IT has probably been the most contentious subject of the Scottish sporting year.
Is this version of Rangers, the one now operating out of the Irn-Bru Third Division, the same entity as the one that existed prior to the club's stumble into administration and then liquidation? Everyone with a connection to the Ibrox club would vehemently argue that it is. In their eyes it was merely the company that owned the club, rather than the club itself, that died the day a Company Voluntary Arrangement (CVA) could not be agreed to take Rangers out of administration and the assets were subsequently sold to Charles Green's new company. Everything else goes on as before.
The topic has been a predictable source for much baiting between Rangers fans and the rest, in particular Celtic supporters, who have repeatedly questioned the legitimacy of Rangers' claims to an unbroken timeline following the oldco's liquidation. It is a subject that has come to the fore again this week as Rangers celebrate the 140th anniversary of their inception in 1872 at tomorrow's match against Stirling Albion. For those who played for the club during more auspicious times, there is no doubt this version of Rangers is the same as the one that went before it.
"You will never break that history whether it's an oldco or a newco," said former striker Mark Hateley. "The 140-year history of Rangers is still there, it doesn't get wiped away. The strength is within the club through the tragedies, the Ibrox disaster, the glory of winning the Cup-Winners' Cup in 1972; they can never be wiped away.
"If you are doing that then you are putting a black spot over the memory of the people who lost their lives. It is all a part of the club's history. The club means so much to so many and they have shouted from the rooftops that this is still Rangers Football Club. They are still working out of Murray Park and playing at Ibrox. Rangers have been playing at Ibrox for more or less 140 years and are still there."
Richard Gough admitted he was not "business savvy enough" to fully understand the nuances of a club moving from being under the control of one company to another, but felt strongly that any talk of Rangers having started afresh in the summer was wide of the mark.
"You keep reading that changing the name means they are a new club but they're not," said Gough. "Celtic have changed their name, the corporate shell or whatever; I'm not business savvy enough [to know the details]. It is the same institution even if their has been a change of ownership. It's important to let people know that. It seems to be [a business technicality]. Other clubs have gone through the same process. It's not even an argument."
As they look to make their way back to the top tier of Scottish football, Rangers could be among the beneficiaries should any league reconstruction proposals ever become a reality. Both the Scottish Premier League and the Scottish Football League's plans involve moving to a three rather than four-tier set-up, meaning Rangers would likely have to win promotion just twice to return to the top.
Some supporters have stated a preference to do things the right way rather than being fast-tracked, but Gough felt Rangers should accept any help available. "The sooner we get in to the top league the better," he said. "We want to get up there and be playing Champions League football again as soon as possible. That's our goal. If league reconstruction allowed us to get up there next year, that would be fantastic, rather than spend three years going through the divisions."
Gough will be among a host of former players taking to the field at Ibrox tomorrow to help mark the club's 140th anniversary and admitted that he is excited about seeing some of his own heroes too. "I am looking forward to seeing the older ones, like big Johnny Hubbard, Billy Simpson, Willie Henderson, Harold Davis and Davie Wilson, [players from] my father's era, and the later ones, like Derek Johnstone and Colin Jackson. He was a hero for me, along with Tom Forsyth, growing up when my dad brought me the Rangers annuals to read.
"Once you're a Rangers man, the club gets you. I was lucky enough to also play for Tottenham and Everton, and Rangers puts them both in the shade by a long way."