Desmond Kane

All the fun of the fair as SPL circus turns green

Desmond Kane
Desmond Kane

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Celtic manager Neil Lennon lifts the Scottish Premier League trophy

There was a picture in The Scotsman newspaper this morning with Charles Green, the new Rangers owner, addressing a feverish hack pack. A caption underneath explained that "Charles Kennedy was announced as Rangers' new owner on Sunday..." As far as one knows, Charles Kennedy has not been fronting anything beyond a bottle of Glenlivet since he departed his role as Liberal Democrat leader in 2006, but it is fair to say he remains a face well worn in public life.

Charles Green, the bloke leading a consortium that has purchased Rangers FC, does not. With the Yorkshire businessman/venture capitalist/tycoon/Walter Mitty figure (delete as you see fit) trying to restore a healthy sheen to the ravaged 140-year-old institution, there is suddenly a fair amount of greenery adorning the downtrodden Scottish football scene. Like Hughie Green, opportunity knocks.

The Premier League trophy has green and white ribbons, Rangers have gone from Whyte to Green and the Scottish Cup could be plastered with a big green and white rosette on Saturday evening.

Kilmarnock inserted a touch of blue and white into the seasonal pie chart by upsetting Celtic to cart off the League Cup at Hampden Park in March while Hearts will hope to find room for a splash of maroon by denying Hibernian a first Scottish Cup in 110 years in their all-Edinburgh get together, but the two traditional majority parties in Scotland, Celtic and Rangers, continue to sport the dominant foliage.

To paraphrase the ebullient London Mayor Boris Johnson after the 2010 General Election, the meat in the SPL sausage needs to be the Glasgow foes, whatever fix they are in. This is never truer than at present when several chairmen of rival organisations seem to be lashing with sweat wondering what will become of their clubs with or without an embattled Rangers.

Forget sporting integrity, the SPL will accept Rangers and their cascading fanbase in whatever shape or form they come. Without a television contract that includes Celtic or Rangers, there is a concern that a few of the provincial concerns will follow Rangers into the gutter.

49,083 were shoehorned into Ibrox to watch Rangers draw 1-1 with Hearts on the opening day of the season last July. If the club's support were told they would be owned by a guy called Green some 10 rabid months later, they would have been mortified.

In that Rangers stronghold of Larkhall, where they do not care for green suits, the local Subway having a green masthead or green signs on traffic lights, one guesses they would have sought some sort of sedative. Not any more.

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Rangers manager Ally McCoist celebrates a win over Celtic

By the end of a truly wretched season when the heart and soul of the club was ripped out by unfit owners, millions of pounds of unpaid tax, dodgy season ticket deals, unscrupulous directors, the pall of financial doping, a transfer ban and an investigation into illegal contracts, the club's followers were grateful to turn to the outspoken yet obscure Green's apparent willingness to inject the necessary capital to keep a pulse ticking.

Amid the maelstrom, Tennessee trucking owner Bill Miller downed his big Kahuna burger and Sprite before deciding Rangers was not for him while the fans' choice, the Blue Knights, were rebuffed and left feeling blue by frazzled administrators Duff and Phelps, who anointed Green to begin the remedial work on the final day of the league season.

Doubts remain over Green and his intentions. We know he was once chief executive of Sheffield United, but nobody knows the composition of his 20-man consortium or why they are buying into such a financially barren landscape. At least there is hope. Hope can be the best of things.

Sir David Murray must take full criticism for deciding to flog the club to the unknown Craig Whyte, who came touting ambition and was declared by some as a "billionaire with wealth off the radar". He drove the club to the edge of a cliff. He has apparently flogged his shares to Green. Unsurprisingly, football has been an afterthought for weathered manager Ally McCoist for several months.

Do not expect expect the club's training ground Murray Park to be retitled the Green Ground, but Murray's moniker should surely be withdrawn. His name is not worthy of the venue having played the leading role in Rangers's downfall with his suicidal financial gambling. If Rangers had committed to a stern youth policy at Murray Park rather than a programme of tax avoidance, these ills would not plague the club.

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A Rangers scarf with note tells the story of his club's season

Rangers led the Scottish Premier League by 15 points in November, but their ambitions of a fourth straight flag were dismantled by a serious knee injury to Steven Naismith at Aberdeen. They were shot to pieces when Whyte decided to flog Nikica Jelavic to Everton for a few dollars more in January.

The SPL trophy had gone from red, white and blue to green some time before Rangers slunk into administration on February 13. The big house remains open, but is in need of urgent repairs. One of the consortium, Mike McDonald, a former owner of Sheffield United, spoke about spending "hundreds of millions of pounds" yesterday. What Rangers do not need are egotists promising war chests. This is old hat once instigated by Murray's vision of Never Never Land where you avoid taxes.

What Rangers need is honest, prudent and pragmatic management. Good governance and dignity must be restored to the tattered brand. There also has to be a fair amount of remorse for dragging Scottish football's name through the mud. Contrition might be in short supply from Murray. For the game in Scotland to recover to any level of credibility, it is important Rangers be allowed to seek redemption. Let us hope Green's pockets are as big as his mouth.

Expect a summer of fun and games - all the fun of the fair - if Rangers fail to exit administration through a Company Voluntary Arrangement next month. The 'newco' route brings new problems, not least with UEFA.

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Kilmarnock celebrate winning the League Cup

In the city's East End, there is no such malady. Celtic's young manager Neil Lennon lost the championship by a single point a year ago, but the Northern Irishman's side embarked on a 21-match unbeaten run that included 17 straight wins. The recovery began when Celtic bounded back from losing 3-0 at half-time to Kilmarnock to draw 3-3 in October.

Despite Rangers being docked 10 points for entering administration, Celtic won their first league gong since 2008 by 20 points. Gary Hooper contributed 29 goals, but will not be part of England's Euro 2012 squad this summer.

Lennon wrongly blamed referees for defeats to Kilmarnock in the League Cup final and Hearts in the Scottish Cup semi-final. He has been suspended for his tantrums and needs to reel himself in. He is a work in progress. As are his fledglings.

Scottish football remains a constituency not only damaged by the carnival at Rangers. Two men are doing time for wheeling a parcel bomb into the post intended for Lennon. Five spread across Scotland over the years have wound up in court for attempting to harm Lennon. Society owes this man an apology for its hate crimes.

Lennon's team were impotent in losing to FC Sion in the Europa League qualifiers, but were granted a second chance when their opponents were expelled for fielding ineligible players.

Most notably, Celtic drew home and away with Udinese in the group stages while drawing and defeating Rennes to suggest a Champions League berth should be a priority next season.

In perhaps the worst of times, the SPL remains a somewhat smallish and impoverished facility, but Scotland continues to preside over a bizarre football league scene that is unbelievable and farcical all at the same time. All in the one season.

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