Recent history has valuable lesson for Rangers
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.