20 March ~ Celtic winning the league at Ibrox would usually be the stuff of nightmares for Rangers fans. But after fearing the club may never play again, most supporters are relishing this Sunday's Old Firm clash. It gives Rangers a mini cup final – a chance to take something, no matter how myopic, from the champions elect. However, a Celtic title party in Govan could provide the only pain commensurate with the traumas of the last month. Three prospective purchasers registered their interest by last Friday's deadline. More suitors wait in the wings. The feeling that the worst is behind is perhaps dangerous, but Rangers' experience is very different to what Port Vale and Portsmouth are going through.
Over the last fortnight the SFA have charged Rangers and their disgraced owner Craig Whyte with bringing the game into disrepute; the players have agreed massive wage cuts; fans and past legends have instigated a fighting fund; and previous board members have faced recrimination. So far, so redolent of the classic football administration narrative arc.
But there has not been large-scale player redundancies; none of the background staff have been paid off; and a bevy of multi-millionaires are now salivating over the prospect of owning Scotland's most successful club. Rangers fans have largely got away with the worst of the administration tropes.
The ten-point deduction by the SPL means the club will finish the season without a trophy. But after winning eight of the 12 domestic prizes available over the last four years, a break from the Moet might benefit a few Ibrox stomachs. Rangers have been disqualified from European football next season, but the performances by Scottish clubs this season suggest that Ally McCoist is being saved from an embarrassing defeat in July.
The worry administration brought on employees at Ibrox and the inevitable run of poor results seem to have disappeared behind an undeniably inspirational rounding of the wagons by the supporters. Craig Whyte duped everyone as he ran the club into an unnecessarily early administration. What is more disturbing, however, is that it took this to alleviate the mutual boredom between Rangers and Scottish football. It is even worse that some Rangers fans think it is all Sir David Murray's fault, despite the fact they harangued him into moving the club on to anyone but himself.
Perhaps we have all seen too many financial football melodramas over the years. Since the days of Middlesbrough and Hull City hitting the skids, the media have tracked a distinct storyline for the larger club in penury. Over the last month Rangers fans have known the darkening financial clouds, the shock of administration, the subsequent heartwarming displays of fan loyalty and then the chivalric rescue attempts by benevolent investors.
There was even a predictability that the apparent turning of the corner came on a Friday evening in early March. As Celtic's fiscal decline halted in 1994, it was declaimed from the steps of Parkhead that "the rebels have won!" Rangers did it the dour, Presbyterian way – the biggest stars agreed to 75% pay-cuts and the administrators acknowledged seven serious potential purchasers of the club. Those that played for the jersey were now paying for it.
Without any camera-friendly chains being padlocked around gates, Rangers had their "hours from closure" moment. There had been talk, over the previous two days, of liquidation. The administrators played that hand beautifully. The subsequent wage-cuts allow the club to complete this season's fixtures and give the growing list of potential buyers time to formulate their bids.
While local greengrocers were turning up at Vale Park with fruit and water to keep the players hydrated at training, Rangers captain Steve Davis was dropping from £28,000 to £7,000 per week. While Portsmouth depended on a local 1970s muso to conjure a consortium, former Rangers director and Deutsche Bank guru Paul Murray – who resembles a retired member of Ultravox – has serious money and three fan groups behind his Blue Knights bid, which is the least serious in the eyes of the administrators.
The players are heroes. Any 75% salary cut is just that, irrespective of starting wage or the prospect of a big summer move. Some had offered to play for nothing. Their negotiations were delayed, but only because they wanted guarantees their sacrifice would save the club and that Whyte knew they would leave if he returned. This was typical of a core morale that helped Rangers reach a European final in 2008, win three SPLs on the trot and even win a domestic cup final with nine men. For at least a decade, this spirit has not been reciprocated by the louder of the club's fans.
American financiers are interested and the ubiquitous "Far East parties" are sniffing around. Foreign investment brings its risks but any mooted ownership model that includes fan groups – particularly the fractious and fratricidal Rangers Supporters Trust – could bring trouble in the long term. Stockport County fans may have more reason than most to doubt the intentions of Hibs-supporting businessman Brian Kennedy but the false reluctance of the bid from the Sale Sharks owner to "save" Rangers brought a quote truer than he knew: "It always ends in tears. It's like being Prime Minister!"
That Whyte was lauded by many Rangers fans when he arrived has established that the club is there for a more base form of exploitation. His ownership is allegedly null and void because he used future season ticket sales to fund his takeover. But smoother, more plausible conmen will have spotted an open window. Rangers will soon be out of administration but there remain worries about where we go next.
Ibrox will not go the way of Boothferry and Ayresome Parks, but if the fans continue to actively hound decent owners there is no guarantee our current travails will eventually lead to the successes latterly experienced by Hull City and Middlesbrough. Alex Anderson