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King is playing the only game in town, but is it possible to win?

THE truce in the battle for Rangers was, ironically, ended with Dave King's assertion that he did not want to fight.

Dave King has repeatedly said that Rangers' only business plan at the start of the season should be to challenge Celtic at the top of Scottish football every single year.
Dave King has repeatedly said that Rangers' only business plan at the start of the season should be to challenge Celtic at the top of Scottish football every single year.

He has deployed his big guns, however.

It is increasingly clear that the struggle for Rangers may be protracted. King initially said he would step back until the board's review is published next month.

This week he found intervention to be irresistible, perhaps in recognition of the truth that it is difficult to find common ground between King and the incumbent board. Put crudely, King wants to spend now to ensure Rangers are competitive with Celtic on the club's inevitable return to the SPFL Premiership. The board - belatedly and finally - is coming to the opposite view, namely that costs must be cut to save the club.

It may be impertinent to presume what the review of Graham Wallace, the Rangers chief executive, will finally say but it will not be along the lines of "let's throw £50m in, and give it a whirl".

First, it did not take yesterday's announcement that the £1m loan is being transferred to shareholder George Letham to apprise the waiting world of Rangers' perilous financial position.

Second, the lack of cohesive plan has dogged Rangers since liquidation but Wallace seems to be pointing the club in the direction of an age of austerity of George Osborne proportions. The review will be published next month and is not likely to resemble the King vision.

It will form the battleground for the next phase in the war for Rangers and King, temperate and conciliatory when speaking to the press on Monday, may have to become more aggressive and, indeed, more fluid in his pursuit of the club.

The questions are legion. What kind of man is King? "He is the real deal," says someone close to the machinations that have surrounded Rangers in recent years.

"He listened and took on board our views and talked sense when we met him," says a representative of the Rangers support.

Yet King has also distanced himself from the plan to withhold cash for season tickets. "I have not been involved in these plans," he told Herald Sport on Monday.

Yet supporters talk of advice given by King and there will be a meeting with lawyers later this week to discuss the plan.

King has played his trump card in promising up to £50m, but was also frank about the attitude of some supporters. It was interesting to hear him reference people who "want to fight no matter what".

But the most important sentence was lost under the hype of the pledge to fund a resurgence of Rangers. Asked if he had the big financial hitters at his back ready to weigh in, King said: "No". He then added: "The amount of investment of senior heavyweights will be okay but not as much as fans may think."

This was frank and honest. It was also a reminder that King may be the only game in town for those opposed to the board.

So how can King win? How can an incumbent board be ousted by a businessman who has said clearly he does not want to buy the club in the orthodox manner of buying shares?

The first impediment to King is the "fit and proper person test". One source in the City last night said the Rangers NOMAD (nominated advisor and broker to company) would declare King unfit.

Another believed that King, who had more than a little local difficulty with the tax authorities in South Africa, may just have enough wiggle room to sit at the Ibrox top table.

He would, of course, have to pass a test by the Scottish Football Association. This would go to the board and would be an interesting call. The outcry if the putative Saviour of Rangers was declared a persona non grata would be deafening.

These decisions, of course, may never have to be taken. King's power play may simply fizzle out. He needs to put the incumbent board in a position where his presence is not only desirable but necessary.

The fans are a factor in this strategy. Their loyalty in the face of draining circumstances has been astonishing but is it sustainable? Have a section of the support become just plain scunnered?

King is an attractive option for the disillusioned. Yet he also carries echoes of a troubled past.

The unknown factors are a) how many will renew season tickets and b) how many of those who do so find King's plan to be credible and his leadership irresistible.

King can use any groundswell of support as leverage to find a way to hold power at Ibrox. But he is determined not to buy shares, citing his distaste of paying money to shareholders rather than spending money on the club. Shares, too, would only be sold to King at a premium.

His best hope is to force a share issue. But this requires the compliance of the present board who would be asked to dilute their shareholding in the club. Circumstances may push them into acceding to this course of action but it far from their preferred option.

The interim figures, to be published this week, will give an indication of the depths of the problem at Rangers. The business review will provide one answer as to how they will be addressed.

They will both make interesting reading for King as he ponders his next move. He almost certainly has the money, he has influential fans in his corner but there is not yet a clear, definitive road map to his destination.

But King is still championed by those with a personal experience of the turbulence at Ibrox.

"Don't underestimate him," said a source in the City who has a stake in Rangers. "He has a habit of getting what he wants."

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