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Lizard

Word of advice gentlemen. From now on be very careful when talking or writing about this club. – James Traynor, head of communications, The Rangers Football Club

It’s a strange feeling, when your suspicions are proven to be correct.

Your paranoia was right on the money, but it’s hardly a cause for celebration. That gut instinct you had, the one that your calm, rational mind told you probably wasn’t right, and wasn’t healthy – it was spot on. You wish it wasn’t.

And yet, there’s an animal streak in you that revels in being proved correct. Chalk one up for the limbic system. Also known as your lizard brain.

James Traynor’s astonishing statement of intent is very much a case of starting where he means to go on. Formerly the sports editor of one of Scotland’s biggest tabloids and for many years a prominent broadcaster with the publicly-funded BBC, he has joined the new Rangers’ PR team – at the very head of the hydra.

The Rangers might be new, but it seems some attitudes die hard. What is the meaning of Traynor’s two sentences above? That it’s a threat seems obvious. But to whom, and why? His former colleagues? Celtic fans? Bloggers?

People of a Rangersy persuasion say many commentators – particularly Celtic fans – are obsessed with the travails of the new Rangers. “You can’t leave us alone,” they say. “You can’t stop talking about us. Why are you so obsessed?”

The reason we take a keen interest is because Rangers, in whatever incarnation you like, need to be held to account. They altered the landscape of Scottish football, they monetised the game long before Sky Sports even existed and they bought players they simply couldn’t afford in an attempt to win, literally at any cost.

Thousands of fans were cheated out of a fair contest. It is only right and proper they are angry about this. It’s not just the preserve of self-righteous Celtic fans. The anger is widespread, and justified. It is very important this doesn’t happen again

It’s not “obsession”, it’s “integrity” – a word that must cause some stinging regret down Edmiston Drive.

So Jim, please keep the threats coming. They prove a great many things beyond all doubt. They also give my lizard brain a wee stroke.

We await the findings of Lord Nimmo Smith’s inquiry with great interest. But whatever the result, I have one question for Jim, and others – even, yes, referees and their assistants. Let’s give my paranoia free rein, here, while the going is good.

Were you ever paid by Rangers (in any incarnation) while you were working for another organisation?

It’s not illegal if you were, of course.

Do let us all know. A simple question – Yes or no? Nothing untoward, no hidden agendas. If it’s a no, fine. We’ll move on.

It must sting Traynor that he will inevitably be linked to his own phrase, “succulent lamb”. I don’t know the guy. He could be alright. He never came across well on Your Call, though, and his defence of the former Rangers resulted in some of the lowest points of BBC Scotland’s broadcasting history. He certainly doesn’t strike me as a coward, so I can imagine how he feels about being linked to absolutely craven, forelock-tugging journalism.

The two sentences at the top could well prove to have an even longer-lasting legacy than an appraisal of that undoubtedly tasty dish served up by Sir David Murray back in his salad days.

Why the aggression, though? Can’t The Rangers just get on with their business? News just in – Celtic fans don’t like Rangers. Amazing – whatever next? You’ll be telling me the Pope’s a catholic… Actually, we’d better stay away from there.

I’ve come to accept the idea that The Rangers will probably be in the top flight in a few years. They’ll win the championship and they’ll be back in the Champions League. Old Firm games will resume, blood will continue to be spilled on Scotland’s streets, the same old haggard battle hymns will be sung and, depressingly, society will put up with the same old anti-social, hateful nonsense clogging up its streets and its pubs and its transport – when it should be enjoying an august sporting rivalry. And we will enjoy it, in that dark wee corner of our brains. The oldest bit – before wheels, before tribes, before tools, before caves, before hair, one million years Before Mammaries.

But please – when those games return, let’s have a level playing field in Scotland. Let there be no more hubris coming from Ibrox. Those days are gone. There is no gain in it for anyone, save extemporising and face-saving. There are consequences to what we say, as Traynor so rightly notes. He could do with taking his own advice.

So – give it up. Have a bit of humility. Work hard. Earn respect. There is nothing else for it, Rangers, no corners left to cut, no favours left to call in. Do it the hard way. Try a bit of the old protestant work ethic. Be like Andrew Carnegie, and never mind being like Jack Glass. I won’t ever like you, but I might just respect you.

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