We normally don’t talk about on-field stuff on SFM, but given the over-optimistic coverage of the prospects of TRFC (particularly in the ESJ © The Clumpany and DR) it is worth noting that since they beat Celtic on penalties in last year’s Scottish Cup semi final, they have played in four huge games which were real barometers of progress ;
- Hibs in the Scottish Cup Final: 2-3
- Celtic in the Premiership: 1-5
- Aberdeen in the Premiership: 1-2
- Celtic in the League Cup Semi-Final: 0-1
On each occasion, they have failed the test, not only by failing to get a result, but by being second best in most on-field departments.
The point is not one of wider Schadenfreude, or even an in-depth critique of the abilities of the team or manager, but of how the TRFC board and the MSM, in falsely inflating their side’s prospects, do a disservice to TRFC fans. Aided and abetted it seems by the manager who – even allowing for the positive spin managers need to put on things post defeat – is refusing to accept reality.
We often talk about turnover as the yardstick by which performance can be (roughly) measured. If that were the only yardstick, one would expect TRFC to be right up there with Celtic. But it is more complicated than that. For Celtic and TRFC, there are massive overheads (e.g. stadium costs) that have to be dealt with and taken out of the equation before Glasgow apples can be compared with Aberdeen and Edinburgh varieties.
Even allowing for that it seems pretty clear to me that TRFC have more disposable income (for spending on players and contracts) than Hearts or Aberdeen for example, but the gap is now not as great as raw turnover figures would suggest – and the margins are probably slim enough that they can be easily blurred by managers at other clubs who have a good grasp of tactics, an eye for a player, and a proper understanding of football psychology.
To compound the problem for TRFC, there are two rather large eggs in the TRFC transfer basket which are now cracked or broken. A dangerous waste of resources in fact. Whether it was Warburton or King who went to the market for Barton and Kranjčar is irrelevant. More relevant is the reason marquee signings like these were made.
Once a manager is recruited, you stay out of his domain
Yes, Barton’s signature in particular has used a huge chunk of the already scant budget, and that is a real blow to the manager’s planning, but the real problem is that the club has deliberately pushed fan expectations skyward, all of which is counter-intuitive given the rough calculations in the preceding paragraphs. More worryingly for Rangers fans, the board’s own expectations for the playing side are unrealistically high – and given the business expertise contained therein, puzzlingly so.
TRFC is a focal point for tens of thousands of people. The people who run the club are also influential opinion formers and how they set the tone for those thousands is important.
Tub-rattling, dog-whistling, and the WATP mentality have been employed almost exclusively thus far in the ‘journey’. All of which may have rallied the troops and provided a welcome injection of funds, but it also antagonised almost every football fan in the country who wasn’t a Rangers follower. And in view of how those funds (including the £21m IPO) seemingly disappeared into the ether, did it really help the club realise any ambitions going forward?
TRFC are looking up at the north face of a financial Eiger today
I can’t help feeling that had they been replaced with humility, some regret, and gratitude to those who smoothed their path into the leagues, then the view from the club deck would a lot more attractive today than it is.
The journey could have been an expansive one bent on winning friends along the way, clearly differentiating itself from the Murray era, and carrying assurances that the new Rangers would never treat the game in Scotland as shabbily as its predecessor.
Seems intuitively obvious to me that a mission statement like the following would win hearts and minds;
“The latter-day custodians of Rangers have destroyed our club and shamed its traditions of sporting integrity, fair play, and honest endeavour.
“However the ethos and identity of our club will not be allowed to slip into obscurity.
“We will build a club worthy of the traditions of sporting integrity and fair play. It will be open and accessible to people of all colours, creeds and nationalities,
“It will be a long journey, but it is one which we relish, and one which will in time restore Rangers to the upper echelons of the game“
Managing expectations realistically with a ‘we are thankful to keep the Rangers name alive’ would have played better with the bears.
I don’t believe there is a football fan in the world who wouldn’t sign up to that had they found their club in the same circumstances as 2011 Rangers. I don’t believe that Rangers fans are any different either, but the problem is that their moral compass is being calibrated by people whose past records make them least qualified for the task.
Instead of a plan to win Scottish football over, we got boycotts, victim-hood, denial, and that wonderful new oxymoronic idiom, post-liquidation. Really though, it should all have been so different.
Water bills notwithstanding, TRFC are looking up at the north face of a financial Eiger today, but they chose to climb an Eiger instead of a Munro, and they sold false hope and snake oil to the fans on the way.
They have no money with which to recruit players of sufficient quality to challenge at the top. They are facing a massive bill for repairs and maintenance of a stadium that has atrophied under six or seven years of neglect. They have similar infrastructure problems at their training ground. They need to build a scouting infrastructure which currently consists of one man and several local volunteers. Their income from merchandising is non-existent due to a testicles-drawn dispute with Sports Direct. They owe several millions of pounds of soft loans which they cannot convert to equity because of that same dispute, and the people they have gone back to again and again for top-up finance have ever shortening arms and lengthening pockets.
.. we understand the value that Rangers can bring to the to the Scottish game and we want it to be realised.
Miracles of course do happen, perhaps in the shape of a magician manager who can get them access to European cash almost immediately. Unless that comes to pass, there is no way forward for Dave King and his board, other than to make peace immediately with Sports Direct and actually stump up the cash he promised two years ago; cash he promised to bridge the resources gap which is widening by the week.
A widely accepted wisdom in many football boardrooms these days is that the main recruitment priority of any board is an excellent manager. A really good manager can make a team out of ordinary players, but a poor manager will have difficulty sculpting a winning side from even very good players. So in a club with limited resources, it makes sense to spend a major part of your budget on a very good manager.
Another widely accepted wisdom in boardrooms (even if not always followed) is that once a manager is recruited, you stay out of his domain.
The boardroom at Ibrox is not awash with wisdom it seems. First of all they put their faith in a manager with little or no experience in the game. That may well have worked out with a bit of good fortune, but does anyone really believe, after his disappearing act in the wake of the Cup Final defeat and his absence at the Barton signing conference, that Mark Warburton is master of his own domain?
If not, does the ‘come hither’ curled finger of fate attached to Jimmy Traynor’s hand at last week’s press conference convince you?
I would guess that there are at least half a dozen experienced managers with a track record of success who would relish the challenge of putting TRFC on the map at the opportunity cost of a Barton for example. Instead it seems – if the rumours are true – that Warburton’s autonomy was breached so that said Joey could be hired to boost ST sales.
No group of fans is entitled to expect success. Rangers fans, and Celtic fans, have historically come to expect that very thing. It is understandable to some extent, but it should never be confused with an actual entitlement to success – and that is what the board at Ibrox are selling to the fans in return for their cash – which as we have seen is not being converted to the promised on-field successes.
the ‘come hither’ curled finger of fate attached to Jimmy Traynor’s hand should convince us that Warburton is not his own master
To a large extent, I think some of the online comments in fan sites in the wake of the Celtic match have been sensible and mature. Reality amongst Rangers fans is at last beginning to bite, and that can only be a good thing for TRFC. Rangers fans are beginning to understand that too many liberties have been taken with their loyalty to and love of the jersey. The problem for the fans is that whilst they come to terms with what may be a realistic timetable and roadmap towards success and parity with the top clubs, the current board and their chums in the press are invested in having them believe the opposite.
Already the cheerleaders in the red tops are proclaiming their ‘gulf-denial’ credentials in the hope that enough fans will be convinced of it. The problem is that the fans know the gulf exists – and not only that does exist, but it is unrealistic to expect it not to.
The Level5 effect is wearing off. In the past five years, £21m quid in investment, £6m in loans, and five years worth of ST sales have all come and gone. Will Rangers fans really do those sums, observe that in each of the four milestone matches mentioned at the beginning of this article there is nothing to show for it, and agree that there is nothing to concern them?
Rangers fans will no doubt call us obsessed to produce an article like this – about them. But football is uniquely interdependent – we all need each other. It is a game where we benefit from the traditions, the colour and the fanaticism of rivals. The fact is that we understand the value that Rangers can bring to the to the Scottish game and we want it to be realised.
Sadly though, the current people in charge at the club are people who revel in making war on fellow clubs and business partners as well as the national broadcaster and BT Sport. They have also failed to deliver on promises of investment and success to their own fans, and escaped press scrutiny of that failure. Whilst they are there, we see only division in Scottish football with no coming together possible for generations.
I believe that the vast majority of fans who love Rangers, like the rest of us, have had enough of a war on too many fronts to count. It’s time to make peace – with everyone. Football in this country can’t be fixed until that happens.