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.