A DEPRESSING day for Rangers supporters will surely have been made even bleaker by the continued use of the ''a big boy did it and ran away'' defence.

As administrators moved in, as staff from cleaners to players pondered an uncertain future, as fans worried about the very existence of a club in which they have invested money and emotion, it was at best a clumsy, gauche move by Sir David Murray to issue a statement on his disposal of it.

The statement left him open to accusations that his motive was self-serving. The words were hardly convincing and will not comfort an Ibrox support that is all too well aware of what has happened at the club in previous years. It is possible to pick holes in any apologia but there are sentences and sentiments that demand to be addressed.

"The timing of the appointment of administrators is especially surprising given two facts,'' says Sir David, pointing out that the tax case has not been resolved and, second, that ''legal opinion on the strength of the club's case remains favourable''.

To attach the word arrival of administrators at Ibrox is as apt as attaching the word ''shocking'' to the fact Tuesday follows Monday. Presumably, too, the ''favourable'' legal opinion is coming from lawyers paid by Rangers.

The disposal of the club to Craig Whyte is also explained in a curious manner. The statement says: ''At the time of relinquishing control over the club, MIH [Murray International Holdings] endeavoured to ensure the future of the club through the various commitments and undertakings of Wavetower [Whyte's company].

"MIH received no consideration for the sale of its controlling shareholding, but instead agreed terms attaching to the sale of its stake in the club to ensure an immediate and substantial improvement in the club's financial position, as well as a significant investment in the club and its playing squad.''

This does not, of course, address the reality at the heart of the deal. It is this: Sir David had been trying to sell the club for years, there was no queue of buyers and Whyte was increasingly seen as the only hope in town. It is difficult to lay down severe, binding conditions when there is pressure to sell. It is impossible to impose them in retrospect.

The fact that MIH received ''no consideration'' for the sale of its shareholding has little to do with generosity and owes everything to the parlous position of the club. There is a glimmer of contrition. ''It recognises the tax tribunal proceedings have stemmed from arrangements put in place during the time of its ownership,'' says Sir David of a case Whyte fears may cost Rangers £70m.

But the impression of some acceptance of responsibility is almost immediately dispelled by the following: ''However, these arrangements and details of the proceedings were fully disclosed by the club to Wavetower and Craig Whyte in the due diligence process."

The subtext to this may be the notion that Whyte should have known the general depth of the mire he was about to step into. However, due diligence works both ways. Sir David and his team surely had ample time to decide if they were happy to pass the club to Whyte.

As the story slowly unravels, it may become clearer what culpability Whyte holds in the descent of the club into administration. But Rangers' financial problems did not hit Govan in the manner of a meteorite that has escaped all tracking.

Rangers spent more as a club than they brought in. This is undeniable. Rangers, too, paid employees in a manner that has caused the taxman to believe rules have been broken. The outcome of this case, as Sir David says, has not been decided. But it has inarguably cast a devastating shadow.

All this happened on the watch of Sir David and a gaggle of other directors who are now pointing fingers accusingly in the direction of Whyte. The present Rangers owner may not be blameless. There should be no dubiety over the culpability of the previous incumbent.