Many years ago, a Rangers-supporting friend, who also followed Kingstonian, said to me: “They do things differently in Glasgow.” At the time, this reminded me of an exchange which had just been reported in the diary section of When Saturday Comes magazine. Dutch superstar Ruud Gullit had expressed indignant surprise as the very physical nature of the English club game to which he had just signed up, having been upended by a typical Vinny Jones tackle, i.e. a foul (if memory serves, Gullit’s head flew back on impact very like a typical Didier Drogba dive, only Gullit genuinely was ‘taken aback’ by the impact). “We do things differently over here,” an unrepentant Jones was quoted as saying in response to Gullit’s reaction to the tackle from behind. “But that, surely, was Gullit’s point,” noted WSC, taking the future ex-Chelsea manager’s side.
They still do things differently in Glasgow, which doesn’t make those ‘things’ any more acceptable than a Jones tackle from behind. For instance, as regular readers of this site may know, any criticism of the Rangers is automatically labelled by many Rangers fans as the result of a twisted, bigoted, occasionally Fenian Rangers-hating agenda. Bloggers who simply regard Rangers recent financial history as one of financial mismanagement and wouldn’t even know what a Fenian was, let alone follow one’s “hate-filled” agenda, have been ludicrously and laughably lumped into this “anti-Rangers” category. And people like me, who have regularly blogged on Rangers’ finances, are routinely accused of obsessiveness, as if someone who blogs on the subject of football finance is somehow wrong to devote time and words to by far the biggest and most multi-faceted football finance story in both 2011 and 2012.
The language used in these denunciations can at times so closely border on the deranged as to make it difficult to spoof. But in a remarkable article published this week, former Daily Record newspaper sports editor and experienced Scots sports journalist James Traynor managed it. Traynor has been the main target for much of the criticism of the mainstream Scottish media’s largely poor coverage of Rangers’ financial crises. Yet even his fiercest critics might have to admit that he has played a bit of a blinder with his latest work. Entitled Remember Sporting Integrity?, it was ostensibly a forthright criticism of plans to re-organise Scottish League football. But it quickly began to parody familiar Rangers paranoias and persecution complexes, using the sort of emotive language so beloved of the more virulent Rangers fan website (which many would argue is almost all of them). And the beauty of the spoof was that it was presented as an “opinion” piece on the official Rangers website, penned by Traynor in his new capacity as the club’s director of communications, a bold decision for which Rangers themselves also deserve immense credit.
Traynor dismisses the proposed new unified league of three divisions, with 12 teams in the top two divisions, 18 in the third, and a subsequent split of the top two divisions into three divisions of eight in order to… er… um. And, perceptively acknowledging that these proposals are beyond parody, he tucks in some valid, serious points; most notably that “this entire season will be rendered meaningless” by “the rush to bring in changes for the start of next season.” He then cleverly shoe-horns in the issue which ignited the most comical rhetorical fires in Rangers supporters last summer, ‘sporting integrity’ – in the supposed name of which Rangers were denied re-entry into the Scottish Premier League (SPL) after the company which held the “Rangers” SPL share went bust last June.
The language is utterly convincing, Traynor using his journalistic skill to write just coherently enough to fool people into thinking it a serious article on the pitfalls of the reorganisation proposals, including the apparent hypocrisy of the proposals being pushed through by clubs, without fan consultation. “All the clubs were squealing that the wishes of the fans had to be granted when the game was wrestling with the problem of what to do with Rangers,” he wrote, knowing full well that the clubs were happy to ignore supporters in the summer…until supporters threatened to undermine their finances by boycotting season-tickets. “Rangers had to be punished, they deserved to be punished,” Traynor noted, correctly. But, seamlessly, he switched into rabid rubbish mode: “It seemed as if additional penalties were being randomly introduced depending on who was in which meeting,” being careful not to specify what these random penalties were, in case the accusation was exposed as parody.
Traynor then cited the “frenzy to cause the club as much additional pain as possible,” which was a reference to campaigns for Rangers to re-start after going bust in the lowest level of Scottish professional league football. “Many fans of many clubs waded in,” he admitted. But Rangers fan sites have directed their particular ire at Celtic, of course. So, Traynor added: “this is not to say Celtic fans or their club didn’t attempt to influence the outcome of debates on Rangers and possible sanctions. Of course they did.” And further, still talking about Celtic fans and club: “They are still at it on social media sites.” The Scottish football authorities got their customary booting. The SPL was “a desperate organisation” run “more or less” by “a few.” And “of course it will have to be rebranded” when Rangers “return to the top-flight.” Rangers were “not invited to take part in talks which will shape the game’s future,” despite being “this club” being “the biggest one in the country.” And, succinctly incorporating two Rangers bugbears in one paragraph, he suggested: “We are entitled to conclude that this club is not important, which is strange when so many fans of other clubs continue to be obsessed by Rangers.” And, in case readers were forgetting that the piece was a parody, he tagged some clunking irony onto the end of this paragraph, claiming that Rangers “are simply getting on with their own affairs, asking no favour from anyone.”
Traynor couldn’t fool anyone without some emotive language directed at the blogging community, citing: “…blogs clattered out by individuals who are no better than semi-literate… and while the deranged, who are using social media sites for their twisted agenda, should be ignored, there are more than a few in the mainstream still maligning the club at every opportunity.” And, truly warming to his task, he added: “Word of advice, gentlemen. From now on be very careful when talking or writing about this club…although there is no desire to pick fights, be assured that no-one will attack Rangers with impunity.” In other words: “We know where you live.” It is personally offensive to attribute all Rangers criticism to “deranged” tweeters and “semi-literate” bloggers (as regular readers of this site will know, I have been a fervent critic of Rangers over the past couple of years, without being deranged…wubble…wubble…or semmy-litterat). And Traynor caught this tone so precisely that he had to inject more massive irony. This was real genius… quoting Bill Struth, Rangers’ inter-war managerial legend: “We shall have our years of failure and when they arrive we must reveal tolerance and sanity,” before himself adding the hilarious: “Tolerance and sanity. That’s what Rangers will demonstrate and maintain” and concluding: “After all, someone has to. 12-12-18. Dear God,” reverting to Traynor’s pretend subject, Scottish league football’s reorganisation.
Traynor, it pains me to admit, has written this piece magnificently. Sometimes, you just have to hold your hands up and admit you were wrong. And I was wrong to dismiss Traynor as a simplistic idiot and a mere controversialist. Friends of mine – who are nevertheless intelligent people – have fallen for Traynor’s trick, believing the article to be a shameful and offensive slur on other Scottish clubs and their fans and writers who dare criticise Rangers for the minor accountancy technicality of going bust while owing businesses millions of pounds. Others accuse Traynor of rank hypocrisy, quoting the man who wrote in the Daily Record on June 13th last year that “Rangers FC as we know them are dead. It’s all over,” that they were “guilty of shaming the game,” that “140 years of history, triumph and tears, will have ended” and that “no matter how Charles Green tries to dress it up, a new company equals a new club.” But they just don’t get the joke. Traynor has fooled them all.
And they fail to realise that no matter how differently things are done in Glasgow, no rational, self-respecting football club would allow such ugly, vindictive stinking hypocrisy onto their official website, especially if it was presented as the official club view (the usual disclaimer about the “views expressed” being” those of the individual author and not of The Rangers Football Club” does not appear anywhere on the page). After all, “many fans of many clubs” would feel justified in having “anti-Rangers” feelings if Traynor’s article really was the official Rangers view. And you don’t have to be deranged, twisted or semi-literate to believe that that isn’t right.
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