If the past 5 months in Scottish football have proven anything, it is the inalienable truth that the national game is categorically ill. The signs had begun during season 2010/2011 when Celtic manager Neil Lennon was appallingly sent a package bomb through the post. No matter what anyone feels about the Parkhead boss, the intention to maim or kill him was a damning indictment of the mental health of the sport in Scotland. That one man who manages a football team could be sent a malevolent device by two alleged ‘fans’ of the opposite team, Rangers, was a bitter reflection of the state of Scottish society and of the sport which represents it.
However, if it was ever felt that said incident might have been a watershed moment which turned the game around and sent it on the road to recovery, the home straight of the season past has surely dispelled such a notion.
The game north of the border is so close to oblivion through hate, jealousy, pettiness, and selfishness that it has become a parody of itself. All those episodes of Only an Excuse taking the Michael out of the modern game suddenly seem a light-hearted but accurate condemnation of the state of affairs here, rather than an amusing 30 minutes at New Year.
|It doesn’t seem so funny now, if it ever did.|
Fellow blogger John DC Gow wrote a marvellous piece recently on the sad demise of respect – he put in fine words how, in the past, football was second place to human interest. That his recollection, as a Rangers fan, was of nothing but grief in his family when Scotland manager, and former nemesis of the club Jock Stein died on duty with the national team. That it did not matter that Stein had been in charge of bitter rivals Celtic in the past, all that mattered was having respect for someone in football who had achieved a great deal.
This integrity was still in relative existence in 2001 with the passing of Rangers’ legend Jim Baxter. Celtic fans held aloft a banner at Ibrox in honour of the Rangers winger, describing him as ‘Simply the Best’.
|In 2001, decency was still in evidence.|
Even as recently as 2008 there were still some flickering embers of decency in Scotland when Celtic fulcrum Tommy Burns lost his fight against cancer, and two of the pall-bearers were Rangers icons Walter Smith and Alistair McCoist, while fans of both sides gave the man the respect he deserved.
|Walter Smith prominent carrying the late Tommy Burns’ coffin.|
Sadly, in the intervening 4 years, those embers have been doused horribly, and have been viciously superseded by a complete loss of perspective and rising obsession with hatred.
When St Mirren fans were recently polled regarding their feelings on Rangers’ current situation and the infamous newco vote, the results gave some idea of the direction of feeling in this country. 80% of those who responded chose to have their own club potentially liquidated as long as it meant Rangers’ absence from the SPL too. In short terms, Buddies supporters cared more about hating Rangers than they did about supporting their own side.
This perverse logic was evident from Kilmarnock and Motherwell as well, with both clubs publicly admitting they could not cope without the finance Rangers bring to the SPL. They nevertheless sided against the Ibrox side in the vote. Despite it meaning certain extinction for themselves.
Now, I should absolutely point out this is not another ‘you need us’ Rangers article which ignores the poor state of affairs at Ibrox in themselves. That fobs off the notion that individuals who ran this club in the past were irresponsible and potentially criminal, and that Rangers deserved to get off Scot-free on a football basis.
Rangers supporters know better than anyone that Sir David Murray was at best reckless with the club’s future, and at worst potentially guilty of outright criminality. We also are only too well aware that Craig Whyte’s tenure saw categorically illegal activity, and we hope against hope that both men will be made answerable and accountable to their actions in the future.
|Should Rangers still be paying for what this man started?|
We also understand that their actions require retribution from the laws of the national game, and that while they have departed, the club remains, and punishment since their exits is not an unjustified course of response.
However, there comes a point when enough is enough, and that the initial 10 point deduction in the league for administration, followed by effective expulsion from the SPL, a £160,000 fine, a transfer embargo and other similar punishments are punishment enough. Enough is enough.
The continued desire to see Rangers punished is sentencing the game to death in this country. And I do not just mean from the oft-repeated financial point of view. I mean from a human and footballing perspective as well. There is no doubt in my mind had roles been reversed and it been Celtic on the receiving end of all this, the national game would be wishing a desire to see them equally crushed too. Not all fans would have subscribed to it, with a minority of supporters retaining their sense of clarity, as is happening with Rangers, but the majority would wish them death as they do Rangers.
Because Scottish football is now dominated by small-minded petty recriminations and jealousy, with an obsession with seeing anyone who is guilty of infraction punished until they, frankly, are dead.
That the powers-that-be are still concocting further sanctions to a beaten and bruised Rangers, one which is on life support, provides all the proof if any were needed that the punishment has nothing to do with justice, and everything to do with hate. The over-arching desperation to kick a dog when it is down while stabbing it repeatedly.
The justice has taken place. The sanctions on the club, the failure of the CVA, the departure of almost the entire first team, the criminal investigations. These are all strict enough as they are. To add yet more punishment or method for hurting this deeply wounded animal can have nothing to do with justice any more.
Is this really the state of a mentally healthy Scottish football? Or is the game in this country badly in need of therapy?
I think most of us truly know the answer.