Tuesday, 28 June 2016

The Dogs Bark

The Dogs Bark

One of Scotland’s trashier papers allowed its pet ‘Rangers blogger’ to publish a piece this week on the wonderful job Dave King is doing at Ibrox. We are asked to look and marvel at the brilliance of the Ibrox board’s acumen. Of course such articles are little more than season ticket advertisements which normally I wouldn’t even read, however the article’s made certain accusations about Fergus McCann which need to be corrected. Under the headline ‘Dave King is in it for the silverware but Fergus McCann only wanted silver’ the rather strangulated prose of the author informs us with a blithe disregard for facts that…

‘’It’s tempting to draw parallels with what has been achieved to Fergus McCann who undoubtedly saved Celtic in their time of crisis but the difference is in the detail. McCann smelt business opportunity and walked away with a huge profit. His motives were not altruism, and the good state of Celtic on his departure was simply a happy by-product of his reign rather than the key objective. Perhaps that’s why he departed to a chorus of boos although that has been swept away in a reformed, revisionist history. King on the other hand is no McCann. He will make no gain, no swag bag of financial reward. Success on the park is no mere by-product, it’s the principal aim. Perhaps it’s this truth, that rankles with so many.’’
Where to begin with this pile of tosh?  The Celtic Fergus McCann took over after a bitter struggle with the old board in March 1994 was a club in terminal decline. Celtic in 1994 had a stadium in need of rebuilding, a failing team a support in open revolt and accounts which suggested major investment was the only thing which could save the club from financial meltdown. He sent out a letter to Celtic supporters outlining his plans and what needed to be done to put the club back on the road to success. First off was the need for a share issue which would recapitalise the club and allow the creditors to be paid. Unlike a certain other club he would not take the easy way out and shaft the creditors. McCann said tellingly in later years…
“It would’ve cost less, and left the previous owners with nothing, to go into liquidation. But it would also be humiliating for Celtic. So we paid all the bills. Celtic means the same to me as it does to other fans. I identify with the club and wish to be proud of it.”
McCann’s share issue was a huge gamble for him for had it failed to raise the necessary money, he had underwritten any shortfall and would have had to carry the can. It turned out to be the most successful in British Football history as thousands of ordinary Celtic fans rallied to save their club. One cannot help but contrast this to the sullen inaction of Rangers supporters as their club sank into liquidation in 2012. Rather than face up to the truth and look for solutions they attacked the messengers who warned that the hubris and financial insanity of the Murray years was leading them to extinction. Yes, McCann was and is a capitalist who made money from his investments in Celtic but to say this was the chief motivation of a man who clearly loved Celtic is just nonsense. Those who booed him in 1998 did so in the wake of Wim Jansen’s departure and in the face of a frankly disgusting hatchet job being done on McCann by the gutter press.
The same ‘news’ paper which printed this half-baked article with its digs at McCann was also the rag which compared him to Saddam Hussein. It was also the rag in which James Traynor urged him to ‘Go now or be hated forever.’ Fergus McCann was not perfect. He put the financial well-being of the club above any rash spending on the team. He expected players to honour the contracts they signed and not agitate for more money or a move. He could be inflexible and even ruthless but he wanted Celtic to succeed on and off the field.  He once said at an AGM...
 "I tell you that 90% of the people here are not interested in business. They are interested only in the playing side of things. I tell you that without the business, there would be no club - and NO team."
Fergus left Celtic in 1999 in a far better condition than he found it. He had led the renaissance of a club which was in trouble on and off the field. The stadium was rebuilt, the team finally became Champions, the charitable ethos of the club put on a more secure footing with the birth of the Celtic Foundation and the supporters given hope again. The new century sees the club as the dominant force in Scottish football having won 11 titles in 16 years. Rangers as we know collapsed in ignominy and disgrace with a certain Dave King on the board as a non-executive director.
For anyone to claim that Dave King is somehow on a higher moral plane than Fergus McCann is simply preposterous. It was said of King in the South African court by Judge Brian Southwood after he had seen King testify…
 “We are unanimous in finding that he is a mendacious witness whose evidence should not be accepted on any issue unless it is support by documents and other objective evidence. It was remarkable that King showed no sign of embarrassment or any emotion when he conceded that he had lied to the (Sars) commissioner in a number of his income tax returns. In our assessment, he is a glib and shameless liar.’’
The only revisionists are those who deny these facts and the fact that Rangers died owing 276 creditors millions of pounds. That embarrassment is what really irks and no cheap digs at Fergus McCann will change those facts.
Postscript: August 2014, Fergus McCann is invited to unveil Celtic’s League flag and is given a standing ovation by the huge Celtic support. There is recognition of what he did for Celtic and vindication that his sensible financial approach was right. As he once said when the gutter press were attacking him in the 1990s… ‘The dogs bark but the caravan moves on.’

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