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The Strange Case of Mike Calvin


Who is Mike Calvin I hear you say? Well, Mike is a Watford fan with a fetish for Millwall Football Club, and author of the highly acclaimed footie book ‘Family, life, death and football’.  An intrepid, adventurous and, some might say, foolhardy sports writer he admits to having been ‘propelled the wrong way around the planet, as a crew member on a global yacht race against prevailing winds and tides’, and having participated in ‘politically incorrect car rallies, around the Amazon basin and Arctic circle’. He also claims to have sunk the only powerboat he was ever allowed to drive, and admits to being out of his depth at a surfing contest in Vietnam! He’s clearly been about a bit!

However, he’s certainly not one of the usual Rangers–bashing suspects, or I would have recognised his moniker immediately. In fact Mike Calvin is a respected sports journalist who has twice been named Sportswriter of the Year, Sports Reporter of the Year and has been honoured at the British Press awards on six other occasions. Indeed Wikipedia describes him as having, ‘established a global reputation during a twelve-year spell as Chief Sportswriter on the Daily Telegraph, also having held similar positions at The Times, the Mail on Sunday and the Daily Mirror.

So why is Mike Calvin the subject of my attention? Well, because of his blog on Monday, 25 March 2013 where he described Charles Green as ‘either a fool or a fantasist’ and someone who ‘must be stopped.’ Had I not been aware that it was Charles Green he was talking about, I could easily have assumed that he was talking about some Scottish politician or a monstrous serial killer.

But Mike was actually responding to Charles Green’s interview with the Daily Mirror's Neil McLeman which was published on 24 March under the bold headline, ‘Ger'd your loins! Glasgow Rangers will be playing in England within FIVE YEARS says Ibrox chief’.

Now, I don’t believe that any Rangers fan would disagree when I say that Charles Green is often impetuous and occasionally imprudent with his public utterances; and there is no doubt that his outspoken Yorkshire style, and his proclivity to call a spade a spade, often lands him in hot water. Personally, I wouldn’t have it any other way. For too many years we have endured unwarranted, unreasonable and unfair criticism from all and sundry, without even a whimper.

In fact, far too often in the past, the Club has failed to make any meaningful response to articles and statements that were usually inaccurate, often scurrilous and almost always designed to wound and injure. On the rare occasion when we did respond, our defence was inevitably weak and feeble. Our dignified silences only ever encouraged our detractors, and our argument that we were holding the moral high ground never resonated with anyone other than Rangers supporters.

That has all stopped with the advent of Charles Green, and that’s why I support him as our Chief Executive and the prime defender of our often embattled club. Green is not ‘a fool or a fantasist’ but, rather, a very forthright, practical and pragmatic man. Love him or loath him, he DOES indeed call a spade a spade. I am, unashamedly, a Charles Green fan. There is no doubt he is the prime mover in the revitalisation of our club, and that he has brought financial stability to a club that was almost on the verge of extinction. When few were prepared to put their neck on the block he did. When so many so-called Rangers men refused to put their money where their collective mouths where, he did, and for that I will be eternally grateful.

But does that mean I agree with everything that Charles Green does and says? Of course it doesn’t! In fact there have been a few occasions in recent months when I have cringed as he has held forth on the possibility of playing our football in England or offered his tuppence worth on the vexed question of our return to the SPL. But, as I’ve said above, I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Charles Green attracts criticism just like a magnet attracts metal. It’s a natural instinct in all of us to attack something or someone that threatens you, makes you feel uncomfortable or challenges your innate, inherent, and unshakable beliefs. Clearly, Mike Calvin feels threatened by Charles Green. He must do to have produced the strident, histrionic and rather petulant attack he made on him in his 25 March blog. He really did throw the toys out of the pram.

In Mike Calvin’s defence, however, Green did make a few inappropriate comments. Rangers may be a much bigger club than Newcastle, but it was unnecessary and a little crass to make the point. His comments about Aston Villa and Everton were unwarranted and unlikely to endear us to the movers and shakers in English football should we ever reach the point at which a move to England becomes a realistic prospect.

But Calvin is wrong in almost every other respect, and wrong to reject Green’s arguments in the insulting and superficial manner that he did. His intemperate blog is unlikely to persuade even the most ardent opponent of Charles Green’s proposals because he makes no attempt whatsoever to rebut many of the solid arguments that he makes. To launch a personal attack on him and allege that he ‘failed as chief executive at Sheffield United’ is unworthy of a journalist of Calvin’s stature. The statement is unwarranted and, at best, disingenuous.

To allege that Green has ‘reinvented himself as the man who is quite prepared to destroy Scottish football’ is particularly insulting, given the efforts he has made toward a rapprochement with the Scottish football authorities, and against the backcloth of the unprecedented sanctions applied to Rangers Football Club by a hostile Scottish Football Association and Scottish Premier League. The SFA and the SPL need no help from Charles Green to ‘destroy Scottish football’, they are doing a very thorough job without his assistance. I find it difficult to believe that any other club subjected to the attacks that we have, would not also be considering playing their football elsewhere.

But, regrettably, Calvin has also twisted other aspects of Charles Green’s interview. For instance in his blog he says:

‘There are several problems with today’s threat, given in an interview with the Mirror, to use European law to apply for refugee status, not least the notion that Celtic need any lessons in foresight and ambition from their Glasgow neighbours, whose last performance earned a plucky goalless draw with Stirling Albion at Ibrox.’

There is no such threat in Charles Green’s statement. Indeed, he makes it clear that he wishes to ‘jaw, jaw’ not ‘war, war’ with the English football authorities, and whilst he refers to European law and a potential restraint of trade, he makes it unequivocally clear that should the Football League clubs reject Rangers he would accept that. Nor does he seek to make any case for Celtic moving to England – he has no need to do so, as its common knowledge Celtic has already made numerous approaches to the EPL without any assistance or support from Green. No, he simply makes the obvious, and eminently reasonable, point that Celtic and Rangers would be major ‘income generators’ in the Conference were they to join that league. He’s right, of course; just look at the income we have generated for every Scottish Division 3 club we have played this season. What English club wouldn’t want a slice of that Scottish ‘refugee’ cake?

As for the jibe about our goalless draw with Stirling Albion…tut, tut Mike. A little infantile don’t you think?

Mike Calvin doesn’t, of course, refute Green’s claims that English clubs have ‘begged him to buy them’, and nor does he challenge his claim to have, ‘spoken to a number of chief executives from Premier League clubs’, all of whom ‘would welcome Rangers’. I suspect that Calvin knows full well that there are many clubs in England – at the higher and lower levels – who would welcome Rangers with open arms. What club, in these financially challenging times would turn away thousands of paying customers in stadiums that have acres of empty seats on a Saturday afternoon?

Mike tells us that Charles Green’s, ‘credibility has already been stretched to breaking point’. Nonsense. His kudos has never been higher, and the odd faux pas or impolitic statement will not blind a struggling Football League Chairman, or the discerning football fan, to the efficacy of his arguments or the financial realities of a vibrant Rangers in English football. Richard Scudamore, the English Premier League’s chief executive may be ‘implacably opposed to Scottish infiltration’, but I’m not at all persuaded that his constituents are. Scudamore, who doesn’t appear to be opposed to Welsh infiltration, will no doubt bow to the wishes of his constituents if, and when, the matter is rationally debated and the case for Rangers in English football is made in less emotive circumstances. Mike Calvin believes that Rangers fans should ‘drive’ Charles Green out of town. But why would we do that when he is revitalising our club and putting bums on seats. Before Mike resorted to his most petulant insult that Rangers, ‘may be football’s equivalent of a pavement busker, battering out a tune for loose change’ he should have taken a look at our average attendances this year and made a quick comparison with the two footballing loves of his life: Watford and Millwall.

Watford’s average attendance is 12,704, whilst that of Millwall is 11,484. Rangers fans could, and would, have filled the remaining 7,196 empty seats at Vicarage Road, and the remaining 8662 seats at the New Den. Maybe Calvin wants to see them remain empty, but I doubt if the owners and chairmen of either club do.

Personally, I am not a proponent of Rangers moving to England – despite my antipathy to the current SFA and SPL regimes – but if we are to have the debate, let’s have it in a rational, considered way. The intemperate, knee-jerk blog does nothing for the debate – for or against. It certainly didn’t do anything for Mike Calvin’s reputation as a sports journalist.

Calvin Spence (aka) JCS is a frequent contributor to Rangers Media as a Site Writer and occasional contributor to Gersnet. He has supported Rangers since 1974 and his career has focused on industrial relations, employment law and contracts of employment. He lives just outside Belfast.