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.
The SFA are making it clear to one and all that their first priority is to save the myth of Rangers rather than look after Scottish football.
It has been obvious for some time now that neither the SFA nor the SPL has the slightest intention of doing the right thing except under the strongest compulsion from the vast majority of Scottish football supporters. Even then, the authorities waste no time in reverting to their corrupt ways as soon as they sense that the immediate pressure has relented.
Thus, in the last week, we have witnessed the absurd pantomime of negotiations about what level of punishment the disreputable Ibrox mob will deign to accept for the disgraceful conduct of their business over the last year. It is glaringly obvious that the perpetrators have no right to dictate what punishment they are prepared to accept. Any authority worthy of the name would simply dictate that Rangers, having been found guilty of the most serious charges in the history of Scottish football and having brought the game into disrepute on several different counts, must be suspended or expelled altogether. The judgement and sentence would be handed down and that would be that. But it doesn’t work that way when the Huns are involved.
Thugs such as McCoist, Brown and Jardine issue threats with impunity and the SFA and SPL cower in abject submission. Gangsters and mobsters operate from the Ibrox boardroom and bully the game’s administrators into inviting a fraudulent club to participate in a league to which it isn’t even entitled to apply for membership. Law enforcement officers are investigating several different suspect aspects of this stinking operation and will assuredly pounce sooner or later.
And all the while, the SFA pretends that it is somehow in the interests of Scotland and its national game that these crooks should be accommodated in the professional structure instead of run out of town faster than you can say “organised crime” or “international money-laundering syndicate.”
Obviously, the SFA thinks it can get away with this. That is in no small part due to the fact that it always has got away with it up until now. It has always managed to keep this sort of scandal in-house and under control, mainly because of a complete lack of transparency in its doings. It helped that it was never seriously challenged by an emasculated press corps whose loyalties have generally lain in the same place as those of Hampden high heid yins such as Campbell Ogilvie, Gordon Smith and George Peat.
And for as long as these crooks could keep everything in house, it has been a safe bet that nobody could ever stop the corruption of the national game. Politicians are a complete waste of time at best while UEFA and FIFA do not involve themselves in domestic matters.
McCoist is now arrogantly insisting that the football authorities abandon the investigation into the illegal payment schemes practised by Rangers over the course of many, many years. He is quite patently making this demand for no other reason than that he wants to hide the truth about the colossal number of games in which Rangers fielded players who were not properly registered to play. He has also stated in advance that he will not accept any talk of titles being stripped from the cheating Ibrox club. McCoist’s position is that there must be no transparency, no investigation, no punishment and he has previous form for inciting criminal action to intimidate those who wish to see the same rules apply to Rangers as would apply to any other club. Sadly, his thuggery has not been wholly unsuccessful so far, and the SFA has shown no indication that it is prepared to lay down the law lest it displeases the bombs and bullets brigade.
So it’s time to get the gloves off with these scummy crooks and bring the whole charade to a crashing halt. The Scottish game is heading for destruction one way or another if a criminal enterprise such as Sevco is going to continue to receive preferential treatment at the same time that rabble-rousers like McCoist can threaten the personal safety of anyone who stands between him and his demands. If the game is going to be destroyed, let it be for better reasons than for the sake of sustaining the fake prestige of a rotten institution.
Fortunately, there is a way to involve UEFA and FIFA. As a bonus, it may lead to the destruction of the SFA. If the decent clubs in Scotland start making their preparations now, they may be in a good position to form a new administrative body to take over the running of Scottish football when the SFA is expelled from world football.
Step forward Barry Ferguson, inductee of the Rangers Hall of Fame [sic] and formerly captain of his club and country. Ferguson had two spells at Ibrox and somewhere along the line he trousered two and half million tax-free pounds sterling through the EBT scam. Mark Daly reported that Ferguson’s extra contract with Rangers has been seen and confirmed by the BBC.
What a stroke of bad luck it would be for the SFA if Barry Ferguson had been selected to play for the Scotland international team in a World Cup qualifying tournament whilst being improperly registered. Alas! That seems to be exactly what has happened.
During the campaign to qualify for the 2006 Finals, Scotland drew four and won three of the ten matches. The only match which Ferguson did not play in was the very last group tie, a 3-0 away victory over Slovenia. In every other fixture, the improperly registered Rangers player was selected to represent Scotland in a competition played under FIFA auspices. Ten of Scotland’s 13 points were won by breaking the rules of the competition. Not only has the SFA accepted prize money which it wasn’t entitled to collect but Scotland’s seeding level since that tournament has been at a higher level than it ought to be because it is based on Scotland finishing in a false third position in the group rather than sixth and last where it ought to have been according to the rules.
The Scotland manager for all but the first three games of that campaign was Walter Smith, a man who knows more about EBTs than most. The president of the SFA was George Peat, its Treasurer was Campbell Ogilvie and the CEO was David Taylor (who is now the joint General Secretary of UEFA). If there are any journalists out there who know how to work a telephone, they could do us all a favour by asking any of these gentlemen for their comments on the matter of Scotland fielding ineligible players in FIFA competitions. Failing that, why not just go straight to FIFA and ask them if they approve?
(FIFA’s number is +41 (0)43 222 7777. I’d call them myself but I’m a bit low on credit, what with paying my taxes and stuff.
Arthur Numan, a Dutch international footballer, received over half a million pounds in sneaky pay from an EBT and Mark Daly of the BBC reports a positive sighting of the infamous “side letter” which confirms that this money was paid as wages to the player. McCoist doesn’t want the SFA or the SPL to investigate this. But Numan didn’t only play for Rangers at this time. He also played for the Netherlands. In international competitions under the auspices of both UEFA and FIFA.
For example, Numan was in the Dutch team that defeated Estonia 5-0 on the 5th of September 2001 in the Philips Stadium in Eindhoven during the qualifying tournament for the 2002 World Cup Finals. And just a few weeks later in Arnhem, Gelredome on the 6th of October, Arthur came on as a substitute for Mario Melchiot as the Netherlands defeated Andorra 4-0 in their next FIFA World Cup qualifying tie. He also played in Holland’s 2-2 draw with the Republic of Ireland.
Other contemporary Rangers players who featured on the official team-lines during that qualifying competition were EBT beneficiaries Ronald de Boer (£1,200,000 with a side letter), Fernando Ricksen (£684,225, side letter confirmed) and Bert Konterman (£300,000).
Hello again, FIFA. That’s seven points which Holland should not have kept just for Arthur Numan’s appearances alone. Numan, not being properly registered, was not entitled to play professional football at any level, far less as an internationalist in the most prestigious competition on the planet. The SFA, by failing in its own duties to ensure that players were properly registered, devalued the jewel in FIFA’s crown. Again, an enterprising journalist will already be reaching for the phone to ask the Dutch FA if they falsified their own bureaucratic submissions to FIFA or if they received inaccurate paperwork from their Scottish counterparts.
But member clubs of the SFA should not be waiting for any other party to investigate this. Between the SPL and the SFL, there are forty-one member clubs of the SFA who are entitled to demand of the executive, as a matter of the utmost urgency, an immediate answer to this question: have the SFA habitually deceived UEFA and FIFA with false registration documents to enable ineligible players to compete in major tournaments? With a new World Cup qualifying tournament about to start, it is a matter of vital importance that this question is cleared up immediately and if the SFA haven’t got the balls to do it then somebody should ask FIFA to intervene without a moment’s delay.
As for UEFA, we see exactly the same irregularities. Indeed, one side was a bad as the other in the play-off match between Scotland and the Netherlands for a place in the Euro 2004 Finals. Players with dual contracts at Rangers had featured throughout the campaign for both teams. While Rangers EBT beneficiary Dick Advocaat (£1,500,000) was selecting his fellow tax-scammers Fernando Ricksen and Ronald de Boer for the Dutch, the officials of the SFA were sitting in the directors’ box watching Barry Ferguson and Neil McCann (£500,000) turning out for the Scots. Just for good measure, while Holland were rattling in half-a-dozen goals against Scotland in one play-off, another Rangers dual contract holder was settling another play-off match with the only goals of the tie between Slovenia and Croatia. Dado Prso, armed with the side letter which the BBC has seen, took away £1,900,000 in tax-free sneaky pay.
Gloves off. It’s the SFA versus everybody who cares about football being played properly and according to the rules. The SFA have just about destroyed Scottish football. It’s time for Scottish football fans to call them on these matters and turn ourselves in to UEFA and FIFA. Call for the expulsion of the SFA from world football. Form a brand new association which places integrity at the centre of its constitution and let it invite applications from clubs which agree to be bound by the rules without question. Huns need not apply. Let the new Caledonian Soccerball Association (Featuring New, Improved Integrity) petition UEFA and FIFA for formal recognition in place of the disgraced, discredited SFA . Never again should we have to cringe with embarrassment or shake with fury at the sight of a thoroughly corrupt fraudster presiding over an association of cowards and cheats who negotiate with gangsters and neds about how to wreak further damage on our game.
Over to you, UEFA and FIFA. Get this investigated and when McCoist throws one of his hissy fits and threatens you with a mass mobilisation of the Larkhall Loyal, just tell him to do one. For once, the vast majority of football fans will be right behind you.
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.