The Scottish game from the Borders to the Highlands & Islands and beyond
New Rangers owner Craig Whyte finally spoke publicly about his plans and hopes for the SPL champions. However it looks like new season, new owner, same mantra.
With the David Murray era now consigned to history, there is hope Whyte will bring an unfeasibly large chequebook to attract the sort of signings that made Walter Smith's team of the mid-90s so successful. So far we're still waiting to be amazed.
Whyte spoke exclusively to a popular tabloid newspaper at great length and gave good insight into what he hopes to do at Ibrox. While it’s clear he’s a man that wants to continue the success achieved by predecessor Murray, the rhetoric seemed more about saying what the fans wanted to hear. Still lingering in the room is the parting shot from the previous board – including former chairman Alistair Johnston and chief executive Martin Bain, who resigned his post last week – casting severe doubt over Whyte’s credibility as the new owner. Whether fans are keeping these comments in mind remains to be seen.
Whyte spoke about his passion for the club and the part he played in the takeover, firstly as the money man for Andrew Ellis before stepping up and being the face of the bid himself. He also spoke about his frustration that the process took more than six months before it was finally sorted in May.
All perfectly salient points for a man that had to play the most tedious of waiting games as the previous board dragged their heels, mulling over the bid like an overprotective father trying to ascertain the intentions of a beau towards his daughter.
Whyte’s perseverance won through in the end and his charm offensive to win over those still sceptical of his motives is well and truly begun. Lifelong Rangers fan. Check. Huge words of support for the new manager. Check. A pledge to defend the club, particularly in the ongoing sectarianism row. Check.
"So, which one's mine?"
It all looks good so far, but there was no declaration of how the club would continue the fight against sectarianism other than meetings with the Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond. There wasn’t even a condemnation of the sort of behaviour that has landed Rangers in hot water with UEFA, resulting in a hefty fine and the fans being banned for an away game.
Also Whyte has reignited talk of a potential switch to the English Premier League along with Old Firm rivals Celtic, an issue that has become if anything even more tiresome than the protracted takeover, under the auspices of the financial rewards that the English clubs enjoy from their lucrative contract with the broadcasting companies.
It’s no secret Scotland’s revenue by comparison is paltry, but the excuse to jump ship and walk away from 125 years of history in your native land cannot be allowed and under UEFA rules, it isn’t. After all, we would have seen Ajax and PSV Eindhoven competing in the Bundesliga or Porto and Benfica in the Spanish League by now.
There’s also the little issue of the English clubs, particularly those regularly involved in the bottom third of the top flight, not willing to vote to allow two Scottish teams in without them having to play their way up through the leagues, in the way Swansea City and Hull City have in recent years.
Whyte would do well to leave this sort of talk alone and concentrate on preserving the club’s interests in Scotland first. After all, has he even realised that if they flit south of the border they wouldn’t win silverware every year and European involvement may not be a given? That’s before you even get to added travelling costs for fans.
In the short term though, as the club go through their transition, there has to be concern over their performance in the transfer market so far. With the season just under four weeks away, new manager Ally McCoist has yet to bring in a single new face, with two targets already snubbing the SPL champions in favour of seemingly lucrative offers elsewhere.
Israeli striker Tomer Hemed favoured Real Mallorca over Rangers, while Craig Conway, a free agent from Dundee United, pitched up with Cardiff City earlier this week. Further moves to bring Conway’s former Tannadice team-mate David Goodwillie and Hearts full-back Lee Wallace to Glasgow have also been unsuccessful.
"Goodwillie?" "No thanks, I've just had lunch"
Whyte is still, in many ways, still getting his feet under his Ibrox desk, but being a fan, he should also be fully aware of the level of expectation demanded from any of the figureheads at the club.Bringing in former SFA Chief Executive Gordon Smith as Director of Football – not only to assist McCoist in the transfer market, but also to oversee a proper youth structure from Murray Park – is a good move, given Smith’s experience in the political side of the game... not to mention his wealth of contacts. This may benefit Rangers in the long term, but most fans of the club cannot fathom the bigger picture and will look for McCoist to hit the ground running when they start their SPL campaign at home to Hearts on 23 July.
For that to happen, Whyte has to wisen up fast and his honeymoon period will come to an end soon. It’s all very well pandering to the masses and saying the right things. Actually backing them up will go a long way for fans with high expectations and low patience.
To many Rangers fans don't want to ask the hard questions, they are afraid of the answers that might come back.
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