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Light at the end of the tunnel for Rangers

By Julian Taylor

Blue sky thinking. The dark days blown away.

Throughout Rangers’ history, there has been everything from glory, drama and, indeed, tragedy. But Friday, March 6, will go down as this famous club’s modern day of action.

Requisitioners, led by Dave King, seized control from a hated board, who had driven the Light Blues to despair, on and off the field. Financial ruin and gross mismanagement over three hellish years plunged a Scottish institution into a toxic shadow of itself.

Once upon a time, Gers legends such as Bill Struth, Scot Symon, Jock Wallace and Walter Smith acted with responsibility and decorum in safeguarding the Light Blues’ reputation.

Conversely, outgoing figureheads, Chief Executive Derek Llambias, Finance Director Barry Leach, Directors James and Sandy Easdale and Chairman David Somers would scarcely acknowledge Struth’s portrait in the Ibrox trophy room. Lacking any moral compass between them, Rangers was simply an exposed, easy target to plunder. You do wonder how it all came to this. For example: What kind of cash-strapped company attempts to hold an EGM in not one, but two, London five-star hotels, rather than the obvious venue, Ibrox Stadium?

The deeply unimpressive Llambias, shortly before being booted, revealed his utter lack of class, spluttering at Glasgow Airport, attacking King whilst being swept along by two henchmen. He and his colleagues’ scorched earth policy meant they were never going to go quietly. Kicking and screaming for pay-offs... where is the dignity?

And altogether rich, coming from men — part of a wider cabal — to have squandered nearly £100m since 2012. Where much of that cash has gone will be the next big surprise as King and interim Chairman Paul Murray check under the floorboards.

A quick Ibrox survey shows that money certainly hasn’t been spent in key areas. The stadium itself, for so long an example of modern spectator comfort, badly needs upgrading. Youth development has stagnated, an appalling first-team regresses.

Rangers, irrespective of how they are viewed by critics, have endured a meltdown, the sort of drip-feed misery you wouldn’t wish on any club. Sold in haste by Sir David Murray — who overspent wildly and must carry a share of blame for all that followed — to Craig Whyte, a man under investigation for corporate fraud, and subsequently passed around various opportunists. Administration and demotion capped the mess.

Resourceful supporters eventually got wise, and groups such as the Rangers Supporters Trust and Rangers First helped steadily increase the shareholder bloc to finally push King into power. Fan faith has ultimately forced Ibrox change.

The major, immediate, challenge facing King is influential minority shareholder, Mike Ashley. The Newcastle United owner — recently fined £7,500 by the SFA for breaching influence on Rangers — controls several assets, including lucrative retail and merchandising contracts. Ashley is not someone prone to embarrassment and, given the torpedoing of placeman Llambias, will he call in his £10m loan soon?

Rangers, essentially, require around £50m to keep the club improving in all areas over the next five years. King believes renewed fan involvement, a spread of investment from other wealthy shareholders and supporters plus a share issue, broad recovery can begin in earnest. A sensible, planned structure to spirit the club back to at least nominally challenge Celtic would, at this moment, suffice.

King spoke at Friday afternoon’s media conference of a long road ahead. And with such fresh sense of togetherness between his associates and the Ibrox rank-and-file, a managed elevation can be delivered — with care.

A new coach, as Kenny McDowall hopes to step down shortly, perhaps a sporting director (new Rangers shareholder and former Bayern Munich boss, Felix Magath, is, intriguingly, linked with this role), a youth academy, scouting, commercial and marketing departments will all need funding. A comprehensive overhaul, by any standards. King must be true to his word on transparency.

No football club can prosper on Ashley-type loans, as the Gers have been doing. South African-based King must manage cash-flow as well as traditional high expectations.

Longer-term, a vibrant Rangers can enhance Scottish football again. With King’s coronation, the hard work can start — but finally the nightmare is over.

 

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