One of the challenges that Celtic face is that opponents in Scotland generally regard anything other than a sound thrashing at our hands as a good result.
A draw is excellent.
And actually beating Celtic is a significant career highlight for the majority of their players.
Even if Celtic give a team a right good horsing, the defeated outfit just shrug it off and refocus their attention on competing with their peers.
Their supporters are generally quite content to watch their players deploying whatever tactics might successfully deny the Celts a goal spree.
There’s very little pressure on those teams to do anything other than hold the fort.
That’s just the way it is.
By contrast, Celtic supporters – and particularly the younger ones who have no memory of watching truly rotten Celtic teams – seem to think that anything short of a convincing victory in almost every single domestic fixture is a completely unsatisfactory betrayal of Celtic’s traditional, glorious style.
But the reality is that although Celtic now have greater resources than any of their Scottish opponents, this does not mean that they can fill the side with geniuses and world-beaters who are entitled to overrun the puny resistance of unworthy opposition by dint of their immeasurable superiority and God-given gifts.
Celtic have played eight games this month.
Now that they’ve lost one of them to a well organised, hard working, reasonably competent side at their home stadium, there is a bizarre gnashing of teeth and rending of garments in some Celtic-supporting quarters as if it’s an outrageous injustice.
Hibs did to Celtic what the Hoops did to Barcelona.
They prevented theoretically superior opponents from playing to their strengths, pinched a lead and then defended it for all they were worth.
Inspired by the big occasion, Hibs found an energy level, a focus and a resolve which simply wasn’t there a few days ago when they lost to Ross County.
Indeed it doesn’t seem to have been there in any of their recent performances since they last raised the bar by knocking Hearts out of the Cup at the start of the month.
That was another big occasion for the Hibs players which seems to have brought out the best in them.
When Celtic play Hibs, they’re not really playing the same team that loses a string of league games to Ross County, Motherwell, ICT, Aberdeen and Dundee.
They’re playing a team which is as up for it as Celtic are against Benfica, Spartak Moscow or Barcelona.
And, just as Celtic have proved themselves to be able to stop those teams from playing at their best, so it is that the boot is on the other foot when they have to solve the problem of unlocking packed defences in Scotland.
On the day, Celtic’s success will depend upon the conversion rate of the chances they do manage to create.
Yesterday, they had a few chances and didn’t take them.In the Champions League, Celtic had an unusually high conversion rate and that carried them through to the last 16.
If they can somewhat improbably maintain that preposterously high rate, they might even yet get past Juventus (so long as the serial match-fixers from Turin miss their penalties).
But the odds on that happening in every match Celtic play are not good.
Ten years ago Celtic could regularly turn games like yesterday’s defeat around because the threat of top class talents such as Chris Sutton, Stilian Petrov, John Hartson and Lubomir Moravcik sooner or later created chances which the genius of Henrik Larsson would convert with exceptional regularity.
Hooper isn’t in Larsson’s class, Samaras isn’t as deadly as Hartson, Broon isn’t the player that Petrov was and no-one at Celtic Park now could lace Moravcik’s boots.
The money simply isn’t there to acquire ready-made players of that quality and, unlike some clubs, Celtic have no intention of exterminating themselves by spending money which they don’t have or by borrowing money which they can never pay back.
Celtic are competing against top-flight professional clubs who, rightly, are keen to test themselves against the best team in the country and one of the current European elite.
There are almost certainly going to be lots of days like yesterday when Celtic fire blanks.
But they’ll probably have far fewer of them than any other SPL club and so Celtic remain hot favourites to win the league.
That’s good enough for me.
It’s probably good enough for many of us who endured supporting Celtic during periods such as the trophy famine from 1989 until 1998.
The barren period was temporarily alleviated only by a solitary, scrappy Scottish Cup win against the now-defunct Airdrieonians FC in 1995.
The victory was celebrated as if we had won the European Cup again with the trophy being paraded through the streets from Hampden to Celtic Park.
That was a period when sometimes we couldn’t even qualify for Europe at any level, far less reach the last 16 of the top tournament while topping the league.
And whenever we did limp into one of the lower UEFA tournaments, we were almost invariably picked off in the early rounds by teams of journeymen who were still canny enough to pick off our naive, “entertaining”, cavalry charge mentality.
Neuchatel Xamax couldn’t believe their luck and had the tie wrapped up before the first leg even reached half-time.
Partizan Belgrade scored a last minute goal on the counter-attack to turn an impending defeat into victory while Celtic didn’t even have the savvy to run down the clock with a late substitution or take the ball into the corners while leading 6-5 on aggregate.
(To put Partizan’s quality in perspective it can be noted that they went on to lose both legs of their tie against Dinamo Bucharest who, in turn, lost home and away to Anderlecht who were then taken care of by Sampdoria.)
It took us decades to even start to learn how to play modern European football.
Now we are the Scottish Champions and we are likely to remain so for years.
We are going toe to toe with the very best teams in Europe and holding our own.
Many of the performances won’t be pleasing to the eye but I’ll happily settle for what we now have with no cheating Huns “competing” with us for the title and the occasional defeat at the hands of Hibs, Inverness or Kilmarnock while we eye up a possible place in the Champions League quarter-finals.
Just over a year ago there was a stampede of panic merchants calling for Neil Lennon’s dismissal in the wake of a 3-3 draw with Kilmarnock.
The Armageddon scenario at that time was that we had fallen so far behind the Huns that the league was done and dusted.
It wasn’t just Jelavic who was stupid enough to make that claim.
They were quite a few Hoops followers queuing up on various Celtic forums to demand the manager’s head while lamenting that Craig Whyte’s All Stars had disappeared over the horizon towards the SPL title.
Thank God that the baleful Orc Effect didn’t drive us off the course that we’re still on.
And praise be to Hector that it’s no longer a factor at all.
We now have time to develop into a respectable European force without having to worry about the Tax-Dodgers capitalising on any of our domestic stumbles.
These are great days for Celtic supporters, even when the team isn’t yet constantly firing on all cylinders.
Even the bad times are good now.
Sir David Murray
Mr. Craig Whyte
Mr. Paul Murray
Mr. Bill Ng
Mr. Bill Miller
Mr Charles Green,
c/o The Rangers*,
150 Edmiston Drive,
Glasgow G51 2XD
142 Copland Road,
Glasgow G51 2UB:
Dear Mr. Bhutta,
Permit me to introduce myself. My name is Charles Green. Some people call me ‘Emerald’.
I am a colourful businessman who has been a director of no fewer than fifteen companies which have gone into liquidation. My latest project is a football club called Rangers FC (in Administration) which I am hoping to gut and fillet in the coming weeks.
You may be aware that the Administrators of that football club, a firm called Duff and Phelps, are anxious to drag out the administration process for as long as possible because they are raking in a couple of hundred thousand pounds every week for as long as the money lasts. Who could blame them, eh? I’d do the same myself, given half a chance.
Speaking of me, it turns out that I am the latest one to have been offered the opportunity to buy Rangers FC (in Administration). My predecessor, an American chap called Mr. Bill ‘Liam’ Miller, had a quick look at the bookwork and, by all accounts, took suddenly ill. I, however, am made of sterner stuff, (not least because I’m English). Moreover, having been involved in fifteen liquidations myself, I can safely say that I’m quite an old hand at ignoring toxic debt. After the game against St. Johnstone on Sunday I had a quick butcher’s at the Orcs’ accounts and I have to say that of all the liquidations which I’ve been involved in, this one takes the biscuit! (As one businessman to another, let me just give you a quick tip – don’t give these people any credit or you’ll regret it. Make sure you get cash up front or no deal.)
Which brings me neatly, I feel, to the matter at hand. Looking at their accounts, I couldn’t help but notice a list of 277 creditors who are owed a total which is not far off £134,000,000. One of these creditors is your good self. You are still owed the sum of £567.45, although it’s so long overdue that you may well have forgotten all about it.
Incidentally, it did strike me that at the very least I might write a letter of apology to you expressing the club’s deep sorrow and acute embarrassment at this state of affairs. However, I was dissuaded from following this course of action by a geezer called Sandy Something-or-other. He seems to be well thought of in some quarters and he assures me that this is not the Rangers Way. Apparently it does not do for Rangers to show any signs of remorse or regret. I might say that this strikes me as odd but I must also concede that, as an Englishman, I am fairly unfamiliar with the customs and traditions of your fine country which I had rarely visited until this week. Indeed, I had never even heard of Rangers until they made the UK news headlines during their visit to Manchester in 2008. (Something to do with a broken television, was it? I think Chelsea were involved too? I can’t really remember the details.)
Anyway, Sandy says there’s to be no apology, that Rangers don’t show weakness, that you should consider yourself honoured to be a Rangers creditor and that you’ll be remembered as one of the bastards who stuck the boot in once the ‘Gers are back on top.
Would I dare to fly in the face of such sound advice on cultural manners from a local man? No chance. So. Up yours, it is, Mr. Bhutta.
That brings me to my next point. You’ve probably heard some talk about a CVA proposal. No doubt you will be too busy selling newspapers to have given the matter much thought. Let me give you a quick guide to what’s going to happen. If you saw the unfortunate headlines in some of today’s newspapers you may have gained the impression that I am spearheading a consortium of about twenty extremely wealthy partners who intend to pour vast sums of money into the club’s Warchest™ in the near future. This may have had the unintended side-effect of raising your hopes that you may finally see your £567.45 one day. Sadly, nothing could be further from the truth. Those millions upon millions of pounds which my partners are going to invest are not for the likes of you, I’m afraid. That money is for Ally to spend on buying over-priced, over-paid, under-achieving no-marks for the Rangers first team of the future.
I may be new to this country but I’ve already done a bit of homework. Apparently, there is a newspaper called ‘The Scotsman’, which nobody ever reads these days. However, it was pointed out to me that its leader column just a few days ago stated that Scotland needs Rangers. I see no reason to doubt a newspaper which has been losing thousands of readers every month for many, many years now. It must know a thing or two about what Scotland needs. And it says that Scotland needs Rangers. Does it say that Scotland needs customers to pay their debts and settle their bills in full? No, it says that Scotland needs Rangers. So that settles that.
This means that instead of £567.45, the best you can hope for is £17.02, which is 3p in the pound. Frankly, I think you should be very grateful that you’re being offered that much.
Personally, I am tremendously excited about the future possibilities of this approach to business, if it succeeds. As a businessman yourself, I am sure you can appreciate the enormous cost-saving benefits of a scheme which reduces expenditure by 97%! Holy smoke, if I could have got away with only paying 3% of my bills in the past, I might never have had any liquidations at all, let alone fifteen of the buggers!
Now. In case you’re tempted not to accept this generous offer, let me just invite you to contemplate another very important consideration.
A man called Ally is thought to be very keen to have full transparency on the matter of the names and addresses of the creditors who endanger the future well-being of The Rangers (in Administration) by rejecting the CVA proposal.
Let’s look at it this way. That’s a nice business you’ve got there, Mr Bhutta. Sure would be a shame if anything were to happen to it, if you get my meaning. Of course, if you accept the CVA proposal of a measly three pence in the pound, you’ll probably not have to worry about that. You seem like a smart kind of guy. I really wouldn’t want to see you get on the wrong side of one of the notorious ‘small minorities’ who attach themselves in their thousands to Ally’s team. (No, not Chelsea; his other team.) You want to take my advice and do the sensible thing just in case things in the future get a little ‘transparent’. If you catch my drift.
If you bear in mind that the £550.43 which you’ll never see will play its part in encouraging almost two dozen multi-millionaires to pour millions of pounds into wages for Rangers bench-warmers next season then you will have some considerable consolation for having been ripped off. Alternatively, you should look at your £567.45 in a different perspective. Paul Clark makes more than that just by twiddling his thumbs for an hour. You’re in the wrong game, sunshine. Administration is where it’s at.
I have taken the liberty of enclosing a Rangers (in Administration) season ticket application form with this letter so that you can enjoy the Rangers experience next season. You may also want to be the first among your friends to buy the classic Sheffield United home kit from the 2006-2007 season so I’m sending you a catalogue for the Blades mail order service as well.
Sheffield United Rangers,
Charlie “Emerald” Green.
15 and counting.
P.S. These are very troubled times for The Rangers so I am sure you will understand why I found it necessary to send this letter to you without putting a stamp on the envelope.
In the light of the most recent developments in the ongoing collapse of Rangers FC (in administration), Duff and Phelps have issued yet another statement. Sources in the real world suspect that the statement may have been written on the other side of the Looking Glass by Monty Python during an LSD trip. This suspicion can be neither confirmed of denied at the present moment.
Unless you look at it.
The latest evolution of the Cunning Plan involves the miraculous recent materialisation of three unknown bidders from an unknown planet in an unknown universe.
One of these beings knows a previously unknown method of persuading HMRC to accept a pennies in the pound settlement from a position where it is owed more than 25% of the total debt. That this has never, ever, ever happened before is an inconvenient fact which is completely disregarded.
The statement, in the words of Sarah Bell of Duff & Phelps, notes that “if it is a stand-alone CVA then that will take several weeks to do”.
Reassuringly, since one of the “three main factors is timing,” this is somehow entirely consistent with the Administrators’ hope that they will be “running with one of the parties in the next few days.”
It’s a simple matter of squeezing several weeks into the next few days.
A mere bagatelle.
The other two bids are, “following the same plan as Bill Miller, ie an asset sale to a newco with the old company exiting through CVA.”
Ah, of course! That will be the plan which Mr. Miller immediately abandoned as soon as he saw the figures.
Now there’s a reason to be cheerful!
A further boost to the morale is the fact that HMRC have not given an inch, are closely watching every move and are preparing to fire a fatal head-shot at the moment of their choosing. Or, as Sarah Bell expresses it, “HMRC are interested to see the merits of each one of the offers and they are open to further discussion with us.”
As further proof that everything is going to be just fine and will probably be sorted out by the end of next weekend, Duff & Phelps have revealed that Rangers(IA) is going to be the only club in Scotland which isn’t offering its supporters any opportunity to buy tickets for next season’s matches.
If that doesn’t inspire confidence, then nothing will.
It really has become pointless to look for any credibility in this increasingly ludicrous farce of a process. There are now fewer and fewer ways of looking at Clark and Whitehouse’s strategy which make any sense to me.
If we cut through the last few months with the aid of Occam’s razor, this outline fits pretty well;
Craig Whyte chose Duff & Phelps as administrators.
Duff & Phelps “ran the numbers”, and soon concluded that RFC was a hopeless, irredeemable basket case.
After all, it took Miller’s people less than four days to reach that conclusion.
It seems highly unlikely that Clark and Whitehouse still haven’t grasped it.
So. What to do?
The options available were;
Find a buyer for the club.
Problem: Minty had spent four or five years trying to offload it. He finally managed to collect one, single pound sterling.
Conclusion: No chance.
Arrange a CVA.
Problem: With HMRC already having more than 25% of the total debt, the odds that more than 75% of the creditors will accept the proposed CVA are about the same as the prospect of Fergus McCann bailing out Rangers in a sensational gesture of philanthropy.
Conclusion: No chance.
Sit tight, stonewall and collect £200,000 every week while going through the motions of trying to rescue the club for the benefit of the creditors. Leave Whyte, Ticketus, HMRC, the SPL, the SFA, the local newsagent and everybody else to sort out their problems amongst themselves in their own time, at their own expense. Repeat on a weekly basis until the money completely runs out. Finally, switch off the lights and go home.
Problem: What problem?
Sir Isaac Newton told us why
An apple falls down from the sky
And from this fact it’s very plain
That other objects do the same…
If it was up to the courts to rule on the Laws of Gravity, we’d probably spend years hearing legal arguments that an apple falls from the ground up to the tree.
Up until recently I thought that I was more or less keeping in touch with the general shape of the developments as Rangers FC heads into perdition as a well-deserved consequence of the scandalous running of the club for at least the last twenty years. The charge sheet includes three separate instances of tax fraud which could total nearly one hundred million pounds in unpaid monies to the Treasury. It also includes routinely running up a preposterous level of debt with no serious prospects of repaying it other than by adding it to the already over-extended overdraft of Murray International Holdings, a liability which eventually exceeded one billion pounds and played its part in the collapse of the Bank of Scotland and its subsequent bail-out, funded by the UK tax-payers. We’re looking at one of the biggest corporate scandals in Scottish business history. One would be forgiven for expecting jail sentences to have been handed down to the guilty parties long before now.
And yet I’m beginning to feel that this whole case is becoming too Pythonesque to make any sense. The latest bizarre twist is the surreal sight of the Administrators of Rangers FC applying to the Court of Session to be appointed … the Administrators of Rangers!
It’s particularly frustrating to me that there seems to be very little overlap between easily understood, natural justice and the immensely complicated procedures of the Law.
Tens, if not hundreds, of millions of pounds have been ripped off by various parties involved with Rangers FC and MIH and it looks increasingly likely that those responsible for these scams are still in with a shout of getting something out of it, even if Rangers itself goes down the pan.
Every time that it looks as if anyone is going to get their comeuppance, another bizarre legal wheeze appears out of thin air, in defiance of all common sense, which muddies the waters and makes it appear that there is always a possible escape route for the shameless and the dishonourable. Amidst the carnage of the revelations about how Rangers FC has been conducting its business, one of the club’s former directors is still proposing that he will play a leading role in taking the wreckage for which he is partly responsible and turning it into a successful business after it has been liquidated. There has not been one word from Mr Paul Murray about his moral duty to repay the colossal debts which the club ran up under his stewardship; not a single syllable to suggest that he feels the slightest shame about his part in the reckless business practice of the directors’ board of which he was a member. No repentance, no remorse, no sign of a guilty conscience.
I have got more money than the likes of David Murray, who was knighted for services to business. Unlike Sir David, I am not in debt to the tune of six hundred million pounds. Yet he is the one who is still living like a king. An entire bank went to the wall to enable that man to enjoy the luxurious lifestyle to which he has accustomed himself. And he’s not even in the picture yet, as far as the Law is concerned!
The Law is taking an eternity to get its act together. Somehow, when tasked with a case in which somebody pursues his own objectives by spending hundreds of millions of pounds of other people’s money, m’learned friends spend months and years dragging out a tortuously slow series of procedures. They forensically examine every conceivable interpretation of every obscure contention. It is as if their primary objective is to find the route by which the most blatant wrongdoing can turn out to be perfectly legal. And to charge by the hour as they proceed at a glacial pace.
Now, for the first time, I’m genuinely beginning to fear that a fix is in whereby there will once again be no punishment for the villains of the piece while the decent, honest little guys will be the only victims (cf bonuses for bankers).
Something stinks very badly here. The media, on an industrial scale, have relentlessly covered up as much of the criminality as they possibly could, even after much of it was already public knowledge. They have weakly claimed in their defence that libel laws prevented them from publishing known facts about the affairs of Rangers and its various directors, even when these facts were already matters of public record.
To take but one example: it would clearly be in the public interest for journalists to regularly scrutinise the ongoing, chaotic tax affairs of Mr. Dave King, Rangers’ second largest shareholder and until very recently a member of the board of directors. The South African Revenue Service is pursuing literally hundreds of charges of tax irregularities against Mr. King and yet I can think of no example of a single journalist asking the obvious question: why has such a man been a senior director of what we are often told is Scotland’s second biggest institution?
This is not an unreasonable question for a decent investigative journalist to ask, nor would it require much research to pad out. Merely to copy half of what has already been published in South African newspapers would raise the question. What is it that prevents the editors of our national newspapers from pursuing this story? Could it be that their experience in their profession tells them that, no matter how grievous the fraud, the Law will usually find a way to give psychopathic predators a free pass so long as they wear suits and ties? And therefore, in their judgement, it is always safer to back rogues who have a place in the Establishment rather than trust in the Law’s ability to ensure that justice is done in major scandals?