craig Levein, John Brown and Gordon Durie. That request was knocked back by the board. Brown and Durie of course would make their mark at Ibrox in later years.
The mediocrity continued but as season 1985/86, the worst league season in our history, drew to a close, once again the support at large was at breaking point.
The spring of 86 was depressing and when less than 13,000 turned up in the first Sunday in April for a friendly against Spurs, it was obvious the fans had had enough. No one was surprised either at the 2-0 defeat.
However, if there was nothing to be surprised about at what had unravelled on the Sunday, then the following day brought gasps of astonishment up and down the country. It was scarcely believable, Jock Wallace was out and Graeme Souness was in. And life was never to be the same for any of us.
So, after digressing to Billy Connolly and Eddie Izzard proportions, (sorry Hobbes) what are the main differences between the support back then, and what we have in the present day?
Well, for anyone of my generation; we had lived through the yahoos' NIAR, had witnessed but three league titles/two trebles in the mid 70s and then saw us lapse into an eight year wilderness, when it is my contention we were witnessing the worst Rangers teams of the 20th century. Robert McElroy wrote that it looked as though we were a club in 'terminal decline.'
Yet there was still a deep-rooted belief in the club. For instance, in the very month that John Greig resigned, we won 2-0 at Tannadice and the Rangers support was very vocal in support of the team. 'Rangers are back' we crooned. The truth of the matter was, we were nothing of the sort, but there was nothing like a good win and performance to take your mind off reality.
But what about the support in the present day? Well, unfortunately the so called good old days are still too vivid, and still loom large in the memory for too many people. Even though those memories, in the main, happened last century.
However, there are other aspects to this present day Rangers support that are not only worrying, but frankly shocking. In this day and age when news, information and the truth can come rattling down the super internet highway into your PC for as little as a tenner a month. It would appear that large swathes of our support are still stuck in a limbo that requires them to live their lives as dictated to by The Daily Record and The Sunday Mail. It truly is frightening.
For instance, we have a section of the Rangers support out there think that the 'Famine Song' is actually bad. They have fallen completely for Plastic Paddy influenced and driven propaganda and a side salad of mock outrage to go.
Think about it, the best Old Firm piss take since the 'Easy, Easy' chant nearly half a century ago, eight wee lines that the yahoos have no reply to, and a huge chunk of the support are running scared of it. It doesn't help that the cowards running the club into the ground are also of that opinion, but that's another matter.
There is one sorry individual out there actually apologised for the Famine Song (which I realise is not how we should refer to the song) in the Celtic View. It makes your flesh crawl.
Of course, this individual is one of these so-called superior types that has no problem being referred to as a 'Hun'. This sadly, sums up perfectly, a sizeable percentage of the Rangers support today. But what this not so clever person and his pals fail to realise is that if and when they get rid of Orange Bassas like me, it will be their turn to be herded up for the gas chambers. Google Pastor Niemöller folks...
I need to ask, what the hell has happened to the Rangers support? It's almost as if some of us have accepted the demonization and dehumanising of the support by the Scottish press hook, line and sinker. Well, it's time they roused from their slumber.
There are of course those desperate to cling onto the Chairman no matter how far the fortunes of the club nosedives. They are happy to believe any old crap Murray comes out with. It's the credit crunch, we don't have a foreign billionaire to bail us out, everyone else is in the same boat, success comes in cycles, the chairman tried to live the dream and that's why we are skint. Ad nauseum.
Manchester 2008 for example should have been the proverbial goose that laid the golden egg. It is not too far fetched to say that the 200,000 who made the journey down, never mind the hundreds of thousands who didn't travel, would have spent a small fortune on commemorative merchandise. It should have been a football Klondyke the likes of which we had never seen.
However, thanks to the chairman's previous financial foolhardiness we are presently tied in for the best part of the next decade, to a three-bit, fourth rate retail outlet called JJB Sports. So the Gold Rush failed to materialise.
Again, it is frightening how the support of today just accepts the fire sale of players without asking the reason why this should be? Since the 1910s, we've never before had to sell any of our players. Yet now we appear to be hawking our pearly at anyone who seems remotely interested.
Other than when the club was devastated by the first Ibrox Disaster back in 1902, Rangers have never had to sell any top players purely to balance the books. Name any player you want, from Morton through to Laudrup and our policy is there for all to see. Of course, some players down the years wanted to leave purely for personal financial gain and Baxter is one that certainly springs to mind.
Yet, just this month the club has basically said any offers will be considered for any player. No matter that we have to win this title, if a suitable offer comes in then the relevant player will be for the off.
The reason for this is simple, David Murray has taken a sporting institution that was a license to print money and all but bankrupted us. And yet a large percentage of the support do not have a problem with this terrible state of affairs.
But lets go back to the mid 1980s, history will tell us all that was required to send the club back into orbit was a wee bit of vision from the board and £1.5m that was initially spent on Woods, Butcher and Roberts to get the ball rolling again. There were of course other signings like Colin West but it was those three who helped get the club back on track.
Be in no doubt it will take a multi million pound sacrifice from any would be investors wanting to come in to repair the shambles of the present custodian's running of the club and it would appear the majority of the support don't seem to care as to the reasons why.
Mind you, who can blame them, after all they have the RST's 17 points to dismiss. Ignorance as they say truly is bliss. I have to ask again, what has happened to the Rangers support?
The Govanhill Gub
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