Face Motherwell in Premiership play-off first leg tonight
28 May ~ The last time Rangers hosted top-flight football was just a few weeks before liquidation and consignment to Scotland’s fourth tier. Motherwell were the visitors, just as they are in tonight’s Premiership play-off final first leg. It’s taken three years, an array of shysters passing through the Ibrox boardroom and a complete overhaul of Scotland’s league structure to get Rangers to the verge of a top-flight return. But everything at Ibrox remains balanced on a precarious verge. Promotion is the least of the promises needing fulfilment.
In Rangers three lower-league seasons so far promotion has been constant but we can’t win cups. We’ve lost one final and three semis. So trying for one last promotion via a knockout format keeps us teetering on another of the brinks we’ve occupied continually since 2012.
South African businessman Dave King was installed as chairman last Friday, after finally passing the SFA’s fit and proper persons test. But no one knows what that test involved. King’s ousting of the previous boardroom regime saw the club delisted from the stock exchange and Newcastle owner Mike Ashley demand an EGM for the immediate repayment of a £5 million loan. The chairman we wanted because he’s “a Rangers man” has yet to provide the stability infinitely more crucial to the club.
King was convicted on multiple cases of tax avoidance in South Africa yet he’s also lost £20m previously invested in Rangers. He was on the board when Craig Whyte took over yet was active in trying to oust the man who eventually liquidated the club. Last week King told the press Rangers needed £30m of investment to meet his aims for next season – challenge Celtic for the top title and qualify for Europe. He claimed he could lose that amount of money without harming his family’s lifestyle. But he stopped as noticeably short of confirming he’d actually put the money in as he did of backing Stuart McCall to remain manager.
If there’s such a thing as distrust fatigue, I’ve got it. After four years of obviously venal crooks at the helm, I desperately need to welcome King as at least pro-Rangers, whatever else he may be. The ebb and flow of supporters’ groups hailing and rabidly defending each new owner before becoming increasingly fevered in their efforts to oust them, has been draining. The majority of fans have tried to provide stability in the only way we can – turning up at every home game. But, like the team visibly improving with every game under McCall, the undertow of recent instability is always ready to stymie progress.
There’s much to recommend remaining in the second tier: another crack at the Challenge Cup (lower-league clubs only), a chance to revisit League One champions Morton’s legendary Cappielow Park – and being promoted as champions could give Rangers a better start in the top flight. But one thing became clear as Ibrox rocked and bounced with pure football tension during this month’s play-off victories over Queen of the South and Hibs: if we have to be hysterical about something, visits by Aberdeen and Celtic are the least distressing option. Alex Anderson