In the wake of the MIH liquidation, here’s another warning from history to the Laptop Loyal – a wander down amnesia lane, to recall the last hurrah of the infamous Ken Gallagher.
For those not familiar with this super hack, Ken made a career out of printing the kind of stuff that would have turned Joseph Goebbels crimson faced with embarrassment. However, like Bobby Tait before him, just when you thought he was doing his best to aid his master, he instead created a moment of sublime beauty that would have the foes of the Evil Empire rolling in the aisles for years to come.
Let us step into the past. It is June 2000. The Tims are in disarray, managerless and with only the League Cup to bring some solace to the grieving masses. Not only that, but Celtic’s season had been a litany of abysmal results, incompetence, high farce and naked chicanery – it was not a pleasant summer.
Murray’s club, on the other hand, had just won the league by 21 clear points and stashed the Scottish cup in the cupboard. The league wasn’t even a competition. It was all looking rather grim. Cue Ken…
By Ken Gallacher
“Just as promised, Rangers are moving on to another level from the rest of Scottish football, as chairman David Murray announced a new investment of £53m for the Ibrox club, with a further massive cash boost soon to follow.”
Indeed there was – for Chelsea it has to be said, but wily Ken was 50% accurate, and that was practically a record for him.
“The eventual cash injection could soar as high as £80m as Murray guides the club into what he believes will be a new, golden era for the Scottish champions.”
It’s great isn’t it? This was a feature of the Murray media poodle spin during the time when everyone pretended he was untouchable (well nearly everyone). The figure would begin at say £10m and as the hacks became overexcited it would inexorably rise until reaching the giddy heights of hilarious fantasy. This of course gave the feeble-minded Bears just another excuse to swagger around oozing arrogance and conceit. Those few hacks that sought to explain their wishful thinking merely placed icing on the cake. Of course when it inevitably came to pass that enough hot air had been expelled to float a fleet of Zeppelins, the figure would gradually fall until the time came when all mention would simply vanish from the scene.
“The money involved, the biggest financial boost for any Scottish football club, will enable them to move into Europe’s elite over the next few years.”
Oh bad luck, Ken. Mind you he didn’t clarify what a “few” actually represented. Anyway how was he to know that no matter how much short-term money was pumped into a club, that club could sustain itself at a certain level if it did not have the necessary criteria to compete. Even if this ludicrous sum had found its way into Rangers’ pockets, at best it would have provided a couple of years fun before the financial reality had to be faced. To keep the ball rolling, money would have to be found to pay those players hired to lay Europe low.
“Yesterday, however, Murray maintained, as always, that he will not turn his back on Scottish football to play in any other league, and that while he remains in charge of the club, he will retain a responsibility to the domestic game.”
Almost before the ink was dry Murray was telling his pals in the papers that they would have to quit the SPL in order to complete their plan for world domination. Strangely, no journalist brought this up when Murray was snottering on their shoulders about the need to flee to the EPL, one step ahead of the bailiffs.
“It is clear from this latest move, however, that the Glasgow giants are setting an agenda that no other Scottish club can match – and that appears to include their Old Firm rivals, Celtic, who are trailing by 15 points in the Premier League championship and are now looking at a financial gap which the Parkhead club might not be able to bridge.”
Not only was it bridged, but this so-called agenda didn’t even last one solitary year. A few months later Celtic were humiliating the “Glasgow giants” with a 6:2 hammering, then building up a league lead that was practically unassailable by the end of the year. The Big House was not so much made of straw, but merely a pile of rotting foundations laid on quicksand. Even at the time, Celtic were poised to overtake them in turnover, taking even that last crumb of comfort from the beleaguered bluenoses.
“There have been hints around Glasgow that Celtic could be ready to attempt a share flotation of their own, but it would seem unlikely they would be able to match the financial clout that Murray has put together.”
Well, agreed with that, if Murray had actually put together this financial clout. However like so much that came out from Edmiston Drive, the truth was a pliable thing that could be twisted and shaped into anything that suited. The reality was so often remarkably different. The press pack, though, rarely asked questions, simply content to repeat verbatim anything the Evil Emperor chose to dictate.
“The Ibrox chairman promised his shareholders good news and a more prudent financial strategy at the last annual meeting of the club.”
A remarkable strategy that tightened belts so much that they prompty lost another £16m and were burdened with over £50m of debt – and this was after the previous colossal figure was largely cleared by the cash input Gallagher was simpering over. Yes he forgot to mention the need to clear this debt mountain – must have just slipped his mind.
“He has now delivered this by taking on board several very heavy financial hitters, South African-based David King is worth around £300m – £20m of which he is investing in the club he followed as a young man in Glasgow.”
Dodgy Dave, meet Dodgy Dave. It was a sign of desperation indeed that Murray was forced to turn to the likes of David King to ask for a handout. As it was, whether King actually invested or not, any money thrown into the Ibrox club was kissed goodbye and could only be viewed as throwing bad money after even worse. It’s a terrible shame isn’t it?
“The Ibrox chairman has spent several months and many sleepless nights piecing together the plans which will eliminate Rangers’ debt, currently sitting at around £40m, provide finance for the new training centre and the soccer academy which will be housed there, and still allow cash to invest in new players.”
Hurrah we get to the debt figure at last. Now that was £40m straight away that Rangers had to clear, yet Gallagher saw no contradiction in proclaiming that the huge bounty coming Murray’s way would lead to the creation of the Fourth Reich. This was all to be done under a new era of austerity! It didn’t take a financial genius to see that the sums did not add up. Even taking the absurd figure of £80m; this would be reduced to £25m after debt and the training centre was catered for. A large sum, but hardly enough to see the mighty Gers rampaging through Europe. Spanish and Italian clubs spent that amount on one player! Given that the £80m figure was pure fantasy, its clear that once debt and the training ground were covered, the cupboard would be bare for Dickie Advocaat. There was only one way to finance his demands – more debt.
“He said: ‘I want to make it clear from the outset that while our small shareholders, our supporters who have an interest in the club, will have the opportunity to invest again if they want, there is no pressure on them to do so.The bulk of the rights issue is being taken up by myself and David King and some other smaller investors, including Alastair Johnston, who is a long-time Rangers supporter. We also have Trevor Hemmings coming in as an investor and Tom Hunter will join us some time in the future.”
Trever Hemmings? Who he? As for Tom Hunter, for some reason this rather more astute pal of Murray’s fled into the Ayrshire hills rather than part with anything other than a token sum. Another example as it happened of the ‘take a number , double it, double it again’ strategy adopted by hacks when reporting investment in Rangers.
“’Essentially, the investment we require is in place and we also have a major media deal in the pipeline which is very exciting and will bring in further serious investment to the club.’”
This exciting media deal consisted of an £11m loan from NTL (debt) and a further £20m allocated to some vague mumblings about joint media ventures. All in all a deal so bad that Alan MacDonald, then Celtic Chairman, rejected it.
“’I told you earlier this week that I had run the club up to now on a high-risk strategy which has involved carrying large debt.’”
Speculate to accumulate Dave, you just didn’t tell anyone what it was that you were accumulating. Clever.
“’These days are over. The whole method of running the club is going to change, because we are in a situation right now where we do not need to take the risks we have had to take in the past.’”
What can you say? Perhaps he had recurring amnesia and we shouldn’t have laughed. It’s interesting though that his new found wisdom lasted about as long as it took for Gallagher to bow and scrape his way out of the door. I could just see him, leaning back pleased with himself then suddenly thinking ‘Damn, forgot about that’, and writing out an I.O.U. for £10m before picking up the Costly Crocks Monthly. I wish some reporter would have mentioned the above comment to the squirming dictator just to hear what came along to upset such fiscally prudent plans.
“’We don’t have to spend the same money on players, for example, as we have had to do over the past two years when we were restructuring the team after the arrival of Dick Advocaat.’”
Two years later, and with Dickie having spent nearly £80m on players over three years, Murray was blaming the abysmal league hopes of Rangers on the lack of funds to buy new players. I wonder what happened to the nearly finished jigsaw mentioned above? How did splashing out £12m on one player square with this claim that less cash would be spent on the team?
“’At the moment, we have two new players set for next season, Allan Johnston and Fernando Ricksen and Dick is looking for another quality striker. He is working hard on that right now.’”
And in November he arrived, all £12m of him. Universally acclaimed as possibly the most ill-advised signing ever in the history of Scottish football. Simply incredible. Chelsea must have fainted with happiness when they saw the cheque. Of course this signing came at a very convenient time for Murray, a few days before a vital derby game and enabling him to offer something to the baying masses at the AGM should it all go arse on the pitch. It stank of sheer panic.
“’Dick and myself know what we are aiming for. We want to be in the Champions League every season. This is what we want for the club and this is what we have been working towards. However, we shall not be going on any wild spending sprees in the transfer market.’”
Apart from Tore Andre Flo, Michael Ball and Ronaldo de Boer presumably.
“’We have a player or two to add to the squad – a top-class international front player, as I said, but we don’t need to buy Numan, van Bronckhorst, Mols, Reyna, or McCann – because we have these lads in place already. Believe me when I tell you that we are going for it this time – we want to be successful in Europe, and the money we are raising now will take us there.’”
By Christmas the money was gone, they were out of Europe and they had effectively lost the league. Apart from these minor setbacks, Murray’s master plan had gone with nary a hitch. One stood in awe of such a leader of men.
“’This is the last part of the jigsaw for me, but we shall always be a part of Scottish football and we will take our domestic responsibilities seriously.’”
Right up until he didn’t feel like it any more. Two years later and Dave was telling the bewildered collectors of alms that he was sorry but he was off and that was all there was to it. From domestic league champion to betrayer of minnows, all done in the twinkling of an eye… or for as long as it took to accumulate another debt mountain.
“’We respect the other teams in the Premier League and we know this news will make them try even harder against us. But, so be it.’”
We were in awe of such selfless sacrifice, such altruistic nobility. A tear was wiped from many an eye.
“’Barcelona don’t win every week. Bayern Munich don’t win every week. Manchester United don’t win every week. Yet, our supporters expect us to do so and we shall always try to do that.’”
As opposed to other teams who set out thinking, I know, it’s not really fair on the other fellows so let’s draw today… no hang it, lets give them the three points.
“’What we do know is that to be in the Champions League, we have to win the Scottish title, and that is our aim every season. We shall always be here with our roots.’”
A statement as accurate as everything else. Did it really take only two short years for Murray to completely change his mind? Could it be that when shown there would be no unchallenged ascendancy, Murray’s patriotic ardour cooled somewhat? Not being in a league where titles and trophies were guaranteed wasn’t as much fun obviously. Nobody asked him why it was OK a year and a half before to remain in the SPL, but then it was an impossibility.
“However, the mega-deals Murray has been working on are sure to carry Rangers out of the reach of their rivals here at home and unless Celtic can somehow find the means to strengthen their own financial standing even the age-old rivalry between the Glasgow giants will be threatened as the Ibrox men grow ever stronger.”
You could almost see the fervour shinning out of Gallagher’s eyes as his fingers danced over the keyboard. His master had spoken, he had shown him a great vision of incredible beauty. This was the time and the hour – seize the day, Ken! I could see him then on the set of Caberet signing ‘Tomorrow Belongs to Me’ as large, shaven-headed men in blue shirts stood up around him and held aloft a hand of welcome.
Gallagher’s premature crowing should serve as a timely reminder to all you sycophantic hacks out there. If you chose to hyperventilate at the sight of a box of proffered cigars, from Murray or anyone else, let it be known that your past will come back to haunt you.
Better play safe.
Better still, ask a few probing questions. Just remember that college course and your earlier enthusiasm. Go on, ask something difficult – we dare you.