Re­cent his­tory has valu­able les­son for Rangers

The Herald - Herald Sport - - FRONT PAGE - MATTHEW LIND­SAY

AMID the acres of news print de­voted to pre­view­ing the Celtic game against Rangers last week, there were a cou­ple of lines which stood out. They were quotes from the great Wil­lie Hen­der­son who stated “un­less Rangers spend some money on the team it is go­ing to be dif­fi­cult for them to com­pete” and “an­other £10m on the team would make a big dif­fer­ence”.

The leg­endary winger went on to be­moan the fact the “£30m-50m” which Dave King, the chair­man and ma­jor share­holder of the Ibrox club, had de­clared would need to be in­vested be­fore the con­sor­tium he fronted as­sumed power last year, had so far failed to ma­te­ri­alise.

Hen­der­son did, in fair­ness to him, ac­knowl­edge the Glas­gow in­sti­tu­tion had suf­fered badly as a re­sult of gross fi­nan­cial mis­man­age­ment and stressed that noth­ing rash should be done which would put it at risk again in fu­ture.

But there will be a fair few Rangers sup­port­ers who will also be­moan a per­ceived lack of in­vest­ment in the wake of the hu­mil­i­at­ing 5-1 de­feat their team suf­fered at Park­head on Satur­day and call for more money to be lav­ished on the squad.

Many oth­ers will re­mem­ber the dark times their beloved club went through only too well and un­der­stand the com­plex is­sues – not least a re­tail agree­ment which means the profit they make from the sale of of­fi­cial mer­chan­dise and replica strips is prac­ti­cally non-ex­is­tent – the new hi­er­ar­chy con­tin­ues to wres­tle with.

How­ever, the re­ac­tion to such a poor display in an Old Firm game will al­ways be se­vere.

If the team con­tin­ues to strug­gle this sea­son, and there is ev­ery chance they will, then the man who oc­cu­pies the dugout and those who sit in the board­room will in­evitably be held re­spon­si­ble.

It would, though, be wrong on many dif­fer­ent lev­els for Rangers to overex­tend them­selves in a bid to com­pete with Celtic at this stage in their re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion given the heinous wrong­do­ings of their re­cent past. They must con­tinue to be fru­gal in their spend­ing no mat­ter what.

The ex­ten­sive sign­ing spree which Rangers em­barked on dur­ing the close sea­son de­lighted their sup­port­ers. But it also raised ques­tions – or, at least, it should have – about where the money was com­ing from to sub­sidise it.

Yes, just as many play­ers de­parted as came in and the squad size re­mained the same. But the cal­i­bre of pro­fes­sional who ar­rived – Joey Bar­ton, Joe Dodoo, Joe Garner, Matt Gilks, Clint Hill, Niko Kran­j­car, Jor­dan Ros­siter and Philippe Sen­deros all put pen to paper – was far higher, as was the level of wages they com­manded.

King had ad­mit­ted at the Rangers an­nual meet­ing in Novem­ber that their business plan – wealthy sup­port­ers Ge­orge Letham, Dou­glas Park, Ge­orge Tay­lor and him­self off­set­ting sub­stan­tial losses with loans which would later be con­verted into eq­uity – was un­sus­tain­able in the long term.

So how could Rangers af­ford their in­creased out­lay on their squad? Did their bene­fac­tors dig deeper into their pock­ets?

The in­creased up­take in sea­son tick­ets both last year and this has helped to im­prove the fi­nan­cial for­tunes of the Go­van club greatly, as has the re­turn to the top flight. Man­ag­ing direc­tor Ste­wart Robert­son con­firmed as much in May. “We are just about break­ing even,” he said.

But they are still not, as Bar­ton might say, in the same league as their city ri­vals. The prospect of South Africa-based busi­ness­man King fun­nelling tens of mil­lions of pounds from his per­sonal for­tune into Rangers to en­able them to chal­lenge Celtic for the Lad­brokes Pre­mier­ship is doubt­less an ap­peal­ing one at this pre­cise mo­ment.

Who knows? Maybe the un­told riches he promised will be forth­com­ing when the club sta­bilises fur­ther, ad­dresses a plethora of com­pli­cated his­tor­i­cal prob­lems and is listed on a stock ex­change or other share trad­ing plat­form.

But re­ly­ing on a sugar daddy to bankroll on-field suc­cess is clearly not, given the ex­pe­ri­ences of the Sir David Mur­ray, Craig Whyte and Charles Green eras, the route for Rangers to go back down.

It is im­per­a­tive they build grad­u­ally and be­gin to live within their means go­ing for­ward, no mat­ter how great the temp­ta­tion is to do oth­er­wise.

Celtic are able to op­er­ate at such a high level due to many years of re­spon­si­ble ste­ward­ship dat­ing back to Fer­gus McCann. Spend­ing more money which is not there and plung­ing even fur­ther into debt would be fool­ish in the ex­treme for Rangers.

King has tar­geted a place in the Europa League this sea­son. That would seem to be a sen­si­ble ob­jec­tive.

It may hurt Rangers fans see­ing Celtic stroll to a sixth con­sec­u­tive ti­tle this sea­son, but, for now, they will just have to suck it up and ac­cept where their club is at.

There will be a fair few Rangers sup­port­ers who will be­moan a per­ceived lack of in­vest­ment in the wake of the hu­mil­i­at­ing 5-1 de­feat at Park­head

ROCK BOT­TOM: Mid­fielder Bar­rie McKay crouches down af­ter a dis­mal af­ter­noon for Rangers in Park­head.

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