Why Has It Come To This?

Call me naïve. Call me blinded by blue-tinted spectacles.

However, I make no apologies for my support for Rangers Football Club and never will.

Growing up watching Rangers in the 1990s was a glorious time. Seeing players such as Paul Gascoigne, Brian Laudrup and Ally McCoist strutting their stuff at Ibrox gave me endless moments of joy.

Due to my age, I have only really known Rangers as a successful team.

Titles were won almost every year, whilst domestic cups were also regularly displayed in the trophy cabinet and I will never forget that incredible run to the Uefa Cup final in 2008.

Don’t get me wrong, there were tough times particularly during the ill-fated Paul Le Guen regime. Humiliating European defeats to Kaunas and Unirea also spring to mind.

Let me take you back to 15 May 2011. The venue is Rugby Park and Rangers have just won their 54th league title.

Craig Whyte, the new owner, is in attendance and celebrates back at Ibrox with thousands of other fellow bears.

I remember sitting that day taking it all in and thinking Whyte was the man to carry us onto bigger and better things with a high level of investment during the summer to really pull Rangers away from Celtic.

Nothing could have prepared me for what has happened in the year since then.

Rangers are an institution throughout Scotland. Indeed disgraced former chairman David Murray once said the club were the second biggest institution in Scotland behind the Church of Scotland.

Despite his extreme mismanagement at Ibrox, it’s hard for me to argue with Murray on that.

I’m proud to say I’m a Rangers fan. Meeting new people I don’t hold back with my views when defending the club.

But over the last year I cannot deny that has become tougher. Rangers used to be a name that struck fear into people. A team that deserved respect and you were respected for supporting the side, within reason of course.

I can safely say that is no longer the case. Since Whyte took over the club, it has become nothing short of a laughing stock amongst football fans in Scotland.

The first signs of this came when Rangers refused to up their bid in their quest to sign Dundee United striker David Goodwillie last summer. Various jokes were sent around forums and social networking sites that Whyte had offered Dundee United a bag of crisps and £30, to paraphrase the “jokes” slightly.

Imagine that happening a decade ago. Totally unthinkable when Rangers were able to go out and buy internationalists such as Ronald De Boer and Claudio Caniggia.

Whilst the league form was excellent in the first few months of the season, embarrassing defeats in Europe were suffered against Malmo and Maribor of Sweden and Slovenia respectively.

Another opportunity for other fans in Scotland to take a swipe at Rangers.

But for me it showed how far we had fallen in a mere few season since beating some top teams such as Fiorentina on the way to Manchester in 2008.

I have started to describe 2012 as the annus horribilis for Rangers. The form on the pitch may have started to falter, but there was a series of nightmares as Whyte refused to buy players and criminally sold star striker Nikica Jelavic for £5.5m.

Only £5.5m for a striker that had bagged a double for Rangers the season before? This was not the club I knew and loved.

And a mere two weeks later on Valentine’s Day Rangers Football Club were in administration.

The news hit me for six like every other Rangers fan but unlike what happened at other clubs such as Dundee, Livingston and Motherwell when they went into administration, the sympathy was hardly forthcoming with a few exceptions amongst my friends.

Since then, people have been looking to kick Rangers at every turn rather than focus on the goings on at their own clubs whether it be Celtic, Kilmarnock or any other SPL club.

How utterly pathetic and bizarre. But then it got me to thinking, despite their willingness to have a pop at Rangers, deep down they realise how big a club Rangers are.

Can you imagine us talking about St Mirren or Inverness or any other SPL club outside Celtic if they went into administration? Of course there would be some chat but not on the ‘Rangers scale’.

These clubs despite having loyal fans who have stuck by them through endless doldrum years, they aren’t institutions. They surely can’t be described by anyone as being ‘vital’ to the Scottish game.

Yet fans of these smaller SPL clubs seem to think the game can survive in its current state if Rangers are demoted to one of the SFL clubs.

Incredibly the other night I had a Kilmarnock fan suggest to me that “Scottish football doesn’t need television revenue”. Whilst I do think it’s sad that Scottish football has become over-reliant on live television revenue, there is no getting away from the fact that it helps a lot of clubs stay on an even keel.

Yet people are extremely happy to see this revenue driven out of our game for anywhere between 1-3 seasons.

There can be no doubting Rangers need to be punished for crimes they have committed, especially if they are found guilty of dual contracts.

However, since when did this attitude develop in this country to kick our most successful football club every day for months on end?

I’m all for good humoured rivalry amongst football fans, but now we have a worrying and potentially dangerous situation where fans are happy to see their own club potentially die instead of keeping Rangers in the SPL.

For the record, I’m happy to see the club be put in division 3 and for us to work our way back up.

But for 80% fans of St Mirren to come out the other day and say they wouldn’t vote Rangers back into the SPL even if it meant the Paisley club went into administration. That utterly astounded me.

How did we come to this? Throughout this I have tried to understand the reasons for fans wanting to punish Rangers.

Some people have spoken varying degrees of sense, but only on a limited scale.

Most have spoken absolute nonsense about how Rangers have to be absolutely hammered at every turn from every governing body.

And even if there is a successful resolution to this with fans being happy, however unlikely that is, the whole situation has made me rather sad at the attitudes within Scottish football.

Just why has it come to this?

Ewan is a Rangers season ticket holder and has followed them since he was a youngster. He regularly writes about the club for various sites. Currently studying journalism, you can catch him on twitter @ewanfootball

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