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Spiers on Sport: why Rangers fans seek ‘vengeance’ on Dundee United

The Rangers fans - and now their club - have spoken.

There will be next to no Rangers supporters travelling to Tannadice for the Scottish Cup fifth round clash with Dundee United in February.

What a saga this has become of bitterness, aggro and not the faintest whiff of vengeance.

A snapshot of Rangers supporters’ views over the past 24 hours had revealed quite a huff and a disdain over all things Dundee United.

With various fans’ groups claiming the tie should be boycotted, Charles Green, an Ibrox CEO who has learned how to play “onside” with supporters, swiftly issued a statement saying no Rangers ticket allocation would be taken for Tannadice.

A recent history of bad blood is cited as the reason. “The dislike between Rangers and Dundee United fans has grown more than with any other club,” said Ross Blyth of the Rangers Supporters Assembly.

The ill-feeling felt towards United by some Rangers fans comes in layers. In 2009 the Tannadice club failed to reimburse thousands of travelling fans when a game between the two clubs was abandoned due to a water-logged pitch.

Then came a stack of events around the disintegration of Rangers, and the perception that United and in particular its chairman, Stephen Thompson,  were dancing on the club’s grave.

Thompson is said by some to have been outspoken on the newco Rangers being denied re-entry to the SPL – though, in fact, his was a stance shared by another 10 SPL club chairmen.

Add to this simmering pot the fact that Dundee United knocked Rangers out of last season’s Scottish Cup, and a further rammy over the gate-money for that tie, and you have quite a feud developing.

There are grounds for resentment among Rangers fans, especially given the money they plough into the Scottish game, though some of the stuff currently doing the rounds also sounds a tad hysterical.

One Rangers fans’ statement implied that Dundee United, along with other SPL clubs, wanted Rangers “destroyed” last summer during the various wrangles over the club’s future.

For the most part, the wider consensus in Scottish football was that Rangers should face the consequences of the sins of the ‘oldco’. Save for a few idiots, no-one mentioned “destruction”, not least given that, in that regard, the Ibrox club appeared to need no extra hands.

A large section of the Rangers support, as they put it, will not “forgive or forget” last summer’s events. Rightly or wrongly, they view the rest of Scottish football, together with some willing conspirators at the SFA and SPL, as being out to get them.

A consequence of this is a recurring desire among Rangers fans to see the SPL either flop or disintegrate. Perhaps more tellingly, and from quite a lofty height, some Rangers fans even warn of imminent destruction wrought by themselves.

HeraldScotland today carries a photo of Rangers fans bearing a banner which read: “Sink Us And We’ll Sink You.” Don’t anyone say they weren’t warned.

A boycott is every fan’s right, and this one appears to be galvanising the Rangers support. Fans cannot be expected to muzzle their grievances, certainly not today when organised events via the internet can sweep like wildfire.

This one, however, may have to be a one-game stop. Certainly, were this young Rangers team to make a serious assault on reaching a Scottish Cup final at Hampden, the club’s support would be beside itself at the prospect.

It would be hard to imagine a more lauded or celebrated Rangers Scottish Cup triumph, were it to be in any danger of happening come May. It would provide the ultimate two-fingered salute to the world by Ibrox fans who have felt persecuted on all sides.

But a Rangers fans’ boycott of the Scottish Cup wouldn’t go all the way, would it? In that scenario, the desire to support the team would probably overcome the current “eye for an eye” mentality.

It looks like Dundee United, with almost perfect timing, will bear the brunt. But the real winners – and it will be the ultimate victory – will be on the park.

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