Flagged down

Rangers goalkeeper Andy Goram – from cult hero to alleged terrorist and extremist. Alex Anderson looks for reason and logic 

For Rangers fans who would like their club to ditch its sectarian image, the second last weekend in February contained an extreme high followed by extreme low. Saturday: a Scottish Catholic helps us annihilate Dundee and the fact is only reported on the back pages, in purely football terms. Sunday: an ex-Ranger cannot face Celtic because of front-page headlines associating him with organised murderers.

Hearing your all-time football hero, Andy Goram, publicly dissociating himself from Ulster terrorist organisations is almost as surreal as it is depressing. Goram is taking legal action against the tabloids whose head­lines necessitated his strange and embarrassing press conference. Sadly, I also found my­self scouring those photographs for signs of doctoring.

But even if the pictures of Andy holding UVF flags instead of footballs are hoaxed and even if that black armband was indeed worn in memory of his auntie and not a murdered terrorist, a huge worry still remains. None of this was totally unbelievable and, more scar­ily, a fair chunk of the Rangers support will at best not care, and at worst be secretly pleased if Goram actually is a genuine Protestant extremist.

His announcements in support of the Northern Ireland peace process may have been made as an employee of Motherwell FC but the Andy Goram legend was forged at Glas­gow Rangers. There are already enough headcases at Ibrox on a matchday who con­fuse success on the pitch with a smiting of the Catholic faith, and we don’t need pictures of our players behaving as though they feel the same way.

Goram is in my view the best goalkeeper Scotland has ever seen, domestically or internationally, and he provided more palpable match-turning moments on which to hang our fondest nine-in-a-row memories than any other Rangers player. He was deified in typical football hero fashion. However, in Old Firm culture the pseudo-religious aspect of hero worship tends to lose the pseudo bit pretty quickly.

Goram’s alleged misjudgment of the dar­k­er side of the Rangers support – whether that be taking it too seriously or not seriously enough – has tarnished the significance of Neil McCann’s arrival and welcome at Ibrox: it’s a quiet significance but it runs deep.

McCann is no Maurice Johnston. He has never played for Celtic, nor blessed himself in deliberate incitement of our support, so he is a bit easier to imagine in a Rangers jersey than Mojo was when he first arrived. Neither is McCann an exotically foreign Catholic. In fact he is the first example of an ordinary, west of Scotland Roman Catholic who could just as easily have gone to Celtic and whose signature for Rangers caused nothing more than a flicker in the media.

The signing of McCann and the adulation he received when scoring two and assisting in a few more against Dundee finally proves that for the vast majority of the Rangers support it’s league championships that count, not what school the players went to. Some sectarian songs still exist and we all resort to the lowest common denominator when Celtic come to town, but the football is starting to come first for more and more Rangers fans. Action should be taken before the Goram publicity polarises them and negates all the good work of our signing policy.

The players and supporters need some modern statement of identity from the club to take away the confusion which leads young lads and stupid players into believing sectarianism is proof of your love for Rangers. The Scottish tabloids fervently seize on any discussion of religion at Ibrox, so a carefully arr­an­g­ed interview with the Pravda-like Rangers News could give Murray a platform to announce that, yes, our support is 95 per cent Protestant, no, we’re not ashamed of that but, yes, we do want rid of those who celebrate bigotry and the violence it causes.

Maybe it is a dream but, one day perhaps, being a Protestant will have as little rele­vance to supporting Rangers as, say, being a Mancunian has to supporting Manchester United. 

From WSC 146 April 1999. What was happening this month