Forget about the Rangers tax bill for a minute.
Pretend it doesn't exist. And just look at what Craig Whyte has done since taking control of the Ibrox club at the tail end of last season. It has been embarrassment after embarrassment.
Earlier in the season, stories broke one after the other about bills going unpaid, and now this week there has been the Ticketus saga. On the playing side, meanwhile, there have been a series of trialists coming in who are clearly not good enough, and then there are the potential signing targets like Grant Holt, whom Rangers quite clearly can't afford. You also have the club's hierarchy bickering with Nikica Jelavic about who lied to whom.
If Rangers win the tax case, and don't go into administration, then Whyte has to show he can run the club beyond this crisis. Because there is no guarantee that things will improve, even if the tax liability proves managable.
I've said from day one that I had my doubts about Whyte. But I have even bigger doubts now. What I am hearing from him doesn't give me confidence. There are already some fans out there who know the script, but even the most hardcore supporters must be beginning to worry. They should be. Whyte and his two sidekicks Ali Russell and Gordon Smith seem to be at war with everybody. But when there are so many stories coming out of the club, can they all be false?
As far as the Ticketus situation is concerned, I don't have a problem with them using a company like that in principle. But it is meant to be short term. It is easy to see the benefit of getting an advance on one year's season ticket money. However, using three years' worth, is a different matter entirely and I fail to see what that will do for the club in the medium to long term. The best that could be hoped is for all this money to be set aside any future tax liabilities, but it remains to be seen whether it will be used for that.
I don't know why, if you knew Rangers were in so much trouble – as Whyte must have when he took over – you would ever come out talking about a £15 million war chest. Whyte says he has already spent about £15m on contracts for players like Davis, Whittaker and McGregor and on upgrading the stadium. However, at every club I have been at, the "budget" commonly referred to is a transfer kitty and doesn't include new deals to existing players.
I get the impression the Rangers chairman is having difficulty getting to grips with the football side of the business. The combination of Whyte, Russell and Smith has been throwing players at McCoist that he doesn't want. The manager has to work with those above him to get in the players he wants, but if he can't do so he will stick with the men he already has, so the blame doesn't land on his doorstep. If he were to make a couple of cheap signings and it didn't work out, then it gives fans ammunition to say 'well you did sign them'. That is why Francisco Sandaza didn't arrive.
To me, the club hierarchy are rookies when it comes to signing players and the Holt transfer bid was embarrassing. When I was at Rangers, the first I knew of a signing was when he came through the door. Nowadays, I think Rangers want everything to go through the press so it looks like they are trying. They appear to have deliberately associated themselves with Holt to kid on the fans, but they have been rumbled.
As crazy as it may seem, though, Rangers being so disrupted does put pressure on to Celtic. Neil Lennon must be thinking he will be under serious strain if he can't win the league against a team who are at the edge of the cliff.
Whether it happens this season or the summer, there will be a huge backlash if Rangers go down. Liquidation is the worst-case scenario, changing the name and starting again. Administration is bad enough, with people losing jobs and the club having a really hard time. We all know David Murray and his regime ultimately brought that tax bill to the club's door.
But if everything else had been running smoothly only for the tax bill to come along and put them into administration, no-one would have been able to hold that against Whyte. Things aren't running smoothly, however. In fact his running of the club so far is making many Rangers fans nervous.
I HAVE raved about Kenny Shiels and the way his team attacks but the one thing managers shouldn't do is bad-mouth a counterpart's tactics. So I could understand why Brian Reid was raging at him when he criticised Ayr last Saturday. I didn't hear Terry Butcher saying Kenny's team should have been more defensive when they destroyed them 6-3 at Rugby Park.