Monday, August 8, 2022

Valentine Blues For Rangers

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The Highland Bear
Unashamedly watching the world through Blue tinted specs. Contributor to The 4th Official.

Note: This article was first published on The 4th Official Patreon.

Saint Valentine might well be the Saint of love.

10 years ago, on the commercialised day he now commands, our hearts were simply broken into a million pieces.

A decade on? Maybe it’s OK to learn to love again.

A decade ago, Rangers were in ascendancy. Chasing a 4th straight league title, we were making up with the Champions League again after what felt like an on/off relationship forever. We had a team littered with international talents. Our assistant manager, goal scoring icon, was now manager. Every romantic bought into that notion as we parted ways with the greatest manager since Bill Struth.

Quite frankly, we should have been on such an easy road; you could switch on autopilot and climb in the backseat for sleep without worrying about the outcomes you read about.

Sadly, the online theory was true. Those at the helm didn’t just fall asleep. They went into a complacent induced coma as the wheels didn’t just come off, but the whole vehicle was off a cliff and burning out of control. If only our custodians had remained vigilant and diligent whilst at the wheel of an institution that, quite frankly, they had no right to drive. They disgraced us then, and their continued silence and lack of remorse continue to shame us now.

Now for all you sevcopaths who live and breathe everything about taxes and death, this next part is for you. Maybe get the Kleenex ready. It’s admirable to hold such a moral compass on all matters sevco while being deaf when elephants are rampaging through your own house.

In 2012, our support witnessed the most horrifying moments we have endured as a support. Administration wasn’t something any of us ever expected. It simply wasn’t Rangers Football Club.

On a day that most are being serenaded with flowers, we were staring at floral tributes reserved for funerals. No Cards of affection, only statements read out from appointed administrators.

We went from overnight superiority to clinging for survival. Our squad, awash with international talent such as Jelavic, Naismith, Davis and McGregor now being scuttled worse than any Tragedy that Shakespeare could have written. Talk about Romeo and Juliet? Forget it and any visions of Verona or the canals of Venice. This was more like Leo’s Titanic, and it wasn’t one iceberg. It was an ocean full of them lined up to maximise devastation.

You can debate the rights and wrongs until the cows come home. You can apply blame to anyone you see fit. It’s a decade on. Nobody has ever faced up to what happened, and I suspect with the events we have seen, nobody ever will. From alleged meetings of “you bastards cheated” to 5-way agreements. I hope one day the truth comes out. Our support deserves such. The fanbase never dictated financial policy. Some would do well to remember the innocent party in all of this.

No disrespect meant to any players mentioned, but we went from a team with the history of Laudrup to Little. Gascoigne to Gasparotto. Albertz to Argyriou. We fine dined at the top table forever and a day, only to now face starvation and feed off scraps. Gone were the candlelit intimacy shared with our club in the form of European nights, replaced by the darkness of despair and a winter of discontent.

We were kicked. We were sneered at. An entire nation took an opportunity to revel in our pain. We took our medicine and began our journey at Brechin with their hate.

The football was pretty. Pretty grim, tbh. However, we discovered a newfound sense of humour. We laughed, even at our own expense. The banter years were born. Social media had now exploded with platforms showing a humorous side that entertained us all.

The downside was the sudden rise in Tax specialists and financial experts. I’m shocked that our university system had enough degrees to go round, such was the clamour to preach to us on how our club behaved. In all honesty, I think most of these moral guardians would have been better re-training in other professions with the power of hindsight.

We rose through the divisions. There was no romanticism involved. This was as messy as a divorce. We just wanted to separate from the lower leagues and finally court the one we all wanted. The Premiership title. We faced humiliation as our pride stood us up on several occasions. Raith Rovers at Easter Road being one occasion where we were left jilted as a support.

One icon stepped aside as the final promotion was a bridge too far. The padlocks on this one simply too heavy a burden to take. We had 3 bears create their own love story as they spectacularly wrestled back control from individuals I wouldn’t trust to run a bath never mind an institution of our magnitude.

We faced a sneering rival who mopped up Champions League qualification for years. They jeered our players, they wiped their nose on our club crest. They openly mocked us with banners to hanging effigies from stands. They wanted to crush us, keep us barely on life support so they could play with us without ever having any threat. We were meant to accept the inevitable. Know our place. The 10 was a formality in their minds and a fear in ours. Trebles were swept up alongside other things. We suffered humiliation on and off the field.

Rangers were on the canvas. We kept getting back up. We were floored again with every treble blow. We kept getting up.

A Rangers fan
GLASGOW, SCOTLAND – FEBRUARY 01: A Rangers fan arrives at Hampden Park ahead of the League Cup semi final match between Celtic and Rangers on February 1, 2105 in Glasgow, Scotland. One of world football’s most intense rivalries Rangers and Celtic met today for the first time in three years. (Photo by Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images)
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Mark Warburton took the reigns and for a while had us believing we had found the new Pep. Attacking free flowing football that would gain us promotion back to the promised land. A Scottish Cup Semi-Final win over our rivals and unfortunately a defeat in the final. Sadly, the lack of plan B would be his downfall once teams had sussed us out.

Pedro was an unmitigated disaster. A tenure that will only be best remembered that he brought us Alfie. Other than that, it’s best forgotten to avoid nightmares we don’t need. Instead of “Progres”, we regressed.

We then had Gerrard. The world was once again watching Rangers Football Club. We had attracted one of the biggest names in world football to our club. A mammoth rebuild of epic proportions.

I admit for one that as a younger fan, the Champions League was everything. Failure wasn’t tolerated. When we were in the UEFA Cup, I simply wasn’t as interested. It was beneath our stature playing against so called lesser sides. If only I knew how wrong I was.

Gerrard guided us to group stage football. Not once but 4 years in a row. The first 2 years from 4 qualifying rounds. The 3rd being 3. That is nothing short of outrageous. We dominated teams such as Porto, Feyenoord, Benfica, Villarreal, Braga, Antwerp and Standard Liege to name just a few. Our club were back on the map in spectacular fashion.

Domestically we started to dish out bloody noses. First by Ryan Jack in 2018. Slowly we began to punch above our weight. We weren’t the pushover any longer.

Those clubs who sold their soul to kick us found out karma with relegation. Many of them who imagined a carve up of the spoils left by our departure were faced with the reality that never materialised. Only one club in our 4-year absence made Group stage European football. Rangers attracted just as high attendances in the lower leagues than what the Premiership could attract. The bravado of Sell Out Saturday a huge success for one weekend in 4 years. The fact of the matter was they needed our club just as much as we needed them.

A Pandemic would see Zoom calls award titles. Sporting integrity was now out the window as the juggernaut towards the 10 seemed unstoppable. Oh, how wrong they were.

In the biggest season in their history, the capitulation was one of the greatest on record. Rangers repaid the faith and loyalty of our fanbase with the most spectacular turnaround since Mo Johnston in 1989.

A 25-point winning margin in their dream season was delicious. 3 League victories, 1 draw and one Scottish cup win crushed them on the field. This was the gift that kept on giving.

A club isn’t about the name above the door, the board of directors or the current custodians. It isn’t about balance sheets and even the first 11.

It’s the admin staff who devote everything. Those with courage like Colin Stewart in the Youth Development Co. and Sandy Jardine who never got to see us return to our rightful place. It’s the staff at the Charity Foundation, aspiring to make life kinder for so many others. Definitely, the Museum Curators who are gifted with Knowledge and Enthusiasm to share with others the wonders of our club. Obviously, the supporters club bus convenors, ensuring buses from afar that transport so many to their second home. Let’s not forget the cleaners who graft and make sure our stadium is in all its glory, especially in a pandemic to keep us safe. The Catering staff, the youth coaches. The fan media delivering ground-breaking coverage without the prejudicial agendas we have been subjected to from the Scottish media for too long.

Every single person is irreplaceable within our Rangers family.

Those first in and last out. It’s about children wide eyed experiencing that 1st game. It’s the bond between families, the cherished moments together watching a match, sometimes on polar opposite teams. It’s the feeling of belonging. To something much bigger than you could care to imagine. Cupid’s arrow couldn’t have been more accurate than a shot to the centre circle itself. Its memories, loved ones gone, new life beginning. It’s everything. And more.

We defied each and every one of them.

We didn’t roll over and accept defeat. We didn’t give in when the going was tough. We fought back as a support and as a club with every beat of our heart.

I’ve witnessed us take on worse Celtic teams and lose. I’ve also seen us take on far better sides and be proclaimed champions. 5 behind with 4 to play should be a testament to that. Last season we were spoiled by a freak of a result. Something we may never see again. Whilst it’s disappointing we find ourselves one point behind in February, it’s by no means the end of the world. It’s a title race as we have known for years of old. If Celtic believe the league is over already, then that may just be the arrogance we need to see for us to overtake them.

As Monday approaches, I hope whatever you do, take a moment and remember. Remember what we suffered then. Remember how we overcame the adversity. Look forward to the future as celebrate new milestones when we almost had nothing. If it’s your thing, raise a glass to those we said goodbye to. Raise another to the new blood that is the life and soul of our club.

We tore the script into a thousand pieces the day we won 55. That was yesterday’s news. We strive for tomorrow at Rangers football club.

As we approach 14th February, we can all say that our one true love will forever be Rangers football club.

Editorial Note: I have a favour to ask you. Did you know this article was published days back on our exclusive Patreon page days back? If you love Scottish football while sick and tired of the same old biased MSM coverage, this is for you. The 4th Official needs your support. Due to the unprecedented situation as a result of the COVID 19 pandemic, the digital media space has been completely devastated. There has been a massive shortfall in revenue (even while viewership is up) as we scramble how to make sure that we go on with our daily job. We are proud to put up exclusive stuff on Scottish football as well as an early release of our podcast interviews with relevant personalities of the game (recent guests have been Marvin Bartley, Matt Polster, David Martindale, Greg Docherty, Daniel Stendel & a lot more) on our Patreon account and hope you would support us in these tough times. We have supporters from at least 12 countries, and you can be too by chipping in just £2.99/month (or become an annual supporter). Become a proud Patron of The 4th Official!

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