14 March 2013

The Falling Rangers' Standard

by Andy McKellar | Deputy Editor

Rangers Football Club and its supporters have been fortunate throughout the years that loyal servants have proudly upheld and maintained the standards expected at Ibrox. Great men such as Scot Symon, Jock Wallace and Walter Smith have epitomised just what it means to be a Ranger but there is one man that stands above all the rest in the glorious tale of our history. That man is Bill Struth.

Struth arrived at Rangers in 1914 as assistant to William Wilton, our first manager, and succeeded him six years later following Wilton’s tragic death. Struth then set about establishing our club’s position as the dominant force in Scottish football and a period of unprecedented success followed, achieved by the skill he described in his most famous speech. 

The Rangers’ manager quickly gained a reputation for being a strict disciplinarian, a man who valued standards and who demanded respect for authority. While those who were fortunate enough to follow in his footsteps did their utmost to continue such standards, Struth is widely acknowledged as the man who put them firmly in place. 

One of favourite tales of Bill Stuth, one my grandfather used to tell me and which reappeared in this season’s commemorative anniversary programme, was of how he used to watch from the window of his flat which was in close proximity to Ibrox. Any player caught daring to walk to the stadium with their hands in their pockets would immediately be sent back up the Copland Road and made to carry out the journey again, this time with their hands by their sides. 

Shortly before writing this article I stumbled across another remarkable story on RangersMedia. The tale goes that Torry Gillick, then a Rangers player, was south of the border representing the Scottish League in a match against the English League. While the rest of his teammates were fed cereal, or other such basic meals, Gillick walked up and ordered the full works for breakfast. This clearly was to the displeasure of the League who forwarded the bill to Ibrox to be settled. This was promptly returned by Struth who reminded the authorities that our players were used to a certain standard of living and, if they couldn’t provide that, then our players should not be selected. Nothing more was said on the matter. 

Rangers were soon confirmed as the premier club in the country under Struth’s guidance, not just on the field, but off it too. Players were made to wear a collar and tie to training and standards of dress and behaviour were to be maintained at all times. Struth himself was always smartly dressed and was rumoured to have had half a dozen suits in his office which he would change into, sometimes up to three times a day. Playing for Rangers was seen to be a privilege, one which was accompanied by certain responsibilities which were not up for negotiation. 

You may be forgiven for wondering just where I am going with this article for it may not yet be abundantly clear. Those of you who are frequent users of Twitter may perhaps already know of my main point but there are others too which I would like to briefly mention first. 

As I stated above the standard of dress at Rangers had to be upheld at all times. Players would arrive at training dressed as impeccably as they were expected to perform. This tradition was unfortunately one of the famous historical traditions which was recently relaxed at Murray Park and that is something that disappoints me. While there is perhaps no tangible benefit to having our players wear their club suits to training, it is something which I would have liked to see continued in the modern era. It sets us apart from the rest. 

Speaking of suits, perhaps now is an appropriate time to discuss the apparel of our manager. Ally McCoist is a man steeped in the history of the club, a man who was signed by the Greatest Ever Ranger and who played under our greatest manager of the modern era. Tradition and heritage is something that is highly valued at Ibrox and it is therefore rather disappointing that Ally has decided to do away with such values and wear a tracksuit on the touchline. No doubt people will read this and think I am being pedantic, maybe even pathetic, but a Rangers manager should always be suited, booted and carrying an image worthy of the club. 
There’s perhaps an argument that my above couple of points regarding dress code are miniscule details. At present however we do admittedly have bigger issues to worry about. Although we have training facilities that would be the envy of many across Europe and a wage budget exceeded by only one club in the country, we are currently struggling to get the better of part-timers in the SFL Third Division. The fans are understandably upset and frustrated. 

The most serious indictment of our current group of players is that they are simply not physically superior to their current fourth-tier opponents. While teams like Annan Athletic can only train a couple of times each week, our players have Auchenhowie at their disposal each and every day as well as the advice and guidance of a qualified sports scientist. There is no justifiable reason as to why we are not running over the top of teams in Division Three. Our lack of fitness is simply one of the most unforgivable aspects of the current campaign. Perhaps a trip back to the sand dunes of Gullane is in order? I’d certainly like to know just what Jock Wallace would make of our current group of players. 

As if things weren’t bad enough at Rangers at the minute, this week the supporters were treated to further foolishness from a couple of players in the shape of Kyle Hutton and Darren Cole. While many fans were hoping for our squad to be hauled in on Sunday and made to endure double sessions all week, it would appear that such things did not happen. 

Hutton tweeted at around 1pm one day earlier this week to announce that he was heading home and planning to watch Homeland, a television series. Inevitably he received some replies questioning the early finish and probably some which weren’t all too politely worded. Under the circumstances Kyle would have been best advised just to turn his phone off and get on with things, either that or perhaps stay behind at training and get some extra practice done. 

Unfortunately for everyone Hutton instead decided to tell fans to “bore off” and was clearly annoyed at being criticised for his original tweet. Perhaps someone should remind him just who pays his wages and that it isn’t wise to bite the hand that feeds you. I actually think that Kyle has been one of our better players this season but it would appear that he still has a lot to learn about the behaviour expected of a Ranger.

Hutton was joined by his pal and fellow jester Darren Cole who decided to joke about an easy training session scheduled for the next day which would start at 7am and finish at 11pm. This is the same man who is again on the treatment table being helped to recover from injury by Rangers while collecting his weekly wage. (One assumes since he, Hutton, David Templeton, Ross Perry and Kane Hemmings were out Wednesday night at a concert, they feel they will be fully prepared for a proper Thursday morning training session.)

It is an insult to the hard working fans out there who graft for many hours per week to enable them to afford tickets to watch the club they love. I sincerely hope someone at Rangers has taken time to remind these lads of that, although I don’t expect an apology to be forthcoming. 

There was also talk on Saturday night of a few players being pictured out in a nightclub following the humiliating defeat to Annan Athletic, a result which is being talked of as arguably the worst in our history. This certainly isn’t something which fans enjoy hearing about and it definitely isn’t the sort of behaviour many expect from players representing our club. 

There are certain people currently at Rangers who could certainly do worse than take some time to walk around our famous stadium and take note of some of the history that is on display. 

Perhaps the best thing though would be to remember the words of the great man himself: 

“To be a Ranger is to sense the sacred trust of upholding all that such a name means in the shrine of football. They must be true in their conception of what the Ibrox tradition seeks from them. No true Ranger has ever failed in the tradition set him”