Scottish Daily Mail



King has no magic wand. Rangers face a long road back His personal skills will be tested by the Ashley issue

BEFORE a sombre Rangers General Meeting, a revolution­ary in a Cossack hat stood behind the Broomloan Stand bearing a handwritte­n sign. It pointed west.

‘Glasgow Airport is Rataway. Taxi for crooks. Ashley, Llambias, Leach.’

A meeting which began a little after 11am lasted no more than 13 minutes. Mike Ashley’s Rangers henchmen Derek Llambias and Barry Leach were nowhere to be seen.

For an engagement pre-empted by the language of war, it was all terribly polite in the end. No bullets were fired in anger. There was no one there to fire at.

Those assembled managed a round of applause for Ally McCoist as he turned up in his Harry Hill shirt.

But for the 1,000 or so shareholde­rs who arrived to cast their vote, this was a day for quiet determinat­ion. Following the anger and bewilderme­nt of the last three years, their voices would be heard via the ballot box. In numbers, best described as overwhelmi­ng.

Don’t be fooled by the very civil events of Ibrox yesterday . Because what transpired at Rangers was a massacre. A velvet-gloved revolt.

Llambias and Leach were not around to hear of an 85.5-per-cent vote in favour of their removal because they already knew their fates. They took the man in the Cossack hat’s advice an hour or so after the meeting ended, racing off in a taxi. It wasn’t fast enough for some.

No one should blame Rangers supporters for their outpouring of joy. Dave King has been their greatest hope for two years now.

But this morning should bring a bout of sober contemplat­ion.

For in the weeks ahead, a sombre dose of reality is needed. King has no magic wand. His Rangers face a long, obstacle-strewn route back to recovery and stability.

Anyone who regards a swift, triumphant march back to the top of the Scottish game as an inevitabil­ity faces a rude awakening. The first tasks are many. Before becoming non-executive chairman, King must undergo due diligence with a new Nomad. He must convince financial regulators and the SFA that he is a fit and proper person to serve on the Ibrox board following 41 conviction­s under South African tax laws.

He must allocate funds for a scouting network, keep some back to repair a crumbling stadium, find the perfect coach and give him enough cash — £10million was mentioned — to win f ootball matches.

There should only be one name on the list. If he wants it, Derek McInnes of Aberdeen i s the stand-out candidate.

But beyond all that, King has another task. To take the unity of yesterday and f i nd a way to preserve it. Because after the moonlight and roses, there will be trouble ahead. At football clubs there always is. When Fergus McCann took control of Celtic 21 years ago this week, the parallels with this Rangers situation were striking.

McCann and King are hugely different figures. Celtic supporters don’t appreciate comparison­s.

Yet both are lone wolves who go their own way. Wealthy, singlemind­ed men who astutely utilised popular supporter discontent to stage a coup d’etat.

McCann ended his own lengthy power play by standing on the steps of Parkhead as Brian Dempsey proclaimed: ‘The battle is over, the rebels have won.’

But the optimism didn’t last long. The turnaround from cashstrapp­ed to champions took four years.

Celtic continued to lose games and struggled to balance the competing egos who believed their cash investment­s entitled them to a bigger say in how the club was run.

Within weeks, McCann fell out with Dempsey. Relations with Dominic Keane, another key investor, soured swiftly. Tommy Burns, the manager McCann headhunted from Kilmarnock, would leave meetings with his managing director in a state of simmering rage.

King is a smart, streetwise man. He knows the game and i t’s possible he will avoid all this. That he will keep supporters eating out of his hands.

Like all successful men, however, he has a combative and brusque streak. Fools and egotists will be kept at arm’s length.

His personal skills will be tested to the maximum by the Mike Ashley situation.

Rangers l awyers will pore t hrough t he Sports Direct contracts in the coming weeks looking for an exit clause. If they can’t find one, King and his new board are stuck with onerous, unfavourab­le contracts.

They will have to work with a man who is patently trying to bleed the club dry.

All this at a time when King regards spending on the team as an absolute necessity.

When Sir David Murray engaged in an arms race with Celtic, the results proved catastroph­ic. Yet King believes l osses are unavoidabl­e in the short term. Rangers will l i ve within their means eventually, but only when cash has been spent to drive up revenues.

To some, this will seem a risky approach. Murray moonbeams-esque indeed. Yet, in matters of Rangers, King seems to have a habit of calling it right.

He predicted liquidatio­n before it happened. And he sent Charles Green away with a flea in his ear because he saw his business plan was nonsense.

Yet King also has no shortage of detractors. Because of the longest running tax case in South African history, t here are plenty — primarily supporters of other clubs — who believe he should be nowhere near Scottish football.

Rangers f ans have no such qualms because, in some of the major calls concerning their club, King has developed something approachin­g a sixth sense.

He’ll need it again in the coming weeks. Paul Murray, the interim chairman, says Rangers are ‘broken’.

For Dave King, the task of rebuilding his beloved club brick by brick will be slow, back-breaking and occasional­ly painful. For any chairman of a Scottish football club, it was always thus.

 ??  ?? Heading in a new direction: one Rangers fan in a Cossack hat makes his feeling clear at Ibrox yesterday
Heading in a new direction: one Rangers fan in a Cossack hat makes his feeling clear at Ibrox yesterday
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