From the Govan to the Gantry-An Interview with RTV's Tom Miller (part 2)
- 10 August 2012
EBTs and title stripping have dominated the thoughts of the Rangers fans lately and there is a feeling of disappointment directed towards the players who have left the club without giving the club a chance to benefit from a transfer fee. Tom’s views on both these issues are clear:
‘On players that walked away of course we are all disappointed but we should equally remember that they, in the most part, made huge personal sacrifices in the final three months of the season. These sacrifices went a long way to maintaining employment numbers behind the scenes - although if we had been able to have enjoyed some kind of financial recompense for their services it would have sugar coated the bitter pill we had to swallow. Current employment legislation can be complex and not an arena for the layman and that can be confirmed by both parties (RFC & PFA) both adamant that they are correct. Well done to Southampton for the way they secured a dignified conclusion, I suspect the other moves may yet be subject to further legal scrutiny. Conversely we should get fully behind the players both old and new that are here for the long haul as it couldn't have been an easy decision but what greater confirmation can there be than that this football club gets into your blood and the potential for success remains very high indeed.
‘So much has been written and broadcast on EBT's and again mostly from ill-informed zealots who are not interested in anything but grinding down the world’s record holding domestic champions. It is beyond sad that such venom is even aired far less encouraged in far too many corners. EBT's were legal until 2010 and were declared consistently in Rangers Annual Accounts - copies of which are always provided to both The SFA & SPL. Is it now a case of forget what went before.....let's rewrite our rules to really bury Rangers. Now ask yourself, who would benefit most from stripping of titles? On reflection, you don't need to answer that. Let's hope for a timely and satisfactory conclusion with common sense prevailing.’
It is hard for any Rangers fan to separate fact from fiction and it has been this way for a long time. The media are certainly culpable for this. They are guilty of inaccurate reporting and, worse still, a seemingly endless desire to stir the pot or to fan the flames. In almost all corners the Rangers, it seems, are deemed guilty until proven innocent. Not only is this not how the world works it only serves to prejudice opinions on Rangers – unless independent panels live underground cut off from the world it is hard to fathom how they could be immune to this. Tom’s opinion on this is much more informed than my own – yet again our opinions seem to be shared:
‘No other way to describe the way the Rangers situation has been reported but as a “feeding frenzy” for our media, from both written and broadcast disciplines. The rumours of administration were rife on the weekend that Rangers travelled to Dunfermline towards the end of last season as Daniel Cousin arrived in the eye of the storm - an innocent bystander. By now the outlook was swinging towards bleak. Outrage was the common denominator for fans of every other club as they saw the Rangers indiscretions as a form of cheating and our media pack did nothing to play down the situation by offering clear and concise facts about the business operation of the club. Radio phone-ins also went into meltdown with ill-informed and agenda laden callers being given air time by equally less informed presenters whose legal and accounting knowledge ended with the two times table.
‘Rangers perhaps didn`t help matters by adopting a bullish manner and flexing muscles that tended to suggest all would be well, but the media still had the scent of blood and wanted to report negativity and were quick to jump on the Armageddon band wagon floated by others who should have known better. Meanwhile within the club hatches were being battened down and press releases and official statements were few and far between - largely down to the nature of Duff & Phelps and the constantly changing landscape of the story.
‘It`s a fine line between reporting truth and facts rather than innuendo and rumour particularly in our Daily red tops who are also fighting a losing battle against diminishing circulation figures. For Editors, either Sports, News or Business, Rangers were manna from heaven...Rangers were, for the first time, a soft target and many took the opportunity to attempt to settle old scores. Meanwhile the biggest financial contributor to the Scottish game SKY, kept their powder dry on how they saw their position for a potential SPL with no Rangers. South of the border football clubs in financial crisis is almost commonplace and nothing more than a matter of fact recognition was paid to the Rangers situation. I regularly popped up with Danny Kelly on talkSPORT and tried to offer a level headed and calculated opinion. I was a minority.’
No one associated with Rangers is safe from the media witch hunt as Tom himself found out only recently. Tom dared to go against the belief of the zealots when, during match commentary at Brechin, he proudly declared that this Rangers was still the same club with the same history. This seemed to ruffle the feathers of The Sun’s Bill Leckie who attempted to mock Tom and his comments although, if the intention was to somehow upset or embarrass, I think it is fair to say it was unsuccessful:
‘The recent column by Leckie of The Sun really made me laugh. Loaded with inaccuracies and designed as yet another cheap shot not just at me but the global Rangers family. I did text him to thank him for enhancing our RTV audience and hoped he would subscribe to support the club as he is, after all, the self-styled voice of the lower leagues...I did not get a reply nor did I lose any sleep over his absurd article.’
Perhaps even worse than the media and perhaps even more culpable in the chaos of this pre-season are of course the game’s governing bodies. Not only did they turn a bad situation into a disaster they also added fuel to the fire that was threatening to engulf the beginning of Charles Greens reign at Rangers. Tom agrees:
‘I think we were all led up the garden path a bit by the football authorities and Charles Green's regular comments were “We were led to believe..."
A. The CVA would go through
B. We had a chance of SPL status continuing as the votes could go in our favour
C. Division one or SPL2 was the worst case scenario
‘I think over recent months Charles Green has realised that the pure vindictive nature of opposition clubs come from both boardroom and terracing. His learning curve on Scottish football protocol has been very acute! It also must have been a really frustrating few months for Green who was trying to rescue this club with limited support from both within and outwith Rangers. Caution has to be the watchword of the fans after the absolute disastrous reign of Whyte who single handedly by design took this club to the brink of extinction. Sure Sir David Murray was culpable but more on him at a later date.’
Rangers fans are accustomed to having to wear hard hats whilst having broad shoulders...now perhaps more than ever. If, for example, we were to take 4000 fans to Brechin that represent the club with honour and dignity, it’s the four or five that don’t that will dominate the headlines. That, however, should not be used as an excuse to revert to the stage villain personas that many WANT to see simply so they can condemn it.
The truth is Rangers now have the opportunity to do a lot of good for the game. Whilst those who kicked us whilst we were down struggle to make ends meet up in the top tiers, the relative minnows of the game are preparing for massive pay days when the boys in blue visit their small towns and we should embrace that. A modern day Robin Hood? With tongue in cheek Tom thinks so:
‘Clearly, over the coming seasons, we will be bringing a huge financial benefit to all SFL clubs. Already Brechin have benefitted with commemorative mugs & badges sold on the day Rangers came on Ramsdens’ business while Peterhead have marquees and hospitality in place like never before to maximise the income from the visit of the 54 times champions. The spin-offs to other businesses at footballing outposts such as Annan, Berwick and Elgin should also not be underestimated as The Blue Army enjoy the hospitality of cafes, clubs and pubs in the area. Clubs that benefit from Rangers having to work their way back through the ranks will owe Rangers, the club and fans, a debt of gratitude. We must, however, maximise relations on our journey and give the anti-Rangers brigade in the 5th Estate nothing to continue to feed on.’
Although others may benefit from our visit, Tom is well aware that the third division road for Rangers will be a difficult one:
‘The bottom line is the infrastructure of RFC is all geared to business in the SPL but the costs base the overheads including wages etc., must come under the spotlight and frugal decisions, difficult as they will be, will have to be made. As a support we all have a huge part to play. Season ticket commitment is essential as is the purchase of merchandise as huge challenges lie ahead. We talk about the Rangers family - like never before we have to make that a reality and close ranks to those who all kicked us when we were down. Long memories are crucial - short term commitment to the cause is paramount.
‘Many talk that our third Division status was NOT a punishment but a consequence. I personally originally believed that but then the penny dropped; we were positioned there after a vote by our peers. That gives it a totally different dimension. We'll take our medicine and be diligent and focused going forward with a plan to restore us to the top flight. If there are casualties by way of insolvencies at other clubs along the way so be it. Let's not kid ourselves, satellite broadcasters committing to 15 Division 3 games for the season ahead would never be considered were it not for Rangers and that fact is keeping some SPL Clubs above the breadline but only just.’
However, it is not all doom and gloom. Rangers fans who have lived with a tag of ‘glory hunters’ in the past are confusing the zealots with their attitudes to playing in the third division and are looking forward to embarking on a romantic journey back to the top. I have my doubts whether we will actually be permitted to work our way back up with ‘sporting Integrity’ intact without league reconstruction catapulting us through the leagues and Tom has his doubts too:
‘Rangers will be the big scalp they all want to take. Opposition players will need no extra motivation and will raise their game to create a bit of history they want to tell their grandkids about. Be prepared for 36 Cup Finals heavily disguised as league matches. Jimmy Bell better have loads of extra shirts on hand because souvenirs of this incredible journey will be in demand at every stop off along the way.
‘However, I remain less than convinced that progress through every division will be required. Much will depend on how the first half of this season evolves for SPL sides and I am sure discussions will continue to have SPL2 in place sooner rather than later. We have already witnessed wholesale prostitution in the Scottish game it's only a matter of establishing the price!’
Whatever comes our way in the coming years, Tom and I wholeheartedly agree that we are all extremely fortunate and should be incredibly proud that Rangers will be led by Ally McCoist. A man who has shown everything that defines a true Ranger. His first year in management has surely been the most difficult baptism of fire that has ever been seen in football. Tom’s admiration for Super Ally is obvious:
‘We should never forget the responsibility taken by McCoist from the date of administration in February. He effectively took control of the Club, worked without a recognised Board of Directors and kept morale high in every nook and cranny of Ibrox and Murray Park. Clearly the strain told on the man and no wonder. He has a young family and when tears flowed when the mascots from his family took the field on the last home game of the season - this hard-nosed bampot of a commentator had a tear running down my cheek for the fella!
‘I am very fortunate that I can phone or text Ally at any time and I know he`ll respond. Believe me that wasn`t always the case as anyone who ever tried to call him will confirm but cometh the hour cometh the man and Coisty has cahones like beach balls with an unrivalled passion for Rangers and a steely determination to get it right. And he will. There have been some fraught exchanges, I don`t doubt, between CEO Green and Alistair Murdoch McCoist MBE and it was suggested that Ally may have been ready to quit. Fortunately that didn`t happen and “not doing walking away“ is still his battle cry.
‘Does he realise how much affection he is held in by the Rangers support? Not a chance....he`s not in it for personal gain, he could re-ignite his TV career tomorrow (he would maybe need a wee bit more make up nowadays) but for him it`s all about The FAMOUS GLASGOW RANGERS! Keep a space next to Greigy at the corner of the Broomloan Road Stand for another statue for another legendary Ranger.’
Tom would neither confirm nor deny but I know for a fact that he hasn’t taken a penny from Rangers since administration. This is an unreported and selfless act that should be admired and never forgotten. Tom’s unwavering loyalty and support of Rangers is something we can all relate to. Never before has the Rangers support felt so unified. The chips are down and the road is long but shoulder to shoulder we will stand. As a result Tom’s words will come to fruition: Rangers will indeed prevail. It is only fitting that the final word here comes from Tom:
‘From a personal perspective I am very fortunate to be given the chance to commentate for Rangers Football Club but I fully respect that finances and the need to support full time employees may dictate change in the weeks and months ahead. I sincerely hope I can continue...and I remain fully committed to delivering an informative, humorous (when appropriate) and accurate summary of the action either on audio or on TV. It is a privilege and really is a case of living the dream.’
You can follow Scott Ferguson on Twitter @st2oh
You can follow Tom Miler on Twitter @TomCommentator