Only Show in Town - By Chris Graham
FEBRUARY 5, 2012
It’s been a rough ride for Craig Whyte since he took over at Rangers. If he had any illusions about how difficult a job it would be or how many obstacles, real or imagined, would be placed in his way then I think those illusions will now have been dispelled. There is no doubt that legitimate questions remain on his plans for Britain’s most successful club but the sad truth is that instead of those questions being posed in a calm and rational way by those who love the club, they are being obscured by the muck raking and dramatisation of Scotland’s desperate press and their ‘Celtic minded’ hangers on.
First let me state that I remain to be entirely convinced by Craig Whyte. He has done some things well and some things poorly since taking over. I am sure he would acknowledge that the transfer dealings of the club have been shambolic over the past two windows but as with many of the things for which he is attracting criticism he is not alone in making mistakes. Ally McCoist’s insistence on revealing the name of virtually every target to the press has not helped, for example. The sale of Nikica Jelavic was not handled well but the press have again tried to shed a more negative light on it by suggesting he did not want to leave. Forcing a move and wanting to leave are two different things. Jelavic absolutely wanted to leave and although he will be missed from a numbers point of view, his form this season has been poor.
Whyte’s performance with the press has, on the whole, been refreshing if a touch naive. I’m sure some would argue the opposite but it is about time we had a chairman who was prepared to end the open season on Rangers. With several media outlets now persona non grata at Ibrox it is clear the knives are out but someone had to draw the line. The frustrating thing from a fans’ point of view is that instead of asking pertinent questions that need to be answered, the personal attacks on Whyte have, in most cases, made it easy for him to respond. Only STV and a select few journalists seem to be interested in reporting fact rather than innuendo. The Daily Record report on Ticketus may well have contained some questions which Whyte needed to answer but it was so shrouded in personal attack from members of the old board and so wooly in terms of understanding the finances behind the headlines that it lost all impact over the first couple of paragraphs. Sports journalists are not in their profession because they have an understanding of finance but that hasn’t stopped them from having a pop at it over the past few years.
Many fans have rounded on Paul Murray and Alastair Johnston for their frequent participation in these attacks and although I don’t doubt that the former board members may feel they are doing the right thing, I have to say it is hard to see their comments as anything other than sour grapes. They seem incapable of putting across their concerns without sniping at Whyte like jilted lovers. There is also, tellingly, a total lack of any alternative put forward by them. You want to sit them down and say “Ok guys we get it. You don’t like or trust Whyte but what exactly are you proposing?” Their repeated calls for fans to be vigilant are totally redundant as the fans have no alternative but to trust Whyte to steer us past the HMRC case and beyond. Murray et al had four years to come up with an alternative and couldn’t. It’s time for them to stop bitching and allow us to examine Whyte’s tenure on its merits and over a sensible period of time once this tax case has reached a conclusion.
This morning sees Whyte answer many of the questions that have been raised in an interview with Tom English in Scotland on Sunday.
It is almost unprecedented that a chairman of Rangers should have to answer such detailed questions and I am impressed that Whyte has now stepped up several times to do so. The press in Scotland certainly never saw fit to question Sir David Murray in this way when his reckless spending brought the club to this point. It’s notable that the same hacks who gave Murray such an easy ride are the ones now attempting to discredit Whyte, but they are of course a dying breed. With newspaper sales plummeting and most people becoming aware of stories on the internet long before they have even dusted down their typewriters, they are more desperate than ever to create stories rather than report them.
Make no mistake, there are people currently working around the fringes of journalism and also in mainstream media who are trying to create an environment in which Rangers can only fail. They want to discredit the club and the easiest current target is the new owner. They want to make it difficult for us to attract new finance or gain favourable terms with creditors. The more mud they sling the more it sticks and if there are real issues with Whyte they are being obscured by what now appears to be a vendetta. Once again, on the day after the Daily Record story, the usual suspects were prematurely congratulating themselves on the demise of Rangers. They openly celebrated and slapped each other on the back via Twitter and other social media, as they do anytime one of their pet subjects makes it into a mainstream paper. If the fans want to vent their frustrations somewhere then it is here that their targets should be found.
Ally McCoist called for unity on Friday. Those who are mistrustful of Whyte should remember that there are people working in Ibrox who know a lot more about Whyte, his motives and his methods than the press do. Does anyone doubt that McCoist or Gordon Smith have the best interests of the club at heart? Do they really think if Whyte was trying to pull off some sort of swindle then they would stand by and watch it happen? There are tough times ahead and Whyte has already stated many times that we cannot continue to spend money we don’t have. The fans need to back the new owner and understand that what he is doing may not be popular but it is necessary. He has reiterated that he has a plan to deal with the many possible outcomes of the tax case and we have little choice but to believe him. If working within our budget means that young players like Fleck and Hutton will return from loan spells and take their place in our team next year then I am all for it.
I saw one poster on a well known forum yesterday who asked why, if Whyte had personal wealth, he did not just lend us the money rather than using Ticketus. I think people are still missing the point. Rangers have to become a sustainable business – one that does not rely on injections of cash from people like David Murray or Craig Whyte. The type of facilities that Whyte is using are more and more common in business these days with invoice discounting and factoring being used as a replacement for bank lending which is now so difficult to secure.
Craig Whyte has my full support for the moment. His detractors continue to fail to convince or put forward a viable alternative and as long as that is the case he remains the only show in town.