After beating championship rivals Hibernian 4-2 at Ibrox, Rangers manager Mark Warburton rightly praised his team for the deserved victory that they achieved – despite being reduced to ten men late in the second half.
But the Englishman also praised the ‘magnificent’ support from the Rangers fans throughout the game from the first minute to the last.
In fact the article accompanying Warburton’s comments on the official Rangers website, stated: ‘From the first minute to the last, the famous old stadium rocked seldom like it had in many a year’.
The manager himself, said: “I’ve got to thank the fans. I know there was a big build-up to the game – and understandably so – but we kept quiet as a club this week, and did the right thing.
“But to get that level of support from the first whistle was magnificent. It’s about players learning from that – it’s fantastic to enjoy it as a football supporter – but the players now have to learn from that atmosphere and they have to crave that every week.
“Every time we play at Ibrox, we want that and more and we only do that but we only do that by delivering performances and winning trophies and taking the club forward.
“That’s the responsibility of the football department – but the fans were outstanding today.”
Yes what an atmosphere it was. The fans were loud, the atmosphere was deafening and the game itself was befitting a top of the table clash in Scotland’s second tier. But alas there is where the positives end when it comes to the so-called ‘magnificent’ Rangers supporters.
While the majority of football journalists in the Scottish mainstream media will be focusing on the match and ignoring off field matters, conveniently on this occasion, the hatefest that was on show throughout the game will not be highlighted – just like it has been ignored by Rangers’ own manager, although I cannot recall a Rangers manager previously coming out to criticise and condemn the sectarian singing of his own support.
I may be wrong in that statement, but I cannot remember for the life of me one single manager doing so. I will gladly welcome anyone who can provide the news reports to the contrary however.
You can maybe excuse Mark Warburton for his comments, given his rookie status in the Glasgow fishbowl, not to mention his focus being solely on the game. However, if he truly believes that the atmosphere was magnificent then he does need to take a long hard look at himself.
Hibernian manager Alan Stubbs was subjected to sectarian hatred throughout the match – especially prevalent after Rangers scored each of their four goals. Heard loud enough by both TV and Radio mics – that one broadcaster had to apologise to their viewers – when Rangers fans could clearly be heard calling Stubbs a ‘fenian b*stard’.
Then the banned sectarian song The Billy Boys and its add-on of being ‘up to their knees in fenian blood’ was belted out with much gusto by the Rangers support also. Not once or twice but a significant amount of times. There was no minority to blame the bigotfest on this time – this was truly a songbook belted out by the majority of the 48,000 Rangers supporters inside Ibrox as they were ‘celebrating’ their team’s victory.
A strange way to celebrate your team beating a league rival – singing songs of hate aimed at Catholics and a club that aren’t even in the same league as you.
Very few journalists have came out and voiced their opinions on the ‘festivities’ at Ibrox today, purely focusing on the football. Are they afraid to step away from toeing the partyline? Afraid to lose that coveted press release each day? Afraid to be blocked from entering the hallowed press section at Ibrox?
Maybe they all took selective hearing problems at the same time, or it was that cold they all wore earmuffs that drowned out the hatefest.
Whatever the reason, their silence on the matter goes to show that they pick and choose when they want to discuss the issue of sectarianism in Scottish football.
Those who did speak out faced an onslaught of abuse and criticism, as well as the whataboutery claims of ‘what about ra tic [Celtic] and their game against Hearts’.
Graham Speirs who was, earlier this season, banned by the Rangers hierarchy over his articles on the club tweeted:
Great win for Rangers today at Ibrox. Accompanied by some atrocious sectarian singing. Just like old times.
— Graham Spiers (@GrahamSpiers) December 28, 2015
The BBC’s Tom English, an outspoken critic of sectarian hatred in Scottish football, added:
I have to wonder about the mindset of many thousands of Rangers fans today. Unless my ears deceived me, a lot of sectarian chanting.Disgrace
— Tom English (@BBCTomEnglish) December 28, 2015
I agree with many. It was a terrific game and Rangers put in a powerhouse performance. Why the chanting? Just mindless.
— Tom English (@BBCTomEnglish) December 28, 2015
And another critic – namely of anything that isn’t Golf related – The Guardian’s Ewan Murray hit out:
Tens of thousands of people chanting about "fenian bastards" at a Scottish football game in 2015 is pathetic. It's embarrassing.
— Ewan Murray (@mrewanmurray) December 28, 2015
If Scottish football, and society as a whole, wants to tackle this issue and rid it from our game for good then the clubs need to stop putting the ear plugs in, the football authorities need to grow a pair and if they don’t then that is when the Police and the government then step in.
The Scottish Government introduced the Offensive Behaviour in Football legislation following the so-called ‘Old Firm shame game’ and Monday’s events are evident that not enough is being done to combat fans inside the grounds on such a large scale. In fact nothing is being done.
The SPFL blame the clubs for not voting for stricter punishments and the Scottish FA refer back to the SPFL as the competition is their baby. The police will not tackle fans in large numbers for fear of crowd disturbances and the Scottish government do not have an election coming up to use it as a vote winner either.
Charities like Nil by Mouth and Action against Sectarianism are effectively pissing in the wind, as those who have the real power to effect change either don’t care, don’t want to know or to afraid for face the repercussions of ridding our game of the hate-filled legions that infect our game – no matter their allegiances.
The clubs themselves won’t vote for strict liability and a zero tolerance approach to their support as it would lead to hefty fines, stand closures and even games being played behind closed doors if the situation is that bad – maybe it is time that the decision is taken out of their hands. No longer should the turkeys have a vote on what to have for Christmas dinner.
As for Rangers – the club, the institution – they seem to be more interested in safeguarding the history that tupe’d over following liquidation, than ridding their support of sectarian hatred. After all chairman Dave King wanted to return to the traditional Rangers way of life several months ago – it seems the fans already have.
As for Mark Warburton, maybe he should take a step back from praising such an atmosphere next time and educate himself on such hate-filled songs, just don’t let kitman Jimmy Bell teach him the ways of Rangers Football Club.