It would be no overstatement to suggest Rangers as a club and its supporters have endured a troubled relationship with the Scottish national team and its governance in the past decade. As recently as 2008 under the quite catastrophic George Burley regime, Lee McCulloch seemed to sense all was not well in the international fold and publicly announced his retirement. This was then followed up by the Loch Lomond booze incident in 2009 involving Barry Ferguson and Allan McGregor, to name just two, who were then dropped for the following match at Hampden. Their response was immature and shameful, and rightfully punished, but they were banned for life as a result which was a ridiculous sentence. To delve more into the fractured past would simply unearth too much dirt for one article, so let us get to the present day.
Under the current regime, managed by Craig Levein, one which sees the Rangers contingent all but erased from the fold, it is safe to say the relationship between club and country has become permanently blighted. Never highlighted more in one incident than with Rangers’ midfielder Ian Black booed venomously during his national debut at Easter Road, something which was widely condemned by all sensible observers (such as, dare I say it, Craig Burley, the nephew of the former national boss), the poison which has surfaced to scar the situation is beyond toxic.
|Should have been his proudest moment.|
The question underlying all this is can this ever be healed? One day when Rangers are back in the top flight will time have healed the wounds and some kind of understanding be reached between Ibrox and the national regime again? Or is the club destined to be the black sheep of Scottish football – the most talked about and most supported club in the land but shunned by its peers and ignored by its association?
This question begins with Rangers fans. Do Rangers fans still support Scotland? Does the support from Govan give its best wishes to the national team, despite the friction between the two, or have the Ibrox faithful grown weary of the persecution and now distance themselves from involvement or interest in the national team?
It is difficult to give a completely assured answer to that. There are fans of the national team among the Rangers contingent who completely recognise the other SPL supporters hate both them and their players (along with the SFA) – but who cannot bring themselves to disown the national team as it is still their own. Scotland is still their country, and while the lunatics may now run the asylum, it is still their asylum as much as anyone else’s. They will not attend the matches nor will they hold any trust in Craig Levein’s rather scratchy management, but they will still hold dear this country and desire success upon its national team, regardless of the political junk which has wrecked it.
There are other fans, however, who take the opposite view. That they no longer recognise the national team, that they despise the SFA, SPL, its fans, and the almost uniform elimination of Rangers from the national setup. That they hold the Tartan Army in nothing but uniform contempt due to it being composed of many supporters who would want Rangers dead. That the likes of comments from Craig Levein slating Ian Black’s ability do nothing to help endear the Ibrox faithful to this regime. For the boss to have said Black would not have made the team but for injury, and to state categorically he is not a first team choice really is quite the worst man-management since George Burley. Who, ironically, is his predecessor.
|Is this where it started?|
Perhaps, though, the biggest problem with the Scotland setup in Rangers’ fans eyes is it is governed by the atrocious SFA. The Scottish Football Association, with Regan as captain, is one of the worst-run organisations in football circles. And its clear anti-Rangers agenda of the past number of months has stained indelibly into the souls of Rangers fans, many of whom cannot bring themselves to will any success on the national team which represents such an association.
Let us be clear – any disdain for the national team is not filled with contempt for the players (with the notable exception of those who defected from Murray park so disrespectfully and those who ply their trade so poorly with the green half of Glasgow – which probably does not include Forrest or Mulgrew who just get on with it and in the latter’s case actually provided fair and decent comment about Rangers’ situation), they are just doing their job. They cannot control what occurs around them.
It is contempt for the way the team is run, the way Rangers have been cast to the flames, and the way the national setup has become toxic in the eyes of many Rangers fans. As mentioned though, many bears have an enviable ability to rise above this and wish the best to their country, to support the national team whatever the weather. Those who manage to do this are able to put emotion to one side and remain patriotic. That is admirable.
The others, cannot, understandably. And it appears they are in the majority.
Whether or not these wounds will ever heal and all Rangers fans can enjoy the national team again without baggage is another question.