ONLY one thing was notable about the fact supporters could be seen asking a man in the Rangers party to sign autographs and pose for pictures outside Peterhead's ground: the guy they were interested in was Charles Green.
A few weeks ago Green couldn't have risked being up close and personal like that without employing heavies to stand at his shoulder. But there he was, outside Balmoor, being asked for his signature or to pose for a snap. Those supporters were clearly pleased to be around him. The guy has pulled off quite a transformation.
On the evening of June 27 over a thousand fans stood outside Ibrox and cheered to the heavens when John Brown urged them to "starve" Green out of the club. Fans shouldn't buy season tickets or merchandise, said Brown, and that would deny Green the oxygen of income he needed to survive at Rangers. It was lapped up by those on the street and generally reflected by the fanbase at large.
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When Brown said Green was a "conman" the crowd roared its agreement. Green's regime looked dead in the water back then: no popularity, no credibility, no season ticket sales or visible source of lasting income, senior players leaving in droves and the figurehead, Ally McCoist, neither backing him in public nor liking him in private.
Green's language was typically colourful when he talked of having to move "from safe house to safe house" because of the raw hostility towards him during that time – in fact he never had to do so – but everyone knew what he meant. He was public enemy No.1 in their life after Craig Whyte: neither trusted, believed, liked, wanted nor welcome.
Now? Well, given that we're still talking about a man and owners about whom far too little is known, let's just say things have changed. Attitudes have thawed. Green has successfully positioned himself as someone seen to be fighting Rangers' cause. He has either sensed – or been told – which buttons to press. He's sounded defiant towards the Scottish Football Association and made a couple of digs at Celtic. Hey presto: people look at him differently. When Rangers supporters sang "if you hate Stewart Regan clap your hands" – and Green joined in the applause – it was as blatant a stunt as you'll ever see. And they loved him for it. Only two days earlier he'd been happy enough with Regan to put his name to a joint statement with him about Rangers getting SFA membership.
Green would fight any stripping of titles by the SPL "every inch of the way", he said. As for Celtic: "Our main rivals – or our former main rivals – across the city have had three different companies in their lifespan, in fact if you look at their corporate structure now it's more complicated than Rangers' is." Such subtle asides are Old Firm meat and drink. They shape a man's reputation on both sides.
He has coughed up more than rhetoric, though. Green executed the takeover of an SPL club and he's sanctioned SPL signings. Ian Black, Dean Shiels, Francisco Sandaza, Emilson Cribari and Kevin Kyle are better than Rangers can have expected to get given the mess they were in a couple of months ago. There isn't much more Green could have done for McCoist than let him sign players which make it unacceptable for them to suffer many more embarrassments like Saturday's 2-2 draw. For weeks McCoist never said a word about season tickets and the silence was deafening. His endorsement of Green last week was hugely significant for the chief executive and for Rangers' immediate future. Getting money into the club to relieve the threat of redundancies may have been a primary motivation for McCoist but, even so, he spoke warmly of Green.
"I've been impressed by his willingness to fight the corner for the club and the supporters no matter the hour of the day. He's been a good ally to have," said the manager.
Ibrox has been fooled before. Whyte was applauded the length of Edmiston Drive the first time he turned up for a match. Suspicion cannot be removed from the chief executive and voice of a consortium whose members want to remain anonymous. Enormous questions remain unanswered by Green: who owns Rangers? How interested are they in football rather than business? How much is going out in dividends and consultancy fees? Some of his remarks have been crass. To say that Rangers were in better shape than other clubs because they didn't have debts was deeply insensitive, especially to the creditors who were owed thousands or even millions from Ibrox and ended up with nothing. That reckless, throwaway remark about bigotry being a factor in Rangers' SPL punishment was naive at best and pandering to the lowest common denominator at worst.
But there has been no will to "starve" him out: 38,000 turned up for Rangers' first home game, around 25,000 season tickets have been shifted, decent players have been signed, McCoist has backed him and a likely merchandising deal with Mike Ashley and Sports Direct suggests that others regard his business model as attractive for long-term commercial partnerships.
Green has talked of "a warming and changing attitude towards us". It will all change again if those unanswered questions ever yield ugly truths. But right now the Rangers support is watching and listening to Green without boos, minders or safe houses.