THE love between a supporter and their football club is a curious thing.

It’s an utterly dysfunctional relationship. The fan’s mood and what they do on a weekend are masochistically determined by an entity which, in truth, they have little influence over.

And the love is with the club. Not the team. Sure, the manager and players are responsible for wins and defeats, but even heroes are only passing through. Soon enough, the star player will leave, a favourite of the stands replaced by someone new, but the bond remains as strong as ever. Even in the bad days.

It’s a family. You can criticise the out-of-form right-back but woe betide any outsider who does the same; in that a father can give a mischievous child into trouble but nobody else is allowed to even raise an eyebrow in the direction of his son or daughter as they scream the place down.


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We all sing about our team being “the finest the world has ever seen” with not a hint of irony while it is being belted out at a lower-league ground with the finest on the planet struggling to string together three passes.

It’s a love that is mostly blind, 99-per-cent unconditional and a one-way street. Your club, and this goes for every single football supporter, does not love you as much as you love them. A horrible thought, but nonetheless true.

And, yet, we all accept that’s the deal. And that our love for our club is stronger, deeper, more sincere and, frankly, better than yours.

“No, it’s not like any other love...this one is different, because it’s us,” as Morrissey sang before he went a bit Tommy Robinson.

And, yet, our football club lets us down more often than we would ever allow a partner. They break our hearts. Promises are unfulfilled. Getting dumped is awful but is it really any worse than blowing a two-goal lead in a cup final?

During a rough patch, they lose. A lot. We go back again and again. Like the saps we are. Ready for more emotional abuse, tears and snotters.

However, there is one aspect in all of this madness that we can control – how we behave. While the better half humiliates themselves on the pitch, we can at least show some dignity, accept it’s not our day and leave the scene quietly.


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We put up with the team making us look bad but it can never happen the other way. Fans behave themselves for the most part because we don’t want to let down the love of our lives no matter how badly they carry on.

But humans are complicated. We aren’t perfect. It’s why football grounds can be unpleasant. It’s why there is always a chance of one, two, three and then far too many people act badly when deep inside they know what they’re doing is the wrong thing.

This is why Rangers have been forced to shut 3000 seats for tomorrow’s game against Legia Warsaw. Some folk just won’t take a telling. Some simply don’t care enough.

Now, Rangers supporters have put up with more than most for a long time. Their loyalty has been something to behold. The love for their club – not the players, managers, directors, owner – if anything has been strengthened.

But there has always been a problem within the stands that has nothing to do with the actual football and now, at long last, the club is being punished.

Time and again, they have been told not to sing about “being up to their knees in Fenian blood,” not to make derogatory chants about the Pope or Catholics, to edit an expansive songbook so they didn’t get Rangers into trouble.

They have been warned and warned. By their own supporters as well. And, of course, the club and some of its greatest men.

“I’ve sung songs, I’ve been there on the terracing as a youngster, I’ve done that,” so said Walter Smith. “But, certainly, I wouldn’t put myself in a position to do it now. That’s what I would ask supporters to do. It’s fine when you have a great club, with a great tradition, as Rangers have, and people feel that’s a part of it.


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“But I think when there is a reaction, as there has been over the last few years, against those traditions then the people who do sing them – I stress that I don’t think it’s the majority of supporters – need to take into account that in a modern era it’s maybe not acceptable for them to do so.

“Therefore, they need to realise the club are going to suffer quite drastic consequences if they don’t stop.”

Want to know when this warning, about as subtle as a Gregor Stevens tackle, was made? It was April 2011. There was an improvement, for many years, but while Rangers fans in general have moved away from all of this, a loud and determined mob refuse to grow up, move forward and educate themselves. The UEFA ban was inevitable.

These people don’t believe they’ve done anything wrong. They are being picked on, apparently. It’s a conspiracy. An assault on free speech. All nonsense, of course.

Those who indulge in the Billy Boys don’t care about anything other than themselves, which leads me to believe they don’t love Rangers. How can you profess to love something you are going out of your way to hurt?

If the need to belt out racist bile is so overwhelming that you’re happy to risk your supposed club facing the stadium being closed, then you’re not a real Rangers fan. You’re just pretending, using the club as an excuse to behave badly.

Alas, too many genuinely think songs of hate are still the way to go.

But it’s not what Walter Smith wants. Nor Steven Gerrard, Dave King, any of the players and the guys who sit just a few rows away. It’s not what Rangers Football Club wants or needs. To think otherwise is not to think at all.