David Murray always has been a shrewd cookie and he certainly knew what he was doing when he asked Walter Smith to return to hoover up Paul Le Guen's mess. While there was some curiosity about a top coach like PLG struggling with SPL football and much talk of a dressing room revolt, Murray's reluctance to give his manager the resources to do the job properly had not gone unnoticed. And the prospect of Rangers languishing for another few years while Le Guen's successor battled to sort things out was a serious cause for concern.
As close personal friends, Murray and Smith had no doubt discussed the team's troubles while PLG was still at the helm and I'll bet Walter wasn't shy in letting the Minted One know he was far from impressed. So when we needed things turned around, Mr Chairman really wouldn't have too many names to contemplate, he knew he would be getting a man who could put together a team which would be hard to beat and that results were sure to pick up.
And having previously emerged from hiding after a couple of years of letting the Hitchcock lookalike take the flak, proudly proclaiming that the debt was under control, he was back in charge and everything was hunky-dory, he knew only too well that things were far from well, the books were far from healthy and that a day of reckoning was just another year or two further down the line.
As we see further downsizing forced upon our club by Lloyds TSB and yet another takeover bid disappears into the long grass, the Minted One is conspicuous by his absence. The fans question the manager's team selections, they slate his tactics and have a pop at various players' contributions but the man solely responsible for our dreadful downward spiral is able to sit back comfortably in his ivory tower, seemingly immune from all criticism. Amazingly there are still some Rangers fans out there who think he financed the rebuilding of the stadium, the signing of the likes of Laudrup and Gazza and all the glory of nine-in-a-row out of his own pocket. Aye, there are none so blind as those who will not see.
Be in no doubt about it, Bears, the day of reckoning is here, yet Walter continues to perform miracles with ever decreasing resources when, at his age, he could be sitting at home enjoying family life from the fruits of his successes, instead of having to put up with all the grief which comes when the team goes off the boil.
The hysteria which followed the 2-2 draw with the SOTE was well OTT. Sure, it would have been great to win and, if we'd been a bit more aggressive, maybe we would have killed them off when they were down to ten men. But when a team goes a man down, they tend to raise their game to compensate and the numerical advantage is cancelled out. Ferfuxxake, we've done it ourselves often enough!!! In the immediate aftermath of the cup-tie, I found myself having to double-check that the Rangers are, in fact, still in the Scottish Cup. And for what its worth, I reckon Walter's way of doing business will be better suited for the Piggery than Ibrox.
But nothing Walter, his management team or the players do - even if we were to win the Treble and get to another European final - will be able to undo the mess we are in financially. David Murray was the man who got us into huge debt while, at the same time, hiving off so many sources of income which would have helped the club to manage the debt more realistically. For years Rangers fans rolled up at Ibrox, they bought the season tickets, they parked the car at the Albion, they bought their match programmes and the Rangers News, they went for a half-time snack, they might even have shelled out big bucks for a hospitality package and they bought all the official merchandise at the club shops. I sincerely hope the penny has finally dropped that the Rangers don't see too much of the punters' hard-earned cash.
Nor is their any sign of things improving in the foreseeable future. Two takeover packages have stalled - I daresay the books couldn't stand too much scrutiny - and HMRC are looking for their wedge. Lloyds TSB are playing hardball, Walter has to duck and dive to maintain anything resembling a reasonably strong squad, yet he does it admirably well, we are after all still actively involved in four competitions, yet it is the manager who is getting it in the neck on the FF Messageboard. Typically, our Absentee Landlord is nowhere to be seen.
No doubt Walter was well chuffed when Mr Chairman asked him to return to Ibrox just over four years ago. But Murray knew only too well the mess our club was in so, as I see it, he did the man he calls a friend no favours whatsoever. The manager was a legend for what he achieved at Ibrox first time around, although I've heard it said that failure to do ten-in-a-row rendered the previous nine titles meaningless. Surely not!!! Similarly, having turned things around since succeeding PLG, the knives are out for him again as the team's form has dipped a bit and too many Bears are in a hurry to draw comparisons between 1998 and today.
No matter how things pan out between now and the rest of the season - and I still fancy the manager to bow out in a blaze of glory - Rangers as a club and we as fans will be forever in Walter Smith's debt. He came when duty called and, after the major anti-climax of Le Guen's spell in charge, he got us back into a position of dominance at home and gave us some respectability in Europe. But amidst it all, we took our eyes off the ball, we got carried away with the regular return of the trophies and the glamour of the Champions League, the UEFA Cup and now the Europa League, and the man who has run our club into the ground can focus on his vineyards, his property portfolio or whatever else he does to fill his wallet these days.
He must be sitting back wearing that smug look on his coupon, thinking what fools we all are to let ourselves get all hot and bothered about a stupid wee game of fitba while he has been able to do his asset-stripping worst. The man at the sharp end has done very nicely out of his relationship with Murray but even he must see the great damage done to the very fabric and reputation of our great club. Maybe Walter should keep that in mind next time he is tempted to have a pop at those of us who maintain we deserve better. Aye, Murray has shafted you too, Walter.
The Rangers F.C. is not in safe hands.
LITTLE BOY BLUE