I was born to be a Rangers supporter. I had no real choice in the matter. My father was a Ger, as was his father and his father’s father. I was accepted that as soon as I was old enough to be lifted over a turnstile I would attend Ibrox, faithfully.
From 1964 (aged 5) I worshipped at the shrine of Rangers for almost three decades. Fortunately for me, my father was the least bigoted man you could wish to meet. His religions were the trade unions and Rangers. Because he wasn’t bigoted our next-door neighbour and dad’s friend used to take me to Parkhead to watch Celtic too, which I found thrilling as I was convinced the “Tims” could see right through me.
This caused me a bit of confusion at school, because some of my family were “Tims”. In fact my favourite aunty was a convert to Catholicism and was as devout and decent a Catholic as you will ever meet. The conflation of football and religion was as normal as the smog-filled air we breathed. It just was what it was. You were either Proddy Ranger or Timmy Celtic. It wasn’t to be questioned.
Except my dad questioned it, loudly and often. He tried to explain the wrongs of the situation to me many times. I remember asking him why he still was a Rangers man if he disliked the whole Proddy/Tim thing that went with it.
“They’re my team, son. The morons can’t change that”, he told me.
I accepted this dichotomy for quite a few years, or at least until I started attending Ibrox on my own and watched the rampant cretinism happening around me. My normal position in the Copeland was immersed in a sea of arseholes, some of whom came over on ferries from Northern Ireland to spew out unspeakable bile at anyone stupid enough not to be wearing a Rangers strip or scarf.
I grew increasingly uncomfortable with the songs, the chants and the hate. I had heard stuff at Parkhead of a similar type and my Celtic mates abhor it too. But at Ibrox it just seemed more… intense. Definite. Meant.
More than once I pulled up someone sitting next to me about the stuff they were bellowing. Either they just looked at me and shut up or it got very unpleasant as they questioned my “loyalty”. I spent more time listening to the chants and songs of utter hatred for “Fenians” than I did watching my team play. Eventually I just stopped going.
But even then I still supported Rangers as an armchair fan. Then something happened that changed my attitude totally. I had a son.
At first, like my dad, I assumed the boy was going to be a Ranger. Then I thought about it. There was no way I was going to take him to a game and spend endless hours explaining to him that what his fellow fans were belting out was “just a bit of fun” and some “tradition” that they maybe really didn’t mean, or maybe did, or not, at least not the good ones.
“How can you tell the good ones, dad?” was the future question that bounced around my head. The answer “The ones not singing” just seemed more and more pathetic.
I resolved that he’d grow up to be whatever form of football fan (or not) as took his fancy. I also resolved that my half-hidden hypocrisy and plainly-turned blind eye was no use to either Rangers or me. I decided we would part company.
That was in 1992. I’ve been back to Ibrox once since then, as an away fan supporting tiny Stenhousemuir (for family reasons) on Armed Forces Day in 2013. My wife, myself and the rest of the small band of supporters isolated in a corner of a stand were subjected to non-stop venom, bile, foul-mouthed abuse and threats for the entire 90 minutes.
(My son’s girlfriend and her father came too but left at half-time, utterly disgusted at the things they saw and heard despite the home fans having an 8-0 win to enjoy.)
We also had the distinct privilege of witnessing a event supposedly about respect for troops and the dead degenerate into a farce, as some of those in uniform went to the Blue Order and danced and sang the same crap that had driven me away from Ibrox in the first place.
One particularly helpful RAF type came over to us to give us the benefit of his knowledge about how we were all “Bitter c*nts”.
(Commendably, one Royal Navy Commander, who I believe was sent down from the stands, tried to break up this ‘celebration’ of all things blue, but to to little avail. The scenes were disgraceful and convinced me that my decision all those years ago had been 100% correct.)
Recently and because of the troubles they’ve inflicted on themselves as a club, Rangers have decided to play the victim card. It would be funny were it not for the hypocrisy involved. The recent press release regarding the idiotic actions of stupid Hibs fans is a case in point. It is at once hilarious and pathetic.
The great chant (stolen from Millwall) of “We are Rangers/super Rangers/no one likes us/we don’t care” rings a bit hollow these days. Perhaps they should be asking themselves why they are indeed, almost universally disliked within the Scottish game. Are all those supporters of all those clubs really just jealous? Is that it? Is there no fair justification at all for that resentment?
I still have mates who attend Ibrox. They’re good guys, and they’re just as ashamed of all the crap as I was. But even though they’re the majority, they feel intimidated into not challenging it, such is the brutal vehemence of the poisonous minority.
To my mind, the past few years have encouraged a problem that had until then been slowly dying away. The bitter knuckle-draggers have the upper hand again and there seems to be no will at the top of either the club or the SFA to change things. When faced with the evidence, they’d rather shoot the messenger.
When I posted the original version of this via Twitter yesterday, I had to take it down within hours to save my sanity and my blocking finger. There are quite a few decent and rational Rangers (or like me, ex-Rangers) punters who can calmly discuss the rights and wrongs, but they were the minority of replies.
Most of those I got were just mindless abuse: name-calling (‘Taig” and “bheast” were popular) or people saying I was a liar. But I’m no liar, just a guy who used to follow a team whose support don’t stop or challenge those sorts of scumbags.
My father did, and I thank him for it. But when angry hate-filled lunatics think nothing of posting Google Earth pictures of your house, as has happened to me, it’s not worth putting your life or family in danger over.
As a long-time atheist I’ve got no dog in this ancient religious fight. Sectarianism is beyond me and I don’t want in. I’m sick of the whole thing. Good luck to the many, many decent Rangers men and women in the years to come. You’ll need it.