06 September 2013

Support the team, not the regime

by Peter Ewart | Contributor
So here we are in the middle of an international break. Ally is currently pondering just how the hell he is going to pick a team from his ever-expanding squad, the utter nonsense surrounding the boardroom continues and good ol’ Jack spins and slings shit like only he can. A break from domestic football is never a good thing in my opinion, perhaps now more than ever.
For many Bears it’s almost a complete break from the football. If you ‘watch’ a Scotland game on Twitter you’ll probably find that Bears will fall into three camps. There will be those who are pretty supportive, those who aren’t particularly bothered and those who actively support the opposition. Many now baulk at the thoughts of supporting Scotland. It’s the SFA XI, alien to many Bears. And that is a shame.

Let me put my cards on the table. Admittedly I am not a Scot, although I’ve been here long enough, so if you want to tell me I don’t know what I’m talking about then fair enough. There just seems to be an awful lot of parallels to Northern Ireland and Rangers, something which I am able to comment on with some accuracy.
Through thick and thin the loyal Bears will back Rangers and indeed that has been proven during our recent dark hours. Did Craig Whyte’s actions make you less likely to support the team? No, of course not. In fact it most probably brought you closer to the Club.
Does a David Murray, a Charles Green or whoever the hell else in the boardroom make the blindest bit of difference to supporting the side? It shouldn’t. It doesn’t. There are probably some others you would perhaps prefer to see in the boardroom but at the end of the day you are supporting those boys in royal blue each and every Saturday, not the directors.

Northern Ireland has encountered a similar experience. We have had some complete and utter halfwits in charge of our national game. It’s the Old Boys network. It seems that if you pull a blazer on then suddenly you think you’re competent to lead. We have had pay-offs for executives who were on contracts for over 20 years, pay-outs to those who left through misconduct and funding for the new Windsor which is now in question as the Blazers, in their infinite wisdom, voted someone back in who a Government department got rid of as a condition of funding. It goes on and on.
Will it stop us supporting the team? Never. It’s a birth-right which I’m only too delighted and proud to be a part of. We’ll continue in spite of Blazers, come what may. Admittedly I’m not quite over Davis and Lafferty just yet either, but I’ll get there in the end. Northern Ireland after all will be around a lot longer than they will be playing.

Scotland, you may tell me, is different. And in some respects I suppose it is. Some of the behaviour has been more than just incompetent, it has been downright vindictive. Ask a Bear of any age about Scotland and they’ll be able to tell of a time when they lost interest or of a specific incident that turned them away from the Scotland national team.

There’s been the SFA’s treatment of Souness, questionable squad selections, the booing of Gary McAllister, Boozegate and that is before you get to Rangers’ administration period. Think about the lack of due diligence on club owners. Think about the shambolic lack of defence provided as a member club went through the mill. Remember Regan’s disdainful approach to us. Recall the blackmail and the corrupt 5-way Agreement. Think back to the disgraceful booing of Ian Black and general animosity from fans to anything Rangers or anything Red, White and Blue. And that is merely the tip of a very large iceberg.
Unfortunately it doesn’t get any better today. The announcement that Scottish Football’s puppeteer-in-chief Peter Lawwell was being officially appointed to the SFA Board must have been met by some guffawing within the corridors of Hampden. Add in Scott Brown as captain and Gordon Strachan as manager. Then throw in the presence of Messrs Whittaker, McGregor and Naismith and it is easy to see why some Bears simply have no time for it.

It also highlights what a shambles our Club’s boardroom has been for 20 years that we have virtually no influence on the running of the Scottish game despite our status as its biggest club. In fact we have more influence on the running of the European game than we do in our own country, and it will be two more seasons before we can qualify to play there again!
But the individuals are only temporary. Rangers will ultimately have to wrestle back influence in the corridors of power. It will be a long, slow process but it will happen.

For many current players it is the pinnacle of their careers to play internationally. Lee Wallace’s omission from the initial squad was baffling and there’s no doubt his later call-up was thoroughly deserved. Lewis Macleod has been called into the U21s and Barrie McKay has been eye-catching for the U19s. Furthermore, let’s not forget our healthy representation at the younger age-levels too.
Our reach is far despite our current league position and International play will most definitely develop these talents further. Would I like to see Lewis Macleod grace a World Cup or European Championship one day? Undoubtedly. We all should.

The National Team shouldn’t become a political football. Despite the impending and seemingly never-ending Referendum campaign the Scotland team is as much for a Union Flag waving Rangers fan as it is for a Saltire waving Aberdeen or Dundee United fan, regardless of anyone’s political persuasion. That’s the way it should be.
Anyway, this Bear is away to watch Northern Ireland take on Portugal and then Luxembourg. I’m not asking you to go to hire a kilt and pay over the odds to go to Hampden. But maybe we should pull for Scotland just a little more. Support the team, not the regime. And don’t let others steal the team from under you.