Rangers' boycott shows Charles Green's weaknesses

Written by Andrew Southwick.

By Andrew Southwick:
Christmas time. The season of goodwill. A period where people are meant to transform, show a bit of generosity, look out for their fellow man, and forget all ills and disputes.

A certain Yorkshireman clearly isn't expecting a visit from Santa this year. Or maybe someone nicked the chocolates from from his advent calendar (Ally McCoist is looking a little chubby these days). Or perhaps he has always been the real life Ebenezer Scrooge.

For a club currently languishing in the third division, the draw for the fifth round of the Scottish Cup should have brought cheers from the Ibrox faithful. A chance to have a crack at an SPL club, a big noisy traveling away support backing them, and considering United's patchy form this season it's actually a winnable tie.

Win, and not only do they book a quarter-final spot and take one step closer to lifting the trophy against the odds, but they take a major SPL scalp and send a message that even in the bottom tier they are a force to be reckoned with in Scottish football.

What Charles Green and his club have instead done is shoot themselves in the foot. They may think they have made victims out of Dundee United, but the long term damage will be to their own club.
Rangers have urged fans not to travel to Tannadice

Led by calls from supporters groups, Charles Green released the following statement:

“Rangers Football Club will not be taking its allocation of tickets for the forthcoming Scottish Cup match against Dundee United at Tannadice.

“This is a unanimous decision by the board, senior management and staff at Ibrox. Everyone at this club is dismayed at the actions of certain SPL clubs, which were actively engaged in trying to harm Rangers when we were in a perilous situation and we are acutely aware of their attitude to us.

“Not all clubs who voted against Rangers returning to the SPL fall into that category and indeed we made Motherwell very welcome when we played them at Ibrox in the League Cup competition recently.

“However, feelings remain very raw and it should be no surprise that we as a club feel this way.

"It is unsurprising too that there has been a reaction from our supporters to this particular fixture.

“The last thing we as a club want to do is to compromise security arrangements for any match.

"I therefore appeal to all fans not to travel to this match and to Dundee United not to sell tickets to Rangers supporters.

“Our only regret is that this turn of events will not assist Ally McCoist and the team in what will be a very difficult fixture.

“We should make clear that the Club, the manager and the players all look forward to a situation where Rangers fans attend every match to support the team. The fans are our greatest asset.”

Firstly, they appear to have admonished Motherwell of any blame in trying to "harm" Rangers, despite the Fir Park board voting against a Newco being admitted to the SPL. It's who they don't mention though that gets your attention, and Inverness - who knocked Rangers out of the League Cup earlier in the season - presumably on the basis of the statement were not made so welcome during their visit.

What you also pick up on from that statement though was "the fans are our greatest asset." In this situation Charles, they aren't. In fact, they are an albatross around his neck.

He has learned very quickly that to get fans cheering his name, he needs to appease them. However, he is appeasing supporters groups who appear to have the aim of killing off the club's "enemies".

Careless thought like this needs to be reigned in by a leader with a good head on his shoulders who knows what it takes to get the club back to where they want to be. Someone able to take the tough decisions and do the sensible things.

Instead, Green has wilted at the first sign of discontent from the support. The John Brown episode, with the former Rangers stalwart standing on the steps of Ibrox and urging fans not to buy season tickets because he felt he couldn't trust the new owner, has clearly rattled Green. Now, instead of rising above it and putting plans in place to return Rangers to the top of the leagues and back into Champions League contention, he has been reduced to being a puppet for an increasingly militant support.

Already, Green has made the statement that he won't lead Rangers back into the SPL. That could be a statement that returns to haunt him one day.

Now, he is happy to support a boycott of SPL clubs, despite the obvious damage it will do his club. It is also something that will, without doubt, be another thing to come back to bite him on the backside in the future.

In the summer the club initially made a statement of intent at restoring their place at the top of the Scottish game. They were signing top talent from the SPL, bringing Ian Black and David Templeton amongst others to Ibrox. The lure of the third division was not what brought them to Govan, it was the lure of Rangers and what the club has the potential to achieve.

By achieve, I don't mean they could win the third division and promise a life of riches in the second division. By achieve, I mean bringing them back to the world that first drove all them thousands of Rangers fans to the club in the first place.

The players presumably accepted they would have to work their way up the divisions, but they signed on a promise they would one day be there, back challenging for the league, and back facing the best on the continent again. Playing in front of 50,000 at Ibrox when Stirling Albion are the opposition is one thing, but doing it when Manchester United are visiting on Champions League duty is another.

Let's be clear, there is not a Rangers fan or player who can not have looked across the city at Celtic beating Barcelona and not have vowed to get back to them days, to be the big boys in town again.

However their dangerous statements are essentially putting paid to them plans.

Short term, the main attraction this season was never going to be a title fight with Queen's Park. It was Rangers building a squad still capable of challenging for the domestic cups. What Rangers fan hasn't allowed themselves to dream of being at Hampden in May, as a third division club, but lifting the Scottish Cup under the noses of the SPL sides?

The Ramsdens Cup wouldn't have meant much, but it was an opportunity to begin a run of success. Instead, Queen of the South put a dampener on that dream.

The League Cup was another chance to upstage everyone, and the victory over Motherwell had the Rangers support buzzing. There was no shame in losing to Inverness Caledonian Thistle considering the results Terry Butcher has managed elsewhere, but the Scottish Cup should be a big deal to the club. If not to the fans, then at the very least to the players.

Instead, Charles Green has essentially forfeited the match at Tannadice. What message does that send to the players? They signed for a club used to winning. Now it is a club more interested in marching to Hampden in protest rather than for honours.

The boycott will hurt alright. It will hurt Rangers. It hurts them because it makes it more difficult to make that march to Hampden. They instead could lose rather meekly and be left with a season of patting themselves on the back for having large third division crowds.

It will hurt them because players will become disillusioned. The likes of Black, Wallace, Templeton and Mackay may feel staying at Ibrox isn't going to be worthwhile after all if the club's ambition is simply to try to drive others into administration. Don't be surprised to see a few walk out in summer.

It will hurt the club because they have now set a precedent. If they are boycotting Tannadice, then what if they actually do win the tie? What if they get to Hampden, do they forget years of tradition - tradition they have been at pains to point out is still there - and boycott a Hampden semi-final in order to deny other SPL clubs in the draw ticket money? Would they even send their team into a cup final backed by no-one?

And what if they draw with Dundee United? Do they boycott the Ibrox replay, which would cost their club money if no-one turned up. Or do they fill it and give United more ticket money than they would receive from a traveling support at Tannadice anyway? Or do they go somewhere in the middle, have a crowd of 18,000 like they have had in previous cup ties with Dundee United - because look how that turned out for them.

It just doesn't make any sense.

If the purpose is to hurt Dundee United, then they will fail. They will fail because United never budgeted for this game, it is simply one that has now appeared on the fixture list, but the luck of the draw could well have been them welcoming Forfar Atheletic to Tannadice, where they would be expecting a 4,000 crowd.

Instead, they have drawn Rangers. Boycott or not, United would have been looking at 6,000 - 7,000 ticket sales from their own fans, plus an £80,000 windfall from Sky. With feelings now running high, they may well increase that home support even further. Add in the fact they will be facing a side being backed by no-one, you would have to strongly fancy United's chances of winning, and picking up more money from booking a quarter final spot.

If Rangers wanted to hurt United, they should have brought with them a big away support, roared their team on and knocked United out of the cup. THAT would have hurt them.

There are of course many decent Rangers fans out there who are cringing at the latest developments. Sadly, there are some that are even being threatened by their own fans should they wish to cross the picket line and be at Tannadice, with posts on forums warning others to stay away.

From 'Rangers media'. Post was thankfully condemned by the majority and deleted
The militant Rangers fans, the ones who think supporting the Ibrox club these days is about hurting the opposition, about baying for blood, and itching to bring Scottish football down. They are not upholding the traditions of the club founded in 1872, the one that Bill Struth led with dignity and the one that grew a supporters base worldwide. They are embarrassing it, using it as a vehicle to drive their own bigoted agendas.

There are fans who have supported Rangers their whole lives, and thought they would lose the club they loved in summer. It is back, but it must be unrecognisable to the one they have backed through the years. In the age of the internet - forums and supporters groups are able to grow their numbers and now demand how people should support the club. These decent fans must be genuinely worried as their club goes from being about football to about protesting.

I'm an Aberdeen fan. Let me tell you, if there were Dons supporters groups telling me what I should be doing, what petitions I should be signing, what protests I should be attending, and more importantly what games I could and couldn't attend, I would be telling them where to go. No-one will ever tell me how I should support my club. No-one, especially not someone half my age, could release a statement telling me to fall in line with their own warped aims.

The decent Rangers fans, the ones who do have something between their ears, they should go to Tannadice. It'll probably be the best Rangers away support in years. No knuckledraggers, no hatred, no bile. Just fans wanting to support their team and see the club they fell in love with win trophies again.

And you know what? That Rangers support would be welcome into any ground in Scotland. They also deserve someone better in charge of their club than a puppet happy damage the club in order to give himself an easy ride from fans who should know better.
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