29 April 2013

The Real Champions

by Alan Clark | Assignment Editor

It is perhaps a phrase over-used these days by the fans, but the term ‘Rangers Family’ is completely true. We are one big family. And that family has suffered unbelievably in the last 18 months.

Through administration, months of ‘group A will buy’ ‘no they won’t, group Z will’ with Duff & Phelps, liquidation, demotion to the bottom tier, the loss of so many top players, a title-stripping witch-hunt, an illegal transfer embargo, constant ‘new club’ jibes, an ex-CEO who made a racist comment, Craig Whyte trying to claim ownership of the assets…

That’s all before I mention the sight of Emilson Cribari at centre back.

It’s been such a disastrous short part of our history which feels like it’s been infesting our thoughts and swallowing up our time for years. With the last game of the season approaching this Saturday, most fans will be glad when the season is over come mid-afternoon. Personally, I am looking forward to the game for many reasons.

Most would agree that the players seem to have similar feelings of just wanting to finish the campaign and look forward to next season and the Second Division. There is a huge degree of that thinking forward to the weekend. But the largest one in my mind is the cause for celebration.

Rangers will be presented with the Third Division trophy at the game in front of what is looking like a sell-out crowd at Ibrox. However it is not the league title itself that is in need of jubilant celebration. Yes it’s a league title and one we had to win, but it’s the bottom tier of Scottish football – a division the team was always going to win realistically.

The cause for real celebration will be of the Rangers support. The aforementioned list of what has happened to the club we all love doesn’t do the pain and nightmares justice – the fans have been through an astronomical amount of negative news and headlines.

So on Saturday, I urge my fellow Bears to look around. Look at a packed Ibrox Stadium. Remember which division we are in, whilst pondering the lack of empty blue seats. Gaze at the madness of the Union Bears and Blue Order section.

We all deserve a massive pat on the back for our loyalty. What club in the world could average 45,000 at home in the fourth tier? Very few. The club sold 38,000 season tickets. For the fourth tier of Scottish football. Just take a moment to comprehend that. 

Rangers broke the world record for a fourth-tier league attendance - three times. Firstly against East Stirlingshire with 49,118 turning up. Then the fans broke their own record with 49,463 attending the derby with Queen's Park in October. The Bears broke it a third time when 49,913 fans seen the team beat Stirling Albion. It would be superb to see us break it a fourth time against Berwick.

We’ve travelled from the northerly heights of Elgin City, to Annan Athletic in Dumfries. We’ve even crossed the border of England to Berwick Rangers. The vast majority of away trips have seen the tiny grounds reach the maximum capacity, and we took 28,000 fans to Hampden against Queen’s Park in December. We’ve managed to secure probably the SFL3 clubs’ short to medium term financial future just by turning up at their stadiums this season. 

Our undoubted passion for watching and backing our football team has gathered a fantastic amount of foreign media attention from all over the world, and it’s of no surprise. Not much praise has come our way from the Scottish press, mind you. 

Our club has awarded an accolade to the fans and this was presented at Sunday night’s Player of the Year awards. The idea was created by none other than the manager himself Ally McCoist. He said of the fans: “They have been immense – utterly magnificent – and I take my hat off to every single one of them. Nobody deserves an award more than them and they have truly earned it.”

I’m sure more than a few will have a lump in their throat on Saturday as we celebrate the first stage being completed in our road back to the top. The invasion has begun; and the first city has been captured. We’re advancing, slowly but surely, to the capital. To number 55.

And when the inevitable bad news comes out, the inevitable poor performance from the team; whatever it may be…just take a minute to reflect on how good the feeling will be when a Rangers captain holds aloft our 55th championship. It will come, we just need to be patient.

As debates begin to grow about a fan ownership model taking over the club in the coming years, one thing is certain; as long as the loyal Rangers supporters are still there, there will always be a Rangers. Our club will never die.

For the sheer dedication and No Surrender attitude, the supporters are the real champions. We truly are, the people. I will conclude with a quote from French sociologist, Ludovic Lestrelin:

“Rangers are an institution, and remain so, even in the fourth tier. There is something both chivalrous and noble in continuing to go to the stadium during the storm. It's beautiful because it's difficult.


“Suffer together, rebuild together, then conquer together.

“Then you begin to write history.”

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