Time to move on…It is now 50 years since John F Kennedy was so brutally and publicly slain in Dallas. Conspiracy theories abound and it seems the truth of what actually occurred in Dealy Plaza all those years ago remains as confused and contested today as it has ever been. What is certain is that a young man was taken from those who loved him in a horrific and deadly attack. On a human level it was a despicable crime. Here in Scotland, in 2012, we had the much less tragic death of a football club and the conspiracy theories, red herrings, smoke screens and denials continue to reverberate here. Of course, the two events described above are poles apart in their effect and importance but they tell us something of the very human desire not to let go, even if this means denying verifiable facts. They also tell us that important events require the truth.
Last Saturday there was an interesting discussion on BBC Radio Scotland in which Graham Speirs and Tom English took opposite views of the death of Rangers Football Club. For Speirs the club died in 2012 when the Liquidators moved in. ‘Anyone who knows insolvency law knows they died,’ he said. English on the other hand stated of the new company, that if it ‘Quacks like a duck, looks like a duck and walks like a duck, then it’s a duck.’ Which in plain English means he thinks it’s still the same old Rangers. I tend to agree with Graham Speirs if they want to be the same club they should pay the creditors large and small who were shafted for millions. Otherwise any club can run up huge debts, liquidate, reform debt free and then claim to be the same club? There is no doubt that the constant and relentless war of words over the whole tawdry shambles at Ibrox has increased animosity among some in Scottish football. English and Speirs did agree that the events of the last couple of years have added a new edge to the rivalry between some of the fans and there is a distinct possibility that when Celtic finally does get to play the club currently playing at Ibrox, there could be problems. Of course no one wishes this to be a self-fulfilling prophecy but the well has been poisoned further by the vitriol flying around online over the past couple of years and some less enlightened folk take such things more seriously than they should.
The second thing which spurred me to write on this topic was the reaction to a picture I posted on twitter. It showed Ally McCoist, Walter Smith and Kenny McDowell looking at the tributes left outside Celtic Park in the wake of Tommy Burns’ death. I labelled it; ‘Respect where respect is due.’ This of course was a phrase with a double meaning. The Rangers men were showing their respect to Tommy and I hoped my fellow Celts would see that. It also implied that I respect them for doing so and of course for their role in Tommy’s funeral. We sadly live in a country where some less cerebral citizens refuse to enter a RC church even to pay respect to folk they know at their funeral. The spurious, medieval logic which makes some view the world through such 17th Century lens is at once bizarre and a little sad. However, the vast majority who commented on the picture were supportive and recognised the basic humanity of Walter Smith and Ally McCoist in that instance. They worked with Tommy in the Scotland set up and McCoist described him as ‘The best man I ever met.’ A few remembered insults and slights (real or imagined) from McCoist and intimated only a grudging respect or none at all for him. That comes with the nature of our football and the fact that two clubs have dominated the set up in Scotland for so long. For some the old adage; ‘It’s not enough that I succeed, others must fail,’ comes to mind.
The rivalry has for over 120 years become, in the minds of some, an all-consuming passion. Every contentious decision from referees or football administrators is viewed through the ‘them and us’ lens. No doubt there have been decisions over the years which have to say the least been mysterious. From the ‘flag flutter’ of the 1950s to the footballing authorities holding up George Cadete’s transfer to Celtic for 6 weeks as the season entered a crucial phase. We also had a compliant media say little or nothing about Rangers sectarian signing policy for decades nor indeed the bigoted songs sung by their supporters. But things have never been the way they are now. The unique circumstances of Rangers collapse in debt and disgrace added a new dimension to the usual rough edged banter which has always gone on between fans of the Glasgow clubs. There is a denial going on among some fans of the new club which looks increasingly desperate and is filling some of them with pent up anger. No one is to blame for the liquidation of Rangers apart from the people who ran the club into the ground. Graham Speirs warned Murray that £80m+ of debt was dangerous to the club’s survival a decade back but was dismissed as anti-Rangers. The world financial collapse in 2008 led to the tightening of lending by the banks and effectively sealed Rangers fate. The bubble of debt popped and Rangers were just another business who owed too much to survive. Still some refuse to see this, still the narrative that other clubs and their fans ganged up on them is pushed and this has led to the ridiculous situation where some Rangers website now have lists of ‘Our Enemies’ displayed. Of course many in Scottish football did enjoy the collapse of the so called ‘establishment club’ with all its vainglorious arrogance and unwarranted superiority complex. But to argue that this understandable, if at times unedifying ‘Schadenfreude’ is part of some larger plot which led to Rangers demise is to confuse cause with effect. No one killed Rangers apart from a few short sighted men in the blue room.
All of this is lost on a minority who are storing up their frustration and anger as the ‘Zombie’ jibes continue and the new club limps slowly back to the top flight of Scottish football. We need to think carefully where all of this is leading. The football authorities have a duty to try and defuse some of the tensions and each of us as fans should now also think about putting the events of the past 2 or 3 years behind us and looking to the future of the game we love. We all hold our opinions on what occurred at Ibrox and the status of the club which now plays there. Mine are expressed in my earlier writings on this blog and I stand by them. However, our national game needs to be rebuilt from the top to the bottom and the ashes and bitterness of the past do not make for good foundations. The two biggest clubs in the land share the same city and there will be the usual rivalries but the sensible majority need to help calm things. I do worry that when the two clubs meet there could be problems but with the good will and humour of the ordinary Glaswegian football fan, we can keep it to a minimum and get back to enjoying the football.
The struggle for truth is always worthwhile and valid, particularly in the face of the poor journalism which marked the biggest story in Scottish football history. If it demonstrated the power of social media, it also demonstrated the agenda led lies and obfuscation of a number of mainstream media figures. George Orwell correctly observed a lifetime ago that ‘Journalism is printing what someone else doesn’t want printed, all the rest is public relations.’ There will be no agreed upon history of the collapse of Rangers because some will never accept the club died and some will never accept it didn’t. Most of us are set in our opinions now and unlikely to change them. However, at the end of the day we must think of the future of our national game and try to lance the poison which still permeates it here in Scotland. To do that requires us at some point to take our eyes from the past and focus them on the future.
A minute’s silence was observed at all Scottish League games 50 years ago to show respect for the late President Kennedy. It was impeccably observed around the country with the exception of one stadium where a vocal minority, perhaps recalling the late President’s ethnicity and religious persuasion, booed and jeered. I’m sure the decent majority shook their heads at this. Such petty mindedness still exists in corners of our land 50 years later. I hope to God it’s banished forever in the future and we can reclaim Scotland’s status as a fair minded and decent society. It’s time to move on.