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The Actual Way Forward – No Room for Sentiment


Last week’s BBC Scotland story regarding a leaked paper about the club’s future football philosophy has attracted a lot of debate – not least when we consider the Beeb’s latest ban has been attributed in part to them publishing what may or may not be an ‘official’ document.

After all, while it seems investor David Gowans did indeed write the report, it’s debatable whether or not the club was ever intending to act upon it. Mr Gowans certainly had the ear of Charles Green (he was part of the top table during at least one fans meeting) but I think it’s fair to say it’s a leap for anyone (not least the mischief-making BBC) to suggest such an empirical wish-list was any more realistic than our children’s annual Christmas letter to Santa.

That’s not to say the document didn’t make some valuable points and some good ideas were highlighted. With that in mind, Ally McCoist was wrong to disrespect the author as not being of the correct trade for him to consider his contribution credible. McCoist may have spent the bulk of his professional life as a leading football personality but that shouldn’t preclude him from accepting the ideas and opinions of others. A cursory look at the performance of his team over the last two seasons should afford him more modesty.

In saying that, at Ibrox on Saturday, over 50,000 fans watched McCoist lift his first managerial honour. The Third Division may not be the trophy he (or us) dreamed of capturing when he took over from Walter Smith in 2011 but when we examine the broader picture, the coaching team and players deserve some praise for putting aside incredibly difficult off-the-field pressures to comfortably win SFL3. Sure, at times the football has been very poor but McCoist is right when he says the circumstances were unprecedented. Ergo, he is entitled to enjoy this first step on the journey back to the top.

Indeed, it’s with that journey in mind that everyone and their dog have their opinion on the best strategy for the club. Should we accept any invite to fast-track us into any new league setup? Can we afford to have such a huge staff? Does the manager really need a £10million transfer fund? Where within the club should over £20million of the IPO money be invested? Who’d offer better squad value; Nacho Novo or Nicky Clark?

Clearly, feelings will differ markedly amongst all Rangers fans when it comes to answering each of those questions so this is where sentiment has to be removed from the equation. Of course we don’t want to be seen as gaining any sort of sporting advantage from reconstruction but the Stock Exchange will dictate the board’s answer to any invitation. Quite simply, the quicker we’re back at the top, the better our chances are of gaining real success again: money speaks loudest. Next, of course we’d all want to open a huge clichéd war-chest of transfer monies but it was that kind of short-term waste that led the old company to ruin in the first place. As such, any IPO funds investment needs to be carefully thought out and debated by experts in their field. As for cutting staff costs, no-one wants to see job losses but can we really justify (or afford) such a work-force nowadays? Finally, of course Nacho Novo is a Rangers man who’d run through a brick wall for the club but should we spend money on a player whose career is winding down instead of investing it in a player whose career is just taking off? Be honest!

And this is where the debate becomes difficult for us all because it’s that honesty that has been missing from the leadership of the club in recent times. From the excessive gambles of Sir David Murray, to the lies of Craig Whyte there has been little in the way of an obvious self-sustainable strategy for the club to move forward with. Moreover, even if we recognise the undoubted good work of Charles Green and Imran Ahmad over the last year, neither can we close our eyes to their failures. They may have helped repair the breach in our hull but their recent actions have steered the ship back towards the rocks again. However, what’s worse is that they’re not alone.

Quite simply the club still seems to be struggling badly on a range of fronts. Daily PR wars between board factions in the media, constant fire-fighting of negative stories and possible new owners carefully applying share-price pressure means it seems those running the club must have little time for anything else but reactionary statements, press bans and independent ‘examinations’. If the fans are exhausted by two years of media saturation, is it any wonder the club custodians are struggling to cope as well. Is there any light at the end of this never-ending tunnel?

Unfortunately, with today’s news of Malcolm Murray’s possible departure, the answer appears to be no. We have a minimal and unrecognised board of directors; we have minimal consultation with fans; and we have minimal evidence of a definitive strategy for the club’s future. Without these fundamental business necessities, the ‘Way Forward’ isn’t so much like the simplistic leaked document over the weekend but absent altogether.

For the last 10-15 years the biggest problem for Rangers has been a lack of clear leadership and direction. That’s still the case now and that’s hard to believe when you look round a packed Ibrox Stadium every other Saturday. How on earth can such a well-supported club be struggling to secure its position from one year to the next? Where exactly is the club placed financially?

That serious question is primarily for Zeus and (it seems) the Easdale brothers but they’re not the only ones who can answer it. After all, if Ally McCoist finds a multi-millionaire electrician’s opinion so funny; then perhaps he can explain why his own philosophy so far has been less than impressive. In addition, if people like Craig Mather and Walter Smith can accept prominent positions on the board, then perhaps they can assure the fans that they’re there on merit as opposed to sentiment or politics. For example, there’s no doubt Walter is a club legend and, in this writer’s opinion, protects all our interests and is thus an ideal non-executive director. But it’s only fair we recognise that others may feel the club needs to break free from romanticism when looking to revamp its footballing outlook.

Over the next few weeks, Rangers fans will again be asked to spend upwards of £300 on renewing their season ticket. This is a collective £10million+ which ensures the club remains viable on a day-to-day basis every season and most will renew irrespective of league position, transfer budget or squad quality. After all, we’re loyal to our club – not hunting glory or defying others. However, as admirable as that may be, our loyalty should demand more from those we hand our money to. What is their actual ‘Way Forward’ and how can the support help the club achieve the aims within it? The same question goes to any other Scottish businessman (or Middle Eastern sheikh) tediously rumoured to be interested.

Instead of hiding from valid questions about vital strategies, let’s open up the debate and secure the future of Rangers together. We can and must overcome.