Quality players were mentioned as prospects at every press conference (though few ever came) and the chairman's master plan for European success was coming together as sponsors queued up to throw money into the coffers at Ibrox. Even the green tinted bifocals of hacks like Hugh Keevins conceded that Rangers were so far in front, Celt*c would need snookers to catch up.
Five years may have passed. And its true to say Celt*c have caught up. But the manner in which they have been able to do it is as galling as any tale of crass stupidity, arrogance and conceit as you will hear in any Christmas pantomime. Let's be brutally honest here. And I dare a Tim to contradict, Celt*c did not catch us up.
That would mean special efforts on their part with shrewd investments and clever transfers but the only difference between then and now is a change of manager and John Hartson. Remember, we had first option on Hartson so he should not count anyway. And what of the manager? Another clone like Burns or Dalglish. and let's point out here that Dalglish's tenure actually put Celt*c's recovery back not enhanced it. They've had Larsson so long he doesn't count either. So how did they do it? They didn't. Rangers did it for them.
I've complained many times about the antics of Dick Advocaat. His arrogance and ignorance to the type of players he was bringing in. And at such high costs this was poisoning the dressing room and playing style which Walter and Sounness had strived to build. Those former managers had laid the foundations for Rangers to become one of the greats amongst Europe. Advocaat was allowed to tear it apart with Murray's blessing. The two of them go hand in hand (yeuch, what a horrible image) when it comes to the fall from such dizzy heights. I really want to know how a club with such a massive financial infrastructure and so called team of top business brains can flush that potential down the drain without a single major set back?
No new ground to build, no boardroom hijacking, no lack of credit facilities to keep the day to day business running. No critical losses through TV funding disasters as in England and yet the result is we are as broke respectively as any second or third division team in Scotland.
Let's look at what we the fans have done for the club as our part has to be accounted for. Over the last 20 years we have accepted many changes despite rumblings and tantrums over hiked season ticket prices, debentures for basically nothing in return. The £400 Murray asked for to staple our name to our seats? Less matches covered by season tickets. Restricted supplies of tickets to certain games, Changes of strips on an almost quarterly basis. Reserve matches played elsewhere and charged for. Sorry, Under 21's as we don't have reserve teams anymore due to cost cutting. Downgrading the food available but upping the prices, Restricted travel, autocratic decisions over plans for developments whilst we still poured into Ibrox at 40,000 plus every game. Yes, we've done our bit.
What's happened is that the club has completely ignored the warning signs that football was about to go into a recession. Players wages were spiralling higher than Kylie's hot pants and the debts getting bigger than Jordan's implants. Who cared at Ibrox? No one. 'Celt*c had their troubles' so Rangers had plenty of slack to play with. 'What's the big issue about a few crocked players taking big wages for a couple of seasons without kicking a ball? What's the problem if we do buy expensive duds, we can still whip the Mhankies because they're having real problems. Rangers can buy their way out of theirs'.
Well, it didn't happen. The training ground we now proudly boast of has yet to show a return on investment. Chris Burke being the only potential, but would he have slipped away unnoticed if we did not have a zillion pound complex to train in? I doubt it. Flo, bless him did his best but that was nowhere near £12m and he is really the symbol of Rangers folly overall.
Judging by this season's matches so far Rangers are putting a team out that suggests the club has been sick for a very long time. Simply not enough talent there to spread over a cream cracker let alone Ibrox Park. An injury list that has not changed in number or seriousness in over a decade, just the names on the sick beds. This is not an excuse anymore. If it were, sack the doctors and coaches and bring in people who can spot a crock from a hundred yards.
The people in charge at Rangers have got to start looking at themselves to see why we are in this mess. There is not one reason why a club of this magnitude should slip so badly in such a short space of time to allow us to be chasing Celt*c in the league, watching them yet again in a European competition and witnessing gutless, clueless performances on the park week after week when we should be leaving teams bobbing in our wake. Every other team in Scotland is in crisis. But Rangers should still be ahead by a long chalk.
Where is the next upturn going to come from? Or perhaps we should ask when?
The league structure doesn't work, the standard now is poorer than Saddam Hussain's hidey hole and the pension fund at Rangers has dried up for those who came here for that very reason and that reason alone. No more De boers (when he's ever fit). We will have to play shot in the dark to sign players like we did with Negri, Solenko and Capucho in the hope that one in three might just find the net before he slopes off in a strop. There's no other way unless you actually put faith in home grown talent and give them the freedom to bring football in Scotland to life once more. Heading for an English league or European league is not an option right now. We need to get back to a sound financial footing before we can try and compete with the big boys.
Dump the freeloaders and put some pride back into the shirts by signing players who want to play football for Rangers because they love the club, not the size of the pay cheque.
This once upon a time story has yet to find a Happy Ever After ending.