A word of sense from Graham Spiers

May 16, 2008


May 16, 2008

A club with a poison at its core

Utterly predictably, the fate of Rangers is once again to find excitement on the field marred by loutishness and delinquency off it. Losing the Uefa Cup final in Manchester on Wednesday night was no disgrace for Walter Smith or his team, whose very presence at the game was a triumph in itself. Beyond the stadium, however, before and after the match, events told their own story of how accursed Rangers remain as a club.

Willie Waddell, a memorable Rangers manager of the early 1970s, whose team brought the 1972 European Cup Winners’ Cup back to Glasgow, once aimed the following simmering words in the direction of his club’s supporters: “It is to these tikes, hooligans, louts and drunkards that I pinpoint my message. It is because of your gutter-rat behaviour that we are being publicly tarred and feathered like this.”

After that European triumph of 36 years ago, Rangers were banned by Uefa for the rioting of their fans, causing Waddell to implode with rage. The blight of Rangers – defined by loutish behaviour and bigoted chanting among groups of supporters – is proving a durable social poison. Here we are four decades on, still lamenting the seemingly endemic way in which these supporters behave like primitives.

The chaotic scenes in Manchester on Wednesday night – a Zenit fan stabbed, rioting Rangers fans, and 15 policemen getting injured – were frightening to behold. Moreover, the footage released yesterday and shown on Sky News, of hundreds of Rangers fans charging at police and setting upon one who stumbled to the ground, will make the already weary Ibrox hierarchy cringe.

Rangers have a repeated get-out for these episodes: the script always says this is “just a small minority” of fans. Moreover, as incident upon incident passes with the club’s supporters – at Villarreal in 2006, in Pamplona in 2007 and now in Manchester in 2008 – it is always “heavy-handed policing” and not the Rangers fans themselves who are said to be the blame.

Well, this is no small minority of Rangers supporters, and nor are the Greater Manchester Police renowned for their truncheon-wielding brutality. Instead, this is a football club with a poison somewhere at its core.

Such scenes will enrage those legions of decent Rangers supporters who love their club and follow it with impressive ardour. The postmatch eruptions were all the more depressing on Wednesday because the vast Rangers support gathered inside the City of Manchester Stadium had created a brilliant spectacle of colour and noise, including many who stayed on to applaud the Zenit St Petersburg players on their 2-0 triumph.

Other aspects, however, were familiarly ugly. During the day before the match, and certainly in the drunken aftermath, there was too much evidence of the sort of primitivism that enraged Waddell 36 years ago. In particular, bigoted or sectarian chanting remains an excruciating pastime for too many Rangers supporters, despite repeated pleas by the club to give these anthems a rest. For two days in Manchester, if you were based in the city centre as I was, you woke up to these dirges in the morning and you went to sleep to them at night.

Since being punished by Uefa two years ago for such antics by their supporters, Rangers have hired PR people, as well as Kenny Scott, a seasoned and former high-ranking Glasgow policeman, to try to gouge out the social disease which has clamped itself to the club. Scott, in particular, knew very well the inherent dangers of 100,000 Rangers fans descending upon Manchester for the Uefa Cup final.

The downside of Rangers reaching such a prestigious game in as close an area as the north of England was that it was an open invitation for the club’s less impressive followers to display their capacity for drinking, aggression, and sectarian abuse. I would go so far as to say that Scott, as head of security at Rangers, will have been cringeing at the very prospect from the moment the club qualified for the final.

Some spoke yesterday of another Uefa investigation of Rangers, but this surely won’t occur. It is almost impossible for Uefa, however much they care about the image of football, to weigh in on such affairs as public disorder in the city centres of Britain.

But who has the answer to this blight? Can anyone offer Rangers a cure for this ugly delinquency which afflicts a sizeable group of their supporters?

Until that cure is found, the once-proud name of Rangers FC will always trigger thoughts of yobbishness and bigotry. The club, to be blunt, is paying a heavy price for its century-long antipathy towards signing Catholic players, a policy which planted this bitter harvest.

© Copyright 2008 Times Newspapers Ltd.


All Done

May 13, 2008

I’ve finished my last essay of the term.  It was a report on how to conduct a critical literature review.  Hard going!!!  But that’s me all finished for this year.  Just two modules and a dissertation to go and I will be a Master!

Tomorrow I’m off to the URC Synod of Scotland minister’s conference.  They are spending 3 days looking at Risk and I’m leading a session on Thursday morning on Risk and Young People so I want to see what they have already covered.  No point in repeating!

In other news Lucky Dave is in Manchester clutching his ticket for the Uefa Cup final tomorrow night where his beloved Rangers take on St Petersburg.  I hope Dave, Marc and Sponge have a brilliant time.  It was great to see all the cars an buses heading down the motorway towards Manchester today.  Good luck tomorrow.

My team, Motherwell, have qualified for next year’s Uefa Cup.  Here’s hoping we get just as far!!!

down south

March 11, 2008

I’m down south for our Youth & Children’s Work team meeting.  We finished the meeting part to do some work in groups with one eye on the Liverpool game, but it’s on SKY!!!

amazing football

February 20, 2008

I’ve just watched possibly the best display of football in years.  Barcelona were simply amazing against Celtic who did well to score twice but lost 3-2.  What a game.  Ronaldinho, Henry and Messi were unbelievable.  Football the way it’s meant to be played.

In other news Motherwell 3 – 1 Inverness.  C’mon the ‘Well!

Uncle Phil

December 31, 2007

Motherwell midfielder Phil O'Donnell

Phil O’Donnell, Motherwell FC’s captain, died on Saturday aged just 35.  ‘Uncle’ Phil collapsed during the game against Dundee Utd and died later in hospital.  Phil was part of the Motherwell team that won the Scottish Cup in 1991 and I’ll never forget his goal.  A great player and a good man, he will be sadly missed.

‘Well ‘Well ‘Well

December 1, 2007

Jack had his first experience of live foootball today when he joined Ben and I at Fir Park to watch Motherwell take on Gretna on a cold and wet afternoon.  Well done to Motherwell who gave out loads of vouchers to local Primary Schools for free entry if you brought a grown up.

Gretna closed Motherwell down for most of the first half although the ‘Well should have scored 3 times in a minute with 2 shots headed off the line and one hitting the post.  The opener came eventually and from there on in Motherwell were on easy street.  It finished 3-0 and could easily have been more.

Scotland Win World Cup

November 26, 2007

Scotland have won the World Cup… of Golf.  Well done lads!  About time too!

In other World Cup news, Scotland seem to have a decent draw for the FIFA World Cup qualifying.  Holland, Us, Norway, Iceland and Macedonia.  Not bad, although when listening to the radio after the draw someone said… ‘Holland… could be worse!’ to which Richard Gordon replied ‘Yes… because they only beat us 6-0 the last time we played them!’.  I have a good feeling about the group.  An interesting coupld of years of international football ahead.