First Love – Last Rites

The Wrong Set and Other Stories by Angus Wilson was first published in 1949 to wide critical acclaim. One would have to wait another quarter of a century for a collection of stories that took one’s breath away. When I first read Ian McEwan’s First Love Last Rites I was both appalled by its subject matter and astonished by the brilliance of McEwan’s writing. As someone who always received a first prize of a book in advance of my reading age in every year of my primary school education, the challenge of reading demanding texts was not new to me. However McEwan’s collection of short stories transfixed me like no other. It also convinced me not to be a writer as how could anyone match McEwan?

The last blog was an entertainment. This piece will be much more measured. There will be no colourful metaphors nor ten dollar words. It will be a sober reflection on Scottish Football through the prism of L’Affaire Rangers and Derek McInnes.

Great writers are as rare as great football managers. When McEwan interviewed John Updike, the most brilliant man of letters of his or any other generation, it was not a meeting of equals. It was evident that Updike was McEwan’s literary hero. The latter did his best not to revert to fawning.

There will be no love lost when Mourinho’s Manchester United host Guardiola’s Manchester City tomorrow. Their reputations as the two finest coaches of their generation precedes them. City don’t have the European pedigree of United. Guardiola is not only competing against Mourinho. He is challenging the legacies of Busby and Ferguson.

As one looks back on the fateful events of Munich in 1958, and how Busby recovered from losing some of the best players ever seen in English football, and his own prolonged spell in hospital, to lead Manchester United to European Cup success in a few months more than a decade, he to my mind is without equal. He is the John Updike of football management.

Alex Ferguson was a much more irascible character than Busby. Ferguson was ruthless and uncompromising. He put the fear of God into players. His ‘hairdryer’ invective was coruscating. In his rage he kicked out at a boot which marked pretty-boy Beckham’s face. While in charge of Aberdeen, Ferguson threw a cup of hot tea at Strachan. Ferguson was an unconscionable bully. There would be hell to pay for any player who left anything on the park. His objective was to knock Liverpool off their perch. He achieved this and much more.

Liverpool’s success was underpinned by two of the managerial greats, namely Bob Paisley and Bill Shankly. Three of the aforementioned greats are Scottish. They are as immortal as my fourth choice of Scottish legends, the incomparable Jock Stein.

My short list is not exhaustive. Some would posit that Wenger and his Invincibles achieved greatness, however they pale to insignificance when compared to Stein. Those of a younger generation might look to Brendan Rodgers at Celtic, but I would demur.

Celtic lost to a more tactically astute Anderlecht on Tuesday evening. A great manager would have made short work of the Belgian champions.

The past week’s focus on Derek McInnes, whose team returned to winning ways and second place at Dundee last night, could be perceived as a desire by Rangers Lite to knock Celtic off their perch.

I listened to a podcast featuring Tom English, Chris McLaughlin and Kenny Macintyre in which they discussed McInnes’ decision to spurn the overtures of Rangers Lite. The latter was inordinately wise to do so.

The arrogance of the spurned club in reaction to McInnes’ decision took bombast to a new paradigm. Rangers Lite are not the club who swept all before them with instruments of tax evasion. Their Punch in The Punch & Judy conflict no longer has a loaded cosh. However domestic violence and battered wives are never far from the surface when things on the park don’t reinforce the supremacist mindset off it. David Low asserted that Lite’s statement was:

An incredible & incredulous proclamation that avoids reference to McInnes & his concomitant rejection & instead avers the massive club was too much for the preferred candidate in a somewhat fatuous and gratuitous juxtaposition.”

In the podcast Tom English inquired: “What did McInnes find under the bonnet that made him turn down the opportunity to manage a club that he had once supported man and boy.”

Nota Bene (Note well) : The editorial policy of BBC Scotland is to promote and uphold The Continuation Lie.

How could McInnes turn his back on his First Love?

Let’s look at the known knowns. Mcinnes did not meet the rogue board. The books were not opened for him. He solicited opinions from his network of contacts.

I would be surprised if McInnes did not seek the counsel of Stuart McCall. Did his insights give pause for thought?

The Continuation Lie is a rod for any prospective manager’s back. The supporters reared on the success of a bygone era have unrealistic expectations. The supporters of a club which is just over five years old should be buoyed by its current position in the Scottish Premiership. They are not amused.

Would McInnes have been the catalyst to usurping Celtic’s dominance? That to my mind would have been too much of a stretch. He and his coaching team would have added value to a squad that has a cumulative value of one third of Celtic’s intangible worth. Finishing second at Aberdeen is a qualified success. At Rangers Lite, second to Celtic is tantamount to failure. How long would it be before the supporters started agitating for McInnes’ dismissal?

McInnes has job security at Aberdeen. At Lite the honeymoon period of this wasted season would not extend into next season. One of two Scottish Cup wins or a League Cup would be a minimum requirement before the end of season 18/19. This prerequisite is a tall ask.

As we saw from the accounts, the current business model at Ibrox is predicated on a deep run in the Europa tournament and an aspiration to CL football. McInnes would have been smart enough to deem both unlikely.

Did McInnes seek the counsel of Gordon Strachan? Strachan was assaulted by Rangers supporters at a filling station in full view of his family who were cowering in his car.  The Lite support would turn on its own in the flick of a switchblade.

McInnes’ decision elicited surprise in the Red Top Hacks. Their influence like their sales is waning fast. McInnes was not of a mind to unilaterally rip up his contract.

The fact that Lite were unable to pony up the release quantum was the real game changer. Sitting down with Mcinnes and Docherty carried a £1m premium. Rangers Lite can only dream of that kind of liquidity.

Dave King, who almost certainly wrote the study in chutzpah in reaction to McInnes’ decision, could lay his hands on one million sterling via his ‘interest’ in a British Virgin Islands trust. However the arch criminal has never done anything by the book. He is always looking for a dodge and what is known in many parts of Africa as a dash. He wanted McInnes to tear up his contract and subsequently defend the indefensible with a legal and Freemasonry heavyweight, namely Baron Davidson of Glen Clova. If one pays The Baron enough he will extend his sophistry to paint someone worth a minimum of £10m as penniless. King’s MMI recently sold its trading division. Would anyone have any doubt that King reneged on his deal with SARS & the CPA by siphoning off an eight figure sum to The British Virgin Islands? A career criminal never changes his spots.

The future for Rangers Lite is not bright. A good manager and relative success on the field would distract many from looking under the bonnet. McInnes did not have to lift the cover on the Ibrox charabanc. He knew that it was running out of fuel and that its All Star card had been withdrawn. The Sevco project is on a slippery slope to its Last Rites.






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31 thoughts on “First Love – Last Rites”

  1. I received only 4 donations yesterday. One monthly recurring quantum of £1, one of £5, one of £8 and one of £12. If this continues I’m going to close up early this month and think long and hard about continuing next year. Reading figures are in inverse proportion to donations. So much for the time of giving.

  2. Morning jj.
    As much as I love the football and sevco articles it has been a while since we’ ve had a non footy masterpiece. Not that I am in any way disappointed by todays fix.
    You have in the past written many articles which are not football related and completely off topic, these articles are the ones which seperate you from other footballing bloggers. The start of this article appeared to be such an article and I was quite looking forward to being educated about literary inspirations you consider to be worthy of your credit.
    As said previously this is not criticism in any shape or form as regardless of topic I still check speakeasy several times a day for new comments.
    On the subject of finance what is holding you back from a paywall? Cant imagine your frustration when freeloaders pass your work off as their own?

  3. JJ, donation made, keep shining the light my friend, another great piece, have thought along that McInnes would be mental and basically committing career suicide if he took the job at sevco, common sense prevails. Seasons greetings to you and all your family.

  4. I love your writing. You have a real talent. But I thoroughly dislike your attitude to the SNP and Scottish independence so I cannot support you financially. This is unfortunate because your site is one of my favourites for comment on all things sevco

    1. If you enjoy our site and it adds value you should contribute. If everyone had your attitude there would be no site. I very rarely write about the SNP and have refrained from doing so for some time. If you want copy that reinforces your politics then I recommend The National. Have the good grace to pay for it.

    2. Galloway hibee, you are, of course, entitled to your opinion and indeed the right to withdraw your financial support. However, your reason for not contributing is flawed. I also do not agree with JJ’s take on Scottish independence but I recognise his right to hold his own views on such matters. After all, I am always conscious of the fact that I might be wrong.

      So I would say to you if you value this site only for its crucial insights into the murky world of Scottish football, then pay up. You can, if you wish, ignore any posts that you find you do not agree with you 100%.

      And remember this, sometimes you learn more from those you disagree with than those with whom you agree.

  5. Anyone reading this blog regularly and not donating at least the price of a couple of pints should take a long hard look at themselves, get your fingers out

  6. It’s always tough to compare managers across generations. Tactics have evolved and so have the physical and mental qualities of players. In the days of those managers you mention though, money was not the power it is today. You could be the best in other ways than paying the most. Quality therefore stands out more. I can’t imagine any manager regardless of quality achieving with Celtic today what Stein was able to. They have suffered from the intrusion of money far more than the others you mention. What Mourinho achieved with Porto most closely matches. Ever since he’s been with clubs who will fund him well and expect to be in the mix. He did turn one over a spectacular Barca team though that was an achievement in itself.

    1. Thank you Ewan. I was never convinced. McInnes is too good for Ibrox. Docherty would have had hell to pay. Why would anyone subject a much valued partner to such an ordeal? The Klan are an inordinately cruel mistress.

  7. When flyfishing, the secret is to be quiet and delicate.

    The prize must never know an angler is there.

    Presentation of a delicious treat, irresistible delight in a timely manner gets your fish.

    The Rangers FC is neither a treat nor a delight. Jabba is a bull in a china shop and the Board’s timing was far too late. It was a noisy public affair for weeks. As is their way.

    It’s no wonder they didn’t get their fish.

  8. You give a great deal. Thank you. Indeed you do society itself a service. I genuinely wish I could help financially but I am not in a position to do so. However, I can only hope that those who are able to are mindful of the appalling circumstances you and your family endure as a result of being a writer. Everything changes, all the time, but I do not think you will ever be silenced.

  9. I read Never Let me Go on your recommendation and enjoyed it despite the subject matter being pretty depressing. The human character shines through but the ‘matter of fact’ nature of the impending ‘donations’ leaves one cold to the soul. A fictitious world that is not that far away. It does make one consider what technological ‘progress’ is just around the corner. In a weird way, it reminded me of Huxley’s Brave New World. I read some of McEwan’s works but never tried this one. I’ll give it a spin as I did like your Ishiguro recommendation.

    Good luck to all the Scottish teams apart from TRFC, obviously. They don’t deserve to be in the league.

    1. It’s a disconcerting novel. Organ harvesting is with us today in China. The idea of children being reared to provide organs might also be with us today, which is a truly horrifying thought. A word of warning on McEwan. This is by far his most visceral work. Other novels such as ‘Enduring Love’ or ‘Saturday’ or perhaps ‘The Child In Time’ are more sympathetic to his characters. The feral children in The Cement Garden might be a good primer prior to reading these stories, or the much darker “The Comfort of Strangers.” I could write a 10,000 word thesis on McEwan as I have read every word he has written. If readers fancy a 3,000 take on one of the most talented writers of his generation I would be happy to oblige.

      1. I’m up for that JJ;- I love a good read (preferably fiction) but don’t have much time these days so am always looking for recommendations therefore this has piqued my interest.

  10. I didn’t read the comments prior to donating today, I simply enjoyed this thorough thought provoking and insightful article forwhat it was and felt it merited a financial contribution.

    I did not watch the Aberdeen game last night due to prior commitments but I believe it was a hard fought three points, as I fully expected against a Dundee team showing some bite.

    This is the sort of writing that professional journalists seem incapable of producing, please find my donation ending 8502, my second of the month. It’s not millions but I believe you’ll appreciate it, as much as I have enjoyed the reading today.

    Thank you.

    JJ: Kind words from a kind individual. Thank you.

  11. It was a faux approach for McInnes.
    A Board fop to fans.

    There’s no money.

    When the Rangers Plc died in 2012 it was concomitant that the club died too. As they were tragically one and the same.

  12. Monthly donation made JJ
    Donation ID ****1513
    Keep up the excellent work

    JJ: Cheers Ricky. Please revert to my note of thanks under separate cover.

  13. Jabba distancing himself from the statement using his pals in the gutter press to associate King with “concomitant”
    and therefore the statement.

    It Wisnae me, honest! – Jabba.

  14. Hi JJ,

    My usual monthly contribution has just been made and I would urge others to follow suit if you are waged.

    JJ: Cheers buddy. I wrote with thanks to you under separate cover.

  15. JJ,just a suggestion but why don’t you put aside all things Sevco,at the moment,until certain decisions are made and actions taken.Maybe introduce controversial topics,put forward both arguments and let people have a reasonable debate with no abuse of posters allowed.Simply state that to join the debate and have your post,er,posted you need to donate £1.With the amount of readers you have,it would be fun,interesting and reduce your cc debt.Can’t do any harm….

    1. Worth considering Rob but it goes against the grain of a Speakeasy. My bank are losing patience as I was hoping to clear my debt this year. At one point I had maxed out on a £10,000 limit. Running this site is a labour of love. I would really miss the comments if I packed up my tent.

  16. This club continues to plumb new depths. It is short on funds, corporate governance, integrity and it is short on class. The STATEMENT from the board has made a rudderless club short on style but not short on ridicule. Goodness, what were they thinking of by issuing such a disrespectful and ill considered response to Derek McInnes following his decision to stay with Aberdeen.

    Like you, I was never convinced that he would work for this Ibrox regime. And when a guy who has been around the block, Alex McLeish, says (privately) that he won’t touch it whilst this regime is at the helm, I did suspect that McInnes would take a look under the bonnet and see a broken engine. Celtic are so far in front of Rangers, they are playing in a different time zone. It’s not a level playing field, both ON and OFF the pitch. McInnes, to his credit was smart enough to figure out that this is a club in crisis and that his opportunities to win trophies at Ibrox were very limited.

    The Rangers’ response was disgraceful and disrespectful. It was petty. It was cheap. It lacked style. It lacked class. And it reflected precisely the bankrupt values which this Ibrox regime displays on an almost daily basis.

    A classy club would have expressed disappointment the McInnes has turned them down and wished him well. A classy club may even have gone so far that, whilst McInnes didn’t feel the time was right, perhaps ‘paths may cross in the future’. But, no not Rangers. Their statement will merely have reinforced the widely held view that McInnes made the right decision to say with Aberdeen.

    Not so very long ago, Rangers had a Messiah on the horizon. Big Mike was hovering and he put in place professional executives who were driving down costs and associated debt levels. Big Mike had access to two priceless assets out of reach to this current hapless regime. He had access to funds. Money. LOTS OF IT. And he had access to professional executives who know how to run a business and who are well versed in corporate governance.

    King and this hopeless and shabby board made an enemy of quite possibly the only guy who could have saved Rangers from their own incompetence and absence of leadership. Mike Ashley has his faults. But I cannot for a moment think that this club would be in such a hopeless state if he had a stake and an interest in the club. King took the plaudits from the fans AND the Scottish press for driving Big Mike out of Govan. What a missed opportunity.

    And I can’t help thinking that if Ashley had been in and around the scene at Ibrox, Derek McInnes would today be the manager of Rangers.

    1. Thank you TM for another measured and insightful comment. I have long been blocked on Je Suis Graham’s (a PR practitioner with no customers) Twitter page. I received his inelegant turn of phrase from a much valued source:
      “Can’t have been easy for the players or Graeme Murty after McInnes shat the bed on Thursday.”
      One wonders what his teachers, many of whom will be known to you TM, would think at his alma mater Hutcheson’s Grammar?

  17. I have worked with a few ex pupils from Hutcheson’s Grammar school as well as Glasgow Academy. But my alma mater was Elstree Prep in Thatcham. Poor stuff emanating from Ibrox at the moment and it can only get worse.

    Christmas donation on its way as a thank you for sustained excellence.

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