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Graham Spiers: 'I was back among the bears and I confess, I was impressed...'

No longer, when someone asks me in an aggrieved voice when I last actually paid my way into a football match, will I have to start flannelling to cover my pampered media tracks.

Rangers fans 'happily bantered with one another' despite the outcome. Picture: Sammy Turner/SNS
Rangers fans 'happily bantered with one another' despite the outcome. Picture: Sammy Turner/SNS

Not after Saturday lunchtime at Tannadice, where I purchased my ticket and entered the visitors' end to sit with 400 Rangers supporters who would become increasingly frustrated as the afternoon wore on.

It was a fascinating experience being back among "the bears". And I'll say this straight up; despite being well trounced on the pitch, and mercilessly goaded and baited from the packed Dundee United stands, the mood among this Rangers travelling support remained impressively buoyant and fairly good-natured.

There is a stereotype of a Rangers fan, particularly in light of the past 12 months' events – a po-faced and resentful creature, not in any way someone upon whom joy easily settles.

Well, such a fan was nowhere to be seen on Saturday. On the contrary, these Rangers supporters happily bantered with one another, while intermittently sticking two fingers up at the disparaging chants raining down on them from the other stands.

Did "the boycott" work? To a large degree, yes, in that there might normally have been 5000 Rangers fans at this game. And yet, the 400-odd who did go to Tannadice made for quite a decent throng, with one or two of them giving me a fairly tart reason for choosing to be present.

"I've been following Rangers week in, week out for decades and suddenly a guy comes along and tells me I can't go to the football?" one said, in some indignation, at Charles Green. Another put it more bluntly: "A boycott? Can't be arsed with that, mate."

I got there early – at least 45 minutes before kick-off – and watched as the dribs and drabs of Rangers fans came through the turnstiles and gathered in their seats.

The make-up of this travelling support was fascinating: quite a few men with their children, a lot of teenage Rangers fans, plus I thought a preponderance of older fans, of men well into their 60s and beyond.

Another group which stood out for me were the young "love birds", teenage sweet-hearts, with both boy and girl wearing their Rangers colours. Seated in front of me and behind were just such couples, though I can't say they were entirely consumed by the game.

What seemed, to me, to be proportionately missing, was the section of supporters in the 30-40 age bracket, who, you might say, are currently the more politically-active Rangers fans. To me, they seemed to be down in number on Saturday, having obeyed the boycott message.

As we all sat there, the Dundee United fans sang their ditties of abuse: about liquidation, zombies, "you're not Rangers anymore" and the rest. Given the traumatic last 12 months, this is the sort of stuff the Rangers support is going to have to get used to, and live with, for years to come.

And let's face it, had liquidation struck Celtic, Dundee United or any other club, these Rangers fans would have been at the front of the queue in terms of their own goading and lampooning. There almost seemed to be an acceptance of this, as a basic law of human nature.

Sitting amid all this I have to confess I was impressed by those around me. There is definitely a type of Rangers fan today who has had to consume an almighty slice of humble pie – an experience many of them have scarcely known before – but who is gamely getting on with supporting his (or her) team.

You still meet the "this is fun" brigade – those who will not admit to their dire fate and who, a tad self-consciously, try to play up the "fun" of facing East Stirlingshire at home followed by Annan Athletic away.

But Saturday confirmed to me that many Rangers fans are getting on with these tribulations, unbowed in their love of their club. And I just don't see how you can knock this.

It remains weird, even after all these months, standing among Rangers fans and watching so poor a team as Ally McCoist's on Saturday.

As the game wore on, and Rangers so obviously lacking in many areas, a sullenness set in among their fans which hadn't been apparent for the opening 70 minutes, even at 2-0 down.

It was as if a bomb-alert had been announced when Jonny Russell made it 3-0 to United after 77 minutes: up people got and started streaming for the exits.

Two lads next to me, who had spent much of the afternoon teasing me about my love-hate relationship with their club, didn't even bid me goodbye; in an instant they were gone, one merely looking up to give me a cursory wave before their heads disappeared down the exit tunnel.

We piled on to the streets outside at the final whistle, with jubilant United fans pouring past us. I like Dundee United fans, I find them a good-natured bunch. But the Rangers fans hate them.

"Aw, Spiersy, what's the score, eh, eh?" a Dundonian crowed at me as I headed for my car. I suddenly felt very confused.

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