IBROX was awash with sentiment on Saturday.
It was meant to be a day of triumphalism as Rangers picked up the League 1 trophy following this fairly perfunctory 3-0 win over Stranraer but the death just two days earlier of club great Sandy Jardine made it an understandably more subdued and understated affair.
There was the customary lap of honour but, amid the fanfare, there was a real sense of grieving that took precedence over the celebrations.
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The death of Jardine - who served the club as a player and later as a member of its commercial department - had clearly had an effect on many, including manager Ally McCoist who, in an emotional pitchside address to supporters, dedicated the title win to his friend. Others, too young to have seen Jardine the player, spoke in respectful tones of Jardine the person. "Sandy was a well-liked man at the club," said midfielder Fraser Aird. "He was our biggest fan and always stuck by us. All the boys in the team wanted to dedicate the trophy to him."
Amid this maelstrom of emotion there was anger, too. There has been a disconnection for some time now between many of the Rangers support and those running the club, and the findings published on Friday by chief executive Graham Wallace at the end of his 120-day review have only heightened those feelings of disenchantment. If it came as no huge surprise to hear that Rangers had frittered away vast sums of money in such a short period of time, then seeing the figures laid out in black and white seemed to only harden the resolve of those who feel a regime change is needed, and soon. Planned protests by supporters groups at Saturday's match were postponed out of respect for the Jardine family but in the second half chants of 'sack the board' and 'we want our Rangers back' were started by the Union Bears section of supporters and others around the stadium joined in. It will surely be a source of relief to those in charge that this was the final home match of the season given the disregard in which they are evidently held by a large number of supporters.
It seems curious - almost crass - that amid talk of the club's "fragile" financial state, credit facilities being withdrawn and possible staff redundancies the football side will continue unimpeded. McCoist said on Saturday that he and Wallace will today discuss the size of his budget for the forthcoming campaign in the SPFL Championship, but expects it to be along similar lines to this year when he operated with the second-biggest wage bill in the country. A chief football operations officer will shortly also be appointed.
Wallace was moved to comment in his review that nine players were recruited last summer when the club "should have known that it could not afford" them, some on contracts that were "generous and poorly structured". Adopting a speculate-to-accumulate ethos, however, it seems there are no plans to reduce spending in the squad, in the hope they can navigate a way out of the Championship at the first attempt and then try to challenge Celtic's supremacy in the top division a year later. The football side of things - in the league at least - is one of the few things delivering some sort of solace to the Rangers supporters during these troubled times.
Goals from Aird, Arnold Peralta and Dean Shiels delivered this accomplished victory over a Stranraer side likely to feature in the play-offs and left Rangers just one game away - at Dunfermline Athletic on Saturday --from going through the campaign without a loss on their league record. For Aird, a promising midfielder still just 19 years old, a second successive league winner's medal is something to cherish. "Days like that you dreamed of as a wee boy - playing in front of 50,000 and knowing you're going to get the league trophy at the end of it," he said. "Getting a goal and man of the match means it's something I'm never going to forget. I grew up a Rangers fan. I've watched them in cup finals and lifting trophies so to be part of that now means the world to me and my family. Hopefully that can continue in the future. I'm delighted and humble that the gaffer keeps picking me to play. He's shown a lot of faith in me this year and I hope I've repaid him."
Aird, born in Toronto to Scottish parents, has represented Scotland at under-19 level but is thought to be on the brink of a call-up to the full Canadian national team for their friendlies against Bulgaria and Moldova next month. Although anxious not to get ahead of himself, it is a call he is likely to accept. "The squad hasn't been named yet. But if I'm involved it would be a big honour for me. I'll speak to the gaffer and decide what's the best thing for me. The biggest achievement in your career is playing for your country and hopefully I can do that one day."