2012The Scottish football year which should have been certified.
Drama, scandal, nonsense and spectacle, by turns serious and crazy, a dizzying, never-ending slew of issues and controversies.
Nothing, but nothing, produces the volume of left-field stories and surprises that Scottish football does and 2012 set new standards. Stephen Fry, Sir David Frost, Joanna Lumley, Elton John, Snoop Dogg and Jimmy Tarbuck all got a mention. It was compelling madness.
Loading article content
Above all, of course, it was the year of Rangers. Was it really only 11 months ago that Nikica Jelavic was their striker, they were around the top of the SPL, had Gordon Smith as director of football and Craig Whyte in charge? And then administration, liquidation and disgrace.
The epic, Biblical downfall of Whyte, a brass-necked chancer who said he had Prince Albert of Monaco as a potential investor. The truth? £14m of unpaid PAYE and VAT and administration on Valentine's Day. Months of lies about not using Ticketus to mortgage future season-ticket sales and then his admission that, yes, he had.
Rangers toppled with debts to 276 creditors including the tawdry shame of owing £567 to a newsagent, £70 to a florist, £40 to a face painter. Whyte even sold off the club's historic shares in Arsenal.
Football raced to distance itself from him. An SFA judicial report said Rangers' offences under Whyte were second only to match-fixing and ruled him "not a fit and proper person". Sir David Murray said he was "duped" when selling to him. Duff and Phelps took the keys, their fees running like a taxi meter. Deferred players' wages and the threat of redundancies. Ally McCoist said "we don't do walking away". Duff and Phelps said there was a "risk" the club might not fulfil all its fixtures.
It was the year of Lords Carloway, Glennie and Nimmo Smith. The year of Rangers' 12-month transfer ban and McCoist demanding that the SFA name names. Rangers fans marched on Hampden in peaceful protest. Turnbull Hutton said there'd been an arson threat on Stark's Park because Raith Rovers had been implicated in the decision.
The year of the Blue Knights, Paul Murray, Douglas Park, Jim McColl and the great peek-a-boo merchant, Brian Kennedy. Ah, the owners Rangers could have had! Bill Miller and Club 9, Bill Ng, Allan Stewart and Celtic fan Stephen McKenna. All of them got the same message: the big hoose must stay open. Rangers got professional Yorkshireman Charles Green and his secretive Sevco consortium. A futile attempt to reach a CVA. Liquidation. Oldco and newco. Club 12 on the fixture list, weeks of "no to newco" and "sporting integrity" on one side, "Armageddon" and "a slow, lingering death" on the other.
Al Jazeera reported First Minister Alex Salmond telling Sir David Frost that Celtic couldn't prosper without Rangers. The SPL turned its back on Rangers. A plan to parachute them into the first division failed, too. Hutton said the attempt had been corrupt. Calls for a vote of no confidence in Stewart Regan, stick for Neil Doncaster, too. A five-way agreement was signed, simply so Rangers could play at all, grateful to be in Division Three. Endless, mind-numbing debate about whether they were "Rangers" or "Sevco", old or brand new.
Players had deserted in their droves, refusing to "TUPE" over to newco. No-one bought season tickets. McCoist considered resigning. John Brown stood on the Ibrox doorstep and was cheered for telling fans they should "starve" Green out. Threats to Green, claims he had to move hotels to stay safe. The start of his long tap dance to win fans over. Rangers had been the victims of "bigotry". There were agendas against Rangers. He would rename Murray Park whatever the fans wanted. When they sang "if you hate Stewart Regan clap your hands", he clapped. What an amazing club, he said. Rangers had 19 signing targets, including five at Euro 2012, he said.
Green went from hate figure to hero and the fans rolled up. Astonishing Ibrox crowds for nothing matches, humiliation in early away results. Brechin fans chanted "are you Rangers in disguise". Falkirk suspended an announcer after he referred to them as "the Sevco Franchise". A Forres baker put Rangers cup tickets in his pies. Elgin City had fingers in pies, caught printing too many tickets. The daftest football story of them all: bottom of the league Stirling Albion beating Rangers on the day their manager was away getting married.
The SPL and its own investigation into EBTs, a tax-dodging scheme embraced by Rangers on the advice of Paul Baxendale-Walker, tax expert turned porn actor. Talk of title-stripping. Months of waiting and then the Big Tax Case verdict, a 2-1 Rangers win. HMRC said it would appeal. The Rangerstaxcase blogger disappeared. Stephen Fry posted a Tweet supporting a Government investigation into HMRC. Somehow, during all of this, it came out that Murray had once chatted up Lumley. Phew.
Rangers stories to the very end. Green's £22.2m share issue and the Tannadice boycott. Jim Traynor on the staff at Ibrox, or whatever it is to be renamed, and a 140th birthday. McCoist, who'd looked knackered earlier in the year, getting some stick for not wearing a suit to games.
Celtic? They couldn't compete for the volume of headlines, but won plenty else including the last Old Firm derby in April. Their first league title since 2008, away wins in Europe. Barcelona. The last 16 after ITV Football had tweeted "bye bye Celtic". Their 125th birthday. Their fans sang of Rangers' death, "zombies" and "jelly and ice cream" to celebrate, and later of going to Wembley for the Champions League final. Rod Stewart cried. Elton John congratulated Neil Lennon. Snoop Dogg said he wanted to invest. Jimmy Tarbuck hoped they'd lose to Arbroath.
2012: Kenny Shiels' Kilmarnock won the League Cup. Ross County joined the SPL. Hearts thumped Hibs in a unique Scottish Cup final. A Hearts fan burnt his ticket trying to iron out the creases. North Korea took offence in the Olympic football at Hampden. The booing of Ian Black, the return of Steven Fletcher, the end of Craig Levein, sacked and now suing. Another World Cup campaign gone.
The year is almost gone. Does 2013 really have to start on January 1? There is time, surely, to lie in a darkened room for a while before this all starts again.