'Follow We Will' - Book Extract
- 09 July 2013
The following is an extract from the forthcoming book 'Follow We Will - The Fall and Rise of Rangers'. The book will be released on the 15th July and will be available to buy in all good bookshops, the Rangers stores, as an e-book and online at Amazon UK, Waterstones and Luath. If you are outside the UK you may want to try the Kindle edition or buy a hard-copy here.
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This extract comes from the chapter by David Edgar entitled 'Rousing the Rangers Family'.
"‘Banter’ is a hard thing to quantify, especially with a subject as emotive as football. But for the vast majority of Rangers fans, the overwhelming level of hatred that was poured over them during this period was genuinely shocking. Of course, as one of the biggest and best clubs in the country, a lot of it was to be expected, and was even reasonable – who doesn’t like to see the big guy fall? It happens in every sport. And while many Rangers fans would not have appreciated it, being the butt of jokes was another expected and reasonable outcome. We’d have done the same. Anyone who says they wouldn’t is fibbing. It’s an inescapable part of football and it’s never going to change.
What did come as a surprise to many was when it went beyond that. Fans of other teams didn’t want Rangers simply humiliated; they wanted them dead. They wanted the club hounded out of business. They wanted the authorities to put the boot in as the club lay wounded, and with a compliant – indeed, complicit – media in tow, they set about screaming for what they called ‘justice’. That they didn’t actually know the crimes Rangers were accused of was merely incidental. We were guilty of something, we had to be, and we had to be brought down for it.
Probably the saddest part of the whole thing, from a personal perspective, was decent supporters of other clubs – and this includes Celtic – being so easily corralled by the more poisonous elements of their supports. That they couldn’t even react with basic decency to the obvious suffering of people who were, in many cases, friends and colleagues simply because of the football team they followed reflects very poorly on them. The usual excuse – Rangers fans deserve this because Rangers fans are bigots – doesn’t really stand up to much scrutiny. Simply put, if you knew one of these bigoted Rangers fans, why were you friends with them in the first place? But then, Rangers fans ceased to be individuals to these people, and their friends in the media, a long time ago, becoming instead an amorphous mass with collective ideas and beliefs assigned to them. I would say judging an entire group of people based on a single shared interest is much closer to bigotry than the perpetrators would ever have the insight to realise.
Rangers fans, we were told, had not shown enough contrition for what had happened. We were ‘not sorry enough’. This was bizarre even by the looking-glass standards of Scottish football. It was akin to having a go at an assault victim for bleeding on the pavement. The fact that people were demanding punishment before establishing a crime appeared incidental. As the debate raged as to what should happen to Rangers, it was made explicit that our support – the single largest in Scotland – was not to be consulted at any point. When journalists spoke of ‘listening to the fans’ it was with the caveat, ‘not including that lot.’
This was simply the logical extension of the dehumanising process which had been carried out by the media in Scotland on Rangers fans for around a decade. We were not to be thought of as individuals, as people, because that would elicit a far softer reaction. Instead we were ‘The Rangers Support’ – one collective unit, to be spoken about, labelled, prodded and abused. There was to be no sensible discussion, and if ever one was to be threatened, someone would be sent out to shout ‘bigots’ and then turn the conversation back to punishments again. The votes were in. The irony in being judged by people who are so hate-filled that they can’t even accept any level of debate is almost beyond parody.
But Rangers fc played their part in that. It seemed that Sir David Murray lost interest in Rangers sometime around 2002. He appeared less interested in the football than he was in doing deals, and if this was raison d’etre for owning a football club then, when the transfer window was introduced, it massively reduced the time he could spend shopping. Murray’s apparent apathy was best exemplified by a media strategy which said ‘anything goes.’ No matter the slight, no matter the source, he didn’t seem to care enough to fix it – the bare minimum was in place. And if those troublesome supporters complained, who cares? He’d signed Gazza and Laudrup after all.
When an empire grows fat and slothful, it usually ends up being dismantled. That was what was happening at Ibrox. Enemies, emboldened by the realisation that Rangers were never going to draw a line in the sand, were now brazenly plotting what they could do to damage the club. The BBC Scotland team seemed almost contemptuous in its dislike. The rest of the media knew they could do what they liked with no reprisals. It’s also important to factor into this how utterly divided the Rangers support was. There was no agreement, no consensus, about any of the main issues facing the club. To be brutal, there was not even a desire to accept that there were issues facing the club. Many preferred to pretend that debt, the constant downsizing of the playing squad, the inability to sign new players for two years, the shambolic state of the stadium and the impending disaster that was the First Tier Tax Tribunal were insignificant, inventions of malcontents out for their own advancement. Murray had encouraged these divisions for years. A divided support was never going to unite and seriously question the truly abysmal job he was doing."