He thought he'd seen it all, thought there wasn't anything he hadn't experienced at Rangers, the club he first joined in 1964. Nearly half-a-century in football hadn't prepared him for Craig Whyte.
Jardine has been a quiet operator for so many years at Rangers that he hardly recognises the descriptions he's heard about himself recently. He doesn't see himself as the figurehead for the entire Ibrox support, nor a bully trying to throw his weight around, yet he has been portrayed as both. The club programmes and website tend to refer to him only as "club legend Sandy Jardine" yet after years of low-profile commercial work he has been a more visible – and significant – figure around Rangers recently than at any time since last playing for them in 1982.
If Rangers are a decapitated club, short of an owner, chairmen, directors and leaders, then Jardine has emerged to speak up for them. It is Jardine, and manager Ally McCoist, who have given the club a voice.
He led the 7000-or-so supporters who marched on Hampden to protest against the fine and year-long transfer embargo imposed by the Scottish Football Association. To some who do not support Rangers the tone was unnecessarily confrontational towards other clubs, who saw Jardine tell the crowd there could be "sanctions" against anyone deemed to be complicit in punishing Rangers. In short, a boycott of away games by the Rangers support. In a quiet Murray Park at 11am yesterday – just as the staff were told to gather at Ibrox to be told Bill Miller had been given preferred bidder status – Jardine was reflective and his tone was more conciliatory, but not by much.
His position remained unchanged: Rangers deserve punishment, yes, to serve as a deterrent to others. But the club's staff were victims every bit as much as those creditors who are owed sums which will never be paid. "Nobody knew what was going on. The players did nothing wrong, the staff did nothing wrong, the players did nothing wrong. Craig Whyte basically came in and raped this club."
The word is startling, but that's where Jardine's disbelief kicks in. How could Whyte behave as he did? "The effect it had on Rangers has been huge, but also the effect it has had on Scottish football. He hurt the whole game, not just Rangers. In many ways we feel like a victim. I know a lot of people say people have been bullies and have tried to intimidate, but the reason we've done what we've done is that it wasn't us. We didn't know what Craig Whyte was doing. He used the supporters' money to buy the club, the staff money to run it, and he didn't pay any of the bills.
"Craig Whyte is not going to suffer. It's us lot who are still here who will have to pick that up. We as a club have never owed money, except to the bank. We've always paid our debts."
Many other clubs' fans think it's too neat to pin all the blame on Whyte while Rangers try to wriggle away without truly significant punishment. There is a fervour among many to see them heavily penalised, and for natural justice to be done without fear nor favour. If Rangers were guilty of wrongdoing on an epic scale, then shouldn't the consequences match the convictions? Jardine's response is one that has been articulated previously by McCoist: by bringing down Rangers, and their enormous economic muscle, Scottish football would riddle its own feet with bulletholes.
"You can only say sorry so many times. I think everyone within the club realises there has to be punishment but it has to be measured. Rangers and Celtic dominate Scottish football. They go and beat teams quite comfortably, they win cups and trophies every year, they can be victorious, you can see how some supporters are taking the chance to stick it to us. But there is a reality in Scottish football. You might say it's not a level playing field, but unfortunately that's what we've got. We are special. Dundee United brought a couple of hundred fans here on Wednesday night. When we go to Tannadice we can take 6000 and fill their hospitality.
"There are four or five teams in Scotland who could go under [without Rangers]. Whatever the penalties are, we will survive as a club because of our vast fanbase. Other clubs will go out of existence. Other clubs have to think seriously. We are a different case. I'm making a statement here, that we are special. That's recognised in the broadcasters' and sponsors' clauses. They don't have a clause for what happens to their deal if, say, Hearts drop out of the league. But they do have a clause for Rangers dropping out. So they recognise we are special. There has to be a punishment, but what hurts us hurts Scottish football as well."
In Jardine's head, Rangers stand for decency, standards and respectability. They stand for paying taxes and squaring your debts, not the mortifying shame of going bust with a queue of creditors at the gates. What of that history, though? If Miller's "newco" plan is successful would Jardine, 63, feel he was still with the same club he graced as an outstanding full-back in the 1960s and '70s?
"Other fans will say our history is gone but they can say what they like. All those league-winning flags in the trophy room, we're not going to be taking them down. All those trophies in there, we won't be putting them away.
"If Bill Miller takes over I would say to him, and I'll say it to his face: 'you are the custodian of the club. I don't know how long you'll be here but however long it is you are not just the owner, you're the custodian and hopefully you'll look after the club and hand it on'. I hope he will be open, transparent and honest. If there's bad news, just say so."
As one of those in charge of the Rangers Fans Fighting Fund, Jardine has the mandate to formulate responses to decisions taken on Rangers by the SFA, SPL or individual clubs. He would endorse a boycott if supporters wanted one, but would rather avoid that. "I hope they never have to boycott away games. Supporters are angry, they're embarrassed that their club has been dragged through the gutter. They feel that no-one is defending them. I have never seen our supporters so angry. The hard bit has been holding them back.
"The experiences we've been through over the last eight or nine months . . . we would never want any other club to go through what we've been through. If ever a Scottish club or any club gets in bother the first thing we would want to do is help them, because this has been a traumatic experience for everyone at our club."