Thursday, 1 November 2012

Look On Rangers' Works Ye Mighty, and Despair.

I'm not really one for poetry but I'm reminded today of a poem my English class studied in high school.

It's called Ozymandias and remains to this day one of the few poems I can quote from fairly accurately, although I never did learn the whole thing by heart.

It's quite short, so here it is:

I met a traveller from an antique land
Who said: "Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert. Near them on the sand,
Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown
And wrinkled lip and sneer of cold command
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
The hand that mocked them and the heart that fed.
And on the pedestal these words appear:
`My name is Ozymandias, King of Kings:
Look on my works, ye mighty, and despair!'
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare,
The lone and level sands stretch far away.

 I'm sure there are many different analyses of the poem, but most agree it speaks of the impermanence of worldly power; the inevitability of the decline and fall of empires, no matter how mighty they appear.

What struck a chord with me was the idea advanced by our English teacher that nothing can last forever if it is not based on love.

On holiday in England a few years ago, my wife insisted we visit Lincoln Cathedral, or to give it its full name, The Cathedral Church of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Lincoln.

She's a Dan Brown fan (God help us) and wanted to see the Chapter House, where scenes were filmed for The Da Vinci Code.

I like to think of myself as an amateur historian, so was happy enough to go along.

I was reminded of Ozymandias that day too, as a few hundred yards from the Cathedral stands Lincoln Castle, built on the orders of William the Conqueror, beginning in 1068.

These twin citadels of temporal and spiritual power have stood together for almost 1,000 years, but the castle is now no more than an empty shell, it's main tower now half of its original height and most of the internal buildings inside the walls 18th-19th century additions.

The Cathedral on the other hand, while not as tall as when it was the tallest building in the world in its heyday, is still used for its original purpose, and while a lot of work is required to ensure it stands for another 1,000 years, there is a sense of urgency and commitment to those efforts.

It reminded me of that high school English class on Ozymandias because the castle was built to cow an Anglo-Danish population hostile to their new Norman rulers, whilst the cathedral was built on love.

What reminded me of Ozymandias yesterday was the liquidation of the former Rangers Football Club.

Lest anyone has already forgotten, Rangers FC was the behemoth of Scottish soccer.

Those four boys who had a dream could never have imagined just how successful the club they founded would become. The club that Struth built dominated the game for almost 40 years until the arrival at Celtic of Jock Stein.

It took Rangers 20 years to recover their previous dominance, but under Souness, Murray and Smith the club briefly again became the pre-eminent club in Scotland until the plans put in place by Fergus McCann came to fruition.

In a very real sense, the achievements of Stein's Celtic sowed the seeds of Rangers' destruction. Even when Murray was in his pomp, the shadow of oblivion was, unnoticed at the time, hanging over the club.

The deluded like to tell us that Rangers lives on under Charles Green.

They claim that the club was not liquidated, only the, "holding company."

Utter nonsense of course.

From November 1988, Rangers' "holding company" was MIH. Before that, its "holding company" was The Lawrence Group, owned by then majority shareholder Lawrence Marlborough.

After Murray sold Rangers for a shiny pound coin in May 2011, the "holding company" was The Rangers FC Group, owned by Craig Whyte.

Charles Green did not buy Rangers from Craig Whyte. He bought Ibrox Stadium, Murray Park and the Albion car park.

Of course he claims to have bought, "the history," too, but that's just ridiculous, and even he knows it.

Yesterday, Rangers Football Club had its life support machine turned off.

It's not dead yet, but under the palliative care of BDO, its shuffling off of its mortal coil will be eased along until the inevitable moment when it will breathe its last.

Rangers Football Club was founded by those four boys in 1872.

In 1899, it ceased to be a club in all but name when it became a company limited by shares.

Bill Struth, Allan Morton, Willie Thornton, Scot Symon, Jim Baxter, Brian Laudrup, Paul Gascoigne - none of these ever played for or were employed by Charles Green's Rangers.

Whenever Rangers fans tell you, as they inevitably will, of their 54 league titles and over 100 "major trophies," just think about Ozymandias' inscription - "Look on my works, ye mighty, and despair."

Remember that nothing beside now does remain.

For The Rangers Football Club, round the colossal wreck of Ibrox Stadium, the lone and level sands really do stretch far away.

The club built on bigotry, triumphalism and supremacy is gone.

Like Lincoln Castle and Cathedral, Ibrox Stadium and Celtic Park remain together in Glasgow. You can see them both from the same spot on the Kingston Bridge.

Like Lincoln Cathedral, Celtic is not what it once was. In the not too distant past, Celtic was a colossus bestriding Europe, the finest team on the continent.

It has seen better days, but the club remains, the same company playing out of the same stadium on the same site since 1892.

Ibrox is fast becoming an empty shell. Like Europe in the aftermath of the fall of the Roman Empire in the west, the physical remains but the institution is gone and Visigoths sit in the imperial palace.

Why then has Rangers collapsed into liquidation while Celtic continues to thrive?

Many and varied complex analyses will be promulgated by the historians of the future, but while dodgy tax schemes, corruption and hubris will have their place, I think the answer is much more simple.

Celtic was formed by Irish immigrants to provide for the poor of Glasgow's east end. It was founded by Catholic clergy and laymen for the purest of Catholic motives - charity.

Celtic, like my high school English teacher might have said, is built on love.

Rangers was not.