2 November 2009 ~ Rangers haven't bought a player since August 2008. This, along with the fire-sale attitude towards our current top names back in January, clearly meant we were skint. Everyone realised this – players, fans, journos, directors and toddlers with nursery school-level numeracy. However, according to the Scottish media and the Rangers Supporters Trust, this fact of life only became common knowledge last Saturday evening. Then, in answer to innocuous post-match questions on the current difficulty of his job, Walter Smith casually mentioned Lloyds Bank was authorising the club's spending (a claim subsequently denied by Rangers and Lloyds).
We're around £30 million in debt. The SPL is too small to make that ignorable but Rangers are too big for it to threaten the existence of the club or the ownership of Ibrox. It suits the bank to implement a plan to recoup their dough from one of the biggest fansbases in Europe. Never mind the "social dimension", terminating a cash cow like Rangers would be gross financial negligence by any high street bank.
As soon as Madjid Bougherra scored a glorious solo goal at Stuttgart in the transfer boutique shop which is the UEFA Champions League, you knew one third of the debt could be written off with one January 2010 transaction. Various known businessmen wait in the wings, ready to buy us when the price is right and when our current owner believes they have the best intentions of the club at heart. We're safe.
Yet I get in the car last Monday, switch on the radio and there's a familiar Trustee voice doing his usual: "demanding answers" and threatening another institution. The Rangers Supporters Trust, responsible for many creditable campaigns – none more so than that against the BNP's matchday presence around Ibrox – often seems run by people who are using the size of the club they support as an excuse to harangue and be seen as powerful over multimillionaires and their corporations.
That could be Sir David Murray and Rangers FC or the Lloyds banking group and its representative currently on our board (aka "the enemy within", according to an RST-inspired a banner at Tannadice yesterday). Rangers haven't lost a domestic match all season or a domestic away game for a year. We're four points off the top with a game in hand. Four weeks ago we beat leaders Celtic with our reserves. But the Trust insist we're in a terrible state. And they want to threaten the bankers who hold the keys to our current finances. Clever.
Every Scottish club is ultimately at the beck and call of the financial institutions that are reining in their customers' spending at present. Every Rangers fan during the high-spending Ibrox campaigns at the turn of the century was urging chairman Murray to fork out even more millions on even more Tore Andre Flos. Yet suddenly, according to the tabloid media, I'm surrounded by accountants not football fans. Suddenly balanced books are more important than silverware.
The Rangers Trust has around 10,000 members. When we reached the UEFA Cup final in 2008, up to a quarter of a million supporters made their way to Manchester. That's the level of the RST's grassroots representation but their main mouthpieces are media savvy and attention hungry so will provide readily controversial, anger-filled quotes to order. Off mic, when they're not employing lip-readers to confirm Celtic players use sectarian language, the Trust launches a self-pitying campaign against our ex-chairman and current owner, entitled "We Deserve Better". That whinging, self-pitying rag was arguably the most un-Rangers banner ever unfurled by home fans at Ibrox. Yet it was a sure sign that one of the key positives of the Rangers support's persona – staunch loyalty – was under threat, ironically, due to a body of fans attracted to the club by our consistent success under David Murray.
The Trust, spawned by the Follow Follow fanzine and a cynical determination to go from bar room to chatroom to boardroom, is too small and too self-serving to manage a Socio-style take over of Rangers and become the very thing they usually claim to despise – another sphere of power separating fans and club ¬– but they're loud enough to scare away potential investors, prospective owners and the one man who gave Rangers the greatest period of sustained success in our history.
Before 1986 Rangers played to 10,000 crowds at home games and went nine years without even a top-two finish. Upon Murray's takeover in 1988 we hit nine straight titles, got to within a goal of the Champions League final, developed Ibrox into a UEFA-graded five-star stadium and reached our first European final in 36 years: there's rarely been fewer than 40,000 at a home league game in the last two decades. Where did these extra 30,000 people come from?
Like an obese man losing too much weight too quickly, the overhanging useless folds of skin created by such a rush to health between 1985 and 1988 has made Rangers unattractive to some potential buyers. The skin flap which is the Rangers Trust came about because so may people with no real emotional investment in the club – the kind of investment built up through following us in our lean years – regarded League titles and European success as their starting point of loyalty. Now that they're only getting these glories every second season they want answers. When, in reality, they are the only reason there are any question in the first place. Alex Anderson