Scotland’s Game, part one, Playing for Money. (Missing Person report: Where is David Murray?)

http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b07pqpfp

missng Murray.jpgThe best thing for me about the Rio Olympics was it was on in the middle of the night because I didn’t need to watch it. Not that I would have. I couldn’t give a toss of your caber how many gold medals Britain racks up.  There’s only one sport, one club that I follow and one team I support, Glasgow Celtic. And I’m bigoted and bitter enough to remember comedians with eighties punchlines Loadsamoney and the mantra Greed it good, and David Murray, the darling of the media, the darling of the Ranger’s masses drawled that for every fiver put down, he’d put up  a tenner.

But let us not forget he met his match with the biscuit-tin mentality and the man with the checked bunnet, done it. Fergus McCann reminds us here, Celtic were 105 minutes away from extinction and the banks were calling in their loans and cashing in on Celtic’s assets of which there were two, Celtic Park and the gravel parks of Celtic’s training ground up the road at Barrowfield.  McCann had a plan and he’d the money to back up his rhetoric, £11 million in an account to shore up Celtic Public Limited Company. That was enough to save Celtic, ‘The Rebels have won’ (no pun intended) proclaimed Brian Dempsey in front of the stand at Parkhead.

But the rebels did not win at Rangers, or poor wee Gretna, or to save Livingstone, Hearts, Dunfermline, Motherwell or Dundee twice, from administration. The banks are always a banker to win.

Mc Cann’s plan was quite a simple one, put in £10 million and take out £60 million. He was quite upfront about that. And he was quite upfront about ‘never paying £10 million for a £5 million player’. Tore Andre Flo springs to mind. And for the record another damning statistic.  The league match between Celtic and Rangers on 04 October 2003 featured only one Scottish player in the two starting line-ups: Jackie McNamara. Maurice Ross came on as a substitute for Rangers. Celtic won 1-0.

But all the familiar faces of yore were here Archie McPherson, Graham Sour-ness, Walter Smith, former England captain Terry Butcher—and a memorable shot from the archives of what it was all about, in the dressing room after a cup win,  selling Ranger’s shirts, belting out in a scrum of other players that old Ranger’s anthem about ‘being up to your knees in Fenian blood, Surrender or you’ll die, For we are the Billy Boys. Hallo. Hallo. We are the Billy Boys’.

Journalists such as Stuart Cosgrove, Kevin McKenna, Graham Speirs and Jim Traynor were onscreen to offer a bit of journalistic colour. Programme makers even gave Alex Salmond a platform to talk about saving his beloved Hibs. Walter Mercer, of course, of Hearts Public Limited Company was intent on buying Hibs Public Limited Company and turning Easter Road into a car park, or better still housing for the rich, who can never have enough houses, never have enough assets. Dundee United planned to do the same to their Dundee rivals and was a coat of paint, or the fingertips of Rab Douglas’s gloves away from success. But these are backstories, because it was Rangers that changed everything. ‘You can’t have ying without yang,’ said Alec Salmond, ‘you can’t have Rangers without Celtic, you can’t have Hearts without Hibs and you can’t have Dundee United without Dundee.’ Yes, you can, as has been shown in recent years.

The irony is that Sebco Rangers are in the same position Celtic were all those years ago. Celtic going for ten league titles in a row. They currently stand at six and with a potential surplus of £80 million to play with in comparison to Ranger’s £15 million. No other team in Scotland stand close to Celtic’s sales potential, there pre-season tour matches bagged them more money than they would get winning the treble in Scotland, but Celtic cannot stand shoulder to shoulder with any of the teams in the English Premier League and struggle to match the spending power of First Division English League teams. Money talks. And those in the Champions League have a plan in place to bar those not in the top four paying countries, not playing countries. Scotland, and it’s Celtic that interest me, doesn’t even merit a footnote as fourth-pot fodder.

Scroll down the big names that have been mentioned. Who’s missing? David Murray. Legend has it that we went to buy Livingstone but got turned down. Those were the days when fitba players were over the hill at thirty and after a testimonial they bought a pub in the city they played fitba in and that was them supposedly set up for life. Think Dixie Deans, who missed a penalty in a European Cup semi-final. Imagine a time when Sir Alex Ferguson was trying to mastermind a win at St Mirren against his closest rivals Clydebank. Then there was Gothenburg and Aberdeen thrashing Real Madrid. And wee Jim MacLean barking like a Scot’s terrier and taking his Dundee United  team to Barcelona and winning in the Nou Camp, and deservedly so, I watched it in a bar in Paisley. Hopefully, I’ll be watching another Scottish team winning in the Nou Camp very soon. But those were the days when someone that had enough cash to buy a house in London could instead wander in and pick up a cheap fitba club like Dundee. David Murray went one better than Dundee, he bought the great Glasgow Rangers. Like Sir Philip Greene with his luxury £100 million yachts and his offshore life, David Murray sold a Glasgow institution for a token payment of a pound. ‘I Play for Money’ does not feature David Murray, but it really, really ,should. He, more than anyone else, epitomise all that is, and was, wrong with Scottish football. That man should be in the dock, never mind on the telly. As, incidentally, to show I’m not biased,  should Sir Philip Greene, but there’s another story, which involves former Rangers Chief Executive Charles Green standing in the dock and waiting to find out if Rangers were legally bound to pay his £500 000 defence costs. I write fiction, but you really couldn’t make it up.

 

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