Myths, Lies and Jon Daly

For only the third time, I took my boy with me to Ibrox on Saturday for the game against Stenhousemuir. He had come along previously to games, but his level of interest once there was lower than the level enjoyed on a Co-Operative Bank overdraft facility if you happen to be Celtic Football Club or the Labour Party!

This time was different. This time he volunteered to go. When offered the chance, which I present him with fairly often, he replied “yes” with such a hefty amount of enthusiasm it suggested he would see it through this time rather than change his mind at the last minute, as has happened in the past.

So off we went. Other fathers will know the proud feeling you get when taking your boy to the game. It almost feels like a rite of passage; something that is almost mandatory and part of their education. You take them to football, show them your team in the hope they’ll adopt the same level of passion for them as you, and then a journey and a connection begins that you hope will last a few years and some shared experiences before they set off to have their own adventures supporting the club.

So we sat in the Govan stand and, for the first time, he managed to keep fairly up to speed with the goings on which, given he is only eight, was good enough for me.

We had a good day, he was high-fived by more than a few of the guys and gals sitting around us at every one of the eight goals, and there was generally a good feeling to proceedings. He went home happy, and I went home thinking that he might just take an interest in Rangers and want to pursue it a bit more as he got older. And going by what we had witnessed, who could blame him?

Fast-forward a couple of days and the pleasant aftertaste that we both enjoyed from Saturday’s experience was starting to leave a sour taste in the mouth – well for me it was, at any rate.

Apparently we didn’t attend a football match on Saturday. No, we attended a sectarian festival and love-in between the Rangers support and the Armed Forces, which has offended some people to the extent of lobbying MSP’s to raise the issue in the Scottish Parliament and with the police.

I feel I should point out at this stage that I am not really a fan of these Armed Forces events. I feel they’re well intended, but given this countries recent military action record, I cannot say I’m overly comfortable with celebrating the military at this present stage.

I am also uncomfortable with the way the poppy has now turned into a symbol of the club. It was never this way before. Now, like Che Guvera & Basque flags on the other side, it has somehow transcended into one of the odder symbols of Old Firm rivalry.

I felt when the club started putting the poppy on the kit on and around Remembrance Sunday it made its feelings and position clear on HM Forces. It has, however, grown and grown to a level that I am no longer comfortable with. I wear a poppy every year, it’s a simple and dignified gesture with little or no fuss. Putting the troops on the pitch at half-time has become a bit overblown for my liking. I realise I’m probably in the minority on this issue as a Rangers supporter, but I feel I have to state my opinion before continuing.

Regardless of my opinion, however, what has come out of Saturday’s Armed Forces Day at Ibrox is yet another indication of the current and constant vilification of the club.

It started with Matt McGlone and Phil Mac Giolla Bhain – those well know admirers of Rangers Football Club – who posted YouTube footage which they claimed showed members of the Armed Forces and Rangers supporters in a unison of sectarian chanting.

This was news to me. I was sat in the Govan rear and can’t say I saw or heard anything of that nature during the half-time presentation of the troops.

Then George Galloway joined in with the mock outrage – yet another man who has no conflict of interest when it comes to the fortunes a certain footballing institution down Govan way or our Armed Forces. Next to join in was our old friend Alex Thomson, who has more than demonstrated over the last few months that he is no friend of Rangers.

The above gallery of rogues is to be expected when it comes to putting the boot into Rangers Football Club, but the next one to pick up the gauntlet, Patrick Harvie, MSP for Glasgow region, was one that took me by surprise.

Harvie posted on Twitter that he had written to Police Scotland regarding the incident. When I challenged him on the version of events being put forward, he assured me that he wasn’t a supporter of the Offence Behaviour at Football Act but, if the act was in place then it had to be “applied fairly”.

Now Harvie has always struck me as one of Holyrood’s better and more level-headed MSP’s. He has always impressed me on Question Time and other political programmes, but I have to say I found his answer unsatisfactory and unconvincing – and it didn’t address the concerns I raised regarding the false version of events being put forward.

By the time the morning papers had hit the streets on Tuesday a police investigation was underway and the club, yet again, was having to deal with the issue of sectarianism.

Now I am aware that as a Rangers supporter I am biased when it comes to issues surrounding my club. However, that does not make me blind to some of the faults within it. Yes, there are issues surrounding a minority within the Rangers support when it comes to sectarianism – as there are issues surrounding other supports too – but when we are at the point that a couple of prominent Celtic fans can mobilise MSP’s through fictitious claims into taking action that, regardless of the outcome, has already damaged their main and historic rivals, then we are living in dangerous times.

In the last few months alone we have had “No To Newco”, a campaign to strip us of titles, petitions to have the five stars removed from our shirt and a complaint to the Advertising Standards Agency. Is it any wonder that fair few of the Rangers support feel that there is an unhealthy obsession and willingness to kick the club from pillar to post?

Yet it continues. The MSM seem to be blinded by fear of the those who pull the strings on these issues and the demonization of the club continues apace – with no real will, it would appear, from those within the boardroom to stand firm and act in an assertive manner on the issue. In fact, the only time the current board seem to act is when it’s their own necks are in the noose, and it is time for that to change before Rangers become toxic to the point of no return.

I left Ibrox on Saturday feeling good about the club. My boy and I had a great shared experience, we had witnessed eight goals and the patter by those sitting around us had been of such a level that were both never far away from a smile.

Now? I’m told that we attended a festival of sectarianism. That is a million miles away from the truth – and needs to be challenged.

The most ironic thing about this whole issue is that, on the day those who seek to damage the club raise the age old accusation of sectarianism, we were all celebrating the performance and goal-scoring exploits of man-of-the-match, Jon Daly. He is already a fans favourite and to a man the support purred at his exploits on Saturday.

A Catholic from Dublin scoring four goals for Rangers? Wouldn’t have happened in the days my dad first took me to Ibrox. So maybe those who point fingers at Rangers and argue that club should “move on from its sectarian past” would do better if they minded about their own clubs affairs and allowed us to as well.