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Rangers and the ghost of Valentine's Days past, present and future

HAS it really been only one year?

Craig Whyte takes to the steps of Ibrox to announce Rangers are going into administration. Picture: SNS
Craig Whyte takes to the steps of Ibrox to announce Rangers are going into administration. Picture: SNS

Can only 12 months have passed since Rangers plunged into administration and their exhausting series of crises? On this day last year Craig Whyte was still the chairman at Ibrox and an aggressively defensive one at that: media bans and legal threats all around for anyone who displeased him. He had power, then. Plenty of support, too, from fans suckered into thinking bloggers and the media were making baseless mischief rather than unveiling truths and asking questions Whyte wanted desperately to sweep away. All his menaces turned to dust on February 14, 2012, when he put Rangers into administration via Duff & Phelps. A Glasgow kiss for Rangers on Valentine's Day.

The gruesome timeline of Rangers' collapse will be pored over on these pages and elsewhere this week, and even by the club itself. The rapacious tendencies of the current Rangers ownership means that even this humiliating episode can be packaged and exploited to raise some dough. For 99p supporters can watch "The Rising: Rangers One Year on from Administration" on Rangers TV this Thursday, the actual day of the anniversary. It isn't necessary to wait until broadcast time to speculate that the programme's tone – as with all in-house content produced by football clubs – will be uncritical and upbeat.

Whyte still haunts Rangers. He is a grotesque character not only from the past but their present and future too, reviled but still relevant. Whyte did not bother with £14 million of PAYE and VAT payments and that sent Rangers into a tailspin and gave rival supporters a lifelong licence to taunt them for being tax cheats.

There is visceral, undimmed hatred for Whyte around Ibrox – just think, he had the gall to request half-a-dozen directors' box seats as part of the deal when he sold Rangers – while others champion him as a figure of fun to goad the club. Dundee United supporters thought the best way to annoy Rangers when the clubs met was to distribute Craig Whyte masks.

Thanks to Whyte, Rangers' owners and directors are in a world where their every move is scrutinised, analysed and distrusted. Take the ongoing story of Orlit Enterprises considering a petition for a winding-up order against the club. How on earth did it come out that an obscure Singaporean company was thinking – still only thinking – of petitioning for a winding-up order? The tale emerged via blogs which have been gleefully unsympathetic to Rangers, meaning their claims must always be taken cautiously. Yet there is no doubt that Orlit are unhappy. A few years ago this would have been dismissed as a silly little attempt at attention-seeking by a company which would have its 15 minutes before getting its money and disappearing. Now? It's front-page news. Rangers went bust last year so any mention of new debt and unpaid bills sends all the hares running again.

Rangers' director of communications James Traynor took a scattergun to the media and what he called its "misleading" and "malicious" reporting of the matter. The club could not rely on "honesty, decency or integrity" from enough journalists, he said. Plenty of the more easily led supporters lap all of this up, of course, as if nothing had been learned from Whyte hiding behind a similarly confrontational attitude to unwelcome media coverage a year ago.

Ally McCoist offered a far more measured response to the increased scrutiny of everything going on at and around the club. "I don't think it's a bad thing. I'm actually delighted the finances of the club are being scrutinised," he said. "As manager and as a supporter I'm all for it, and I would hope the fans would think it's a good thing."

Plenty of them – those not gullible enough to confuse investigative journalism with "attacks on Rangers" – genuinely do. The fear of Green being "another Whyte", or of the pair of them having a secret deal, has receded, but PR aggression and attempts to brainwash fans by demonising the media do nothing to remove the need for ongoing scrutiny and investigation.

Green has orchestrated a successful share issue but the signing embargo means the football team has yet to see a penny of it. Plenty of supporters struggle to get their heads around the idea that a "debt-free" new regime can raise £22 million, get 45,000 crowds turning up and dramatically pare down its wage bill for Irn-Bru Division Three yet still talk of trading at a loss.

Social media sites groan under the weight of what Rangers rightly dismiss as malicious reporting and rumours. A loose network of blogs and messageboards has come up with much that proved to be innuendo-driven nonsense.

But some bloggers have unearthed some truly important and damaging information about Rangers – material that had to be exposed and highlighted – and to say they have a taste for finding more would be putting it mildly.

Green and everyone else at Rangers will have to get used to this, however much they may resent it. This is the reality Whyte left them with his legacy along with liquidation. Suspicion and distrust will swirl around the running of this club for years, from "enemies" obsessively determined to find more wrongdoing and from many reasonable Rangers fans vigilant and questioning lest the unthinkable happens and they end up in the hands of another Whyte.

Thanks to him, Rangers exist in a febrile climate unlike that around any other club in football.

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