The club of my childhood remains
- 14 June 2012
I wonder if you can remember the first time you went to Ibrox? Most of us say we can, but I’m not sure I do. It would have been around 1984, and I think it was in the depths of winter, as I have a mental image of mostly empty stadium on a dark, wet day, the dullness only lifted by the colours of the stands. The old, multi-coloured seats in Ibrox used to remind of the garishly coloured sweeties we children of the 70s were raised on: Spangles, Fruit Polo, and my favourite, the psychedelic twirl that was the Splicer bar. My pre-match meal in those days was a splicer and a can of coke in my uncle’s car, while he had a few pints in The Cabin, his Elderslie pub of choice.
Different days, then, in so many ways. The social tolerance for drink driving must strike readers under 30 as astounding, Splicers are no more, The Cabin is now an Indian restaurant, and my uncle, too, is gone. Do the events of the last few days mean that the fulcrum around which these things revolved, The Rangers, are gone too?
I’m not sure. If one thinks of the many sides in England who have taken advantage of the financial boom Sky TV has provided to not just develop but relocate their stadia, sometimes miles away from the traditional home, one sees that clubs can adjust to major upheaval and still survive with a link to the past intact.
Ownership, too, has moved radically away from the local businessman made good or a committee of butchers and bakers, to persons known and unknown from whichever region happens to be bucking the overall economic crises around the globe. Roman Abramovich may or may not be an improvement on Ken Bates, but the fact that their team is the product of the Siberian natural resource industry bothered few, if any, Chelsea fans as they lifted the Champions League last month. Football moves on, but the club remains.
Cardiff City is currently undergoing the indignity of having their colours changed to suit new investors; as such, they are possibly the only club in world football I can look to and think ‘at least we’re not them.’ Any connection between fans and players, straightforward in the post war era and still commonplace enough in my youthful lifetime – Davie Cooper, in particular, was no stranger to the bookmakers’ of Lanarkshire – is entirely severed in England – yet the fans continue to turn up, cheer success and mourn failure. The incorporeal entity that is a football club seems to be able to withstand just about anything life can throw at it and continue as if nothing had happened.
We are in a separate category, I accept that entirely. Our pride has taken a battering and the pain of these days past and, unfortunately, still to come is going to last for many years. But I don’t believe that we must abandon any claims to inherit the threads of the past. Changing the name of the company, changing the division we play in, even moving to a new stadium could not break the chain of memories that connect me to Rangers.
If I were left with nothing but blurry memories of Ibrox, meshed with the taste of forgotten candy and the smells of alcohol and tobacco, it would still be the same Rangers I’d be following at Stadium X. For me, claims that our history ended on the 13th June are as fantastic as one of Craig Whyte’s tax returns. As long as the team play in blue and are called Rangers, the link to the past remains intact. Perhaps it helps that I don’t have an exact memory of the first time I went to the Govan to see a game. I didn’t get a programme, or, if I did, I didn’t keep it. Instead, those early visits have merged in my head as an excited day out for a 13 year old fanatic. That base is what will keep me going, wherever we are and whoever we play, with our history in mind and our future to (hopefully!) look forward to. End thread? I don’t think so.