Rangers' New Start Can Prove There Is A Place For Romanticism In Football

Cynics are writing off football as a rich man's game more than ever, but if Rangers can rise from the ashes they'll defeat the colossus of money in a true fairy-tale story...
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Cynics are writing off football as a rich man's game more than ever, but if Rangers can rise from the ashes they'll defeat the colossus of money in a true fairy-tale story...

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It's stating the bleeding obvious to say a fracture runs through football with those who own the clubs, the players commanding huge salaries, their agents and, too often, colluding football authorities, on one side and fans on the other. The former are motivated by money and power while the latter are chasing glory. The moneymen are narcissists, in love with themselves; the fans are Romantics, in love with an idea, obsessed with history and carrying a deep respect for the symbolism of badge and shirt.

However obvious, the truth of this was demonstrated recently when about 80% of Rangers season ticket holders said their team should start again at the bottom of the Third Division following their tax evasion shenanigans. This was in contrast to the clubs owners who were trying to muscle their way into the First Division on the basis, of course, that it would be financially beneficial to all. The fracture was clear for all to see.

The moneymen are narcissists, in love with themselves; the fans are Romantics, in love with an idea, obsessed with history and carrying a deep respect for the symbolism of badge and shirt.

For Rangers’ fans, starting at the bottom is a great story. It could only take them three years to return to the top flight and along the way they will play, and have the chance to beat, every team in Scotland, visit every ground, sample every pie and have a pint in more boozers than any other football fan anywhere and over those pints they will have numerous anecdotes to recount, like the other week at Brechin City when the ball got stuck up a tree.

When they get back to the top, it will be with their heads held high. If they finish by winning the SPL then they will have achieved something no team has before or will afterwards in all likelihood.

It could only take them three years to return to the top flight and along the way they will play, and have the chance to beat, every team in Scotland, visit every ground, sample every pie and have a pint in more boozers than any other football fan anywhere.

Meanwhile, with Rangers unable to compete in the international transfer market, they will have to rely more on homegrown talent and bringing on young players. With less pressure on the other teams to compete with Rangers, they too will get the chance to bring on young talent. They will also get the chance to win more silverware and compete in Europe.

All this could be good for the Scottish national team. Before money entered the game in Scotland the national team was strong enough to qualify for five consecutive world cups, between 1074 and 1990. Starved of opportunity since Scottish Premier League clubs followed Rangers into the international transfer market, young Scottish players haven't had the chance to develop and the national team's fortunes have dwindled. John Clarke has written of the detrimental effect of Rangers’ money on Scottish football elsewhere on this site.

Rangers fans will have numerous anecdotes to recount, like the other week at Brechin City when the ball got stuck up a tree.

Growing up in Scotland in the 1970's and 80's, I was Rangers until my mid-teens. Like many I was put off by the sectarianism. I could not identify with all that No Surrender stuff. I felt no connection to the stories and songs about battles fought hundreds of years before, not even in Scotland, but over the sea in Ireland. I couldn't take to Celtic either so if asked I’ve always said Partick Thistle, which usually kills the conversation dead.

Now, Rangers’ fans are creating a new myth. This is one where the common enemy is not Catholicism but money. It is a story where a club finds redemption and does the nation a great good along the way. I'm not so naive to think this I'd the end of sectarianism but at least there will be the chance for some new songs to be written.

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