Christmas time, mistletoe and wine, moisture sizzling on overhead lines...once again the Festive Season brings with it to our soggy corner of the world not a crispy, Victorian snowscape but a squelchy, Weegieian mushscape, in which the fallen leaves of autumn moulder beside the beer cans and crisp pokes along the pavements of our towns. What an issue we have with putting rubbish where it belongs! Yesterday the dog proudly delivered to my feet a crushed can of Holsten Pils; not that unusual, except that the can was of the old-school ring pull variety, which I haven't seen for nigh on two decades.
At least the middens of our streets is consistent, something you can rely on. Most things, Christmas included, are constantly changing. Even Gersnet now features text speak: emphatically not 'lol'. Shopping for presents the other day, I was assailed by a Sky poster advertising a new version of the Cinderella movie, with the heroine herself prominently displaying a cleavage you could post your Christmas cards down. Being male and straight I hardly object to the female form but it's less a message of good cheer and more an excuse to gawp at some tits. Perhaps in the future the Yuletide Log and fairy atop the tree will be joined by a bosom hung jauntily on every door.
But like the beer cans and despite the changes, the past remains with us for as long as we leave it lying around, and people will find both good and bad things to do with the remains.
Translating that statement onto Rangers presents something of an existential philosophical poser, as this club has long made a fetish of the past, both culturally, as being rooted in a tangible and traceable Scottish heritage, as well as for less savoury reasons of commercial exploitation. Where does one draw the line between the dignity of those ship workers who packed Ibrox over a century ago, and the beers cans they may have dropped on route? We each draw our own lines, which probably explains why so many people have different views of the same institution.
Even so, nothing Rangers has done previously comes close to the commercial vulturism of Mike Ashley and his awful Sports Direct operation. Revelations this week in The Guardian suggest a new level of pressure being brought to bear on this business, but anyone getting their hopes up are surely overly optimistic, even at this time of the year. The best anyone can hope for is a small PR change in Sports Direct's M.O.; real change will not be effected, for that is not how business works.
In a previous job of mine, the employer served notice that anyone who clocked in more than three minutes late would not be paid for a full quarter hour after their shift started. The rather obvious result of this, that anyone more than three minutes late sat in the canteen for 15 minutes on the grounds that they weren't being paid, didn't seem to occur to whoever thought up the idea - and why should it? In late 20th and early 21st century Britain, Scotland included, the employer holds every card and if the employee doesn't like facing an opponent with a loaded deck, the employee can sling his hook.
Sports Direct will view their present bad publicity as little more than an irritation, and I have grave doubt that HMRC will take any action. Virtually every low paying job in retail has a staff search in operation, and these are, to the extent of my knowledge, without exception done out with paid working time. It's just accepted, although not by disgruntled staff. It is odd that the crappier the goods, the more paranoid the business is about staff theft - were staff not on minimum wage they'd would be more likely to purchase a Donnay T-shirt at £3 than nick one - it's a lot of risk for very little reward.
However, the point is that if we hope this pressure may affect SD to the extent that it alters their parasitic relationship with our club I feel we are being overly cheery. An alternative title for this thread was going to be 'Seven Years a Slave' because I think that in the end we will be obliged to see out contracts with SD in full; the entire weight of business practice is behind them. Only some unforeseen event might get us off that particular hook, and 'you never know' is hardly a strategy to be relied on. As we approach the time of year when we look back at time past and forward to days to come, I'm not certain there will be any quick - or even modest - resolution to our corporate clusterf*ck.
It seems that we're faced with a very long haul. Unless there are people who are willing to fund the club twice - once to provide the resources needed to run it properly, and once to replace the revenue leeching out Ibrox and into Sports Direct - we have to crawl forward, alive and a lot healthier than before, but heavily debilitated by the infestation in our bowel. And as we saw at the weekend, that might mean some steps back as well as forward. Here, it's our history which hampers us, because quite a lot of fans don't seem greatly inclined to cut the team any slack.
Asking the paying customer not to worry about results for a seven year period is probably a bit much, but there has to be a realisation that we have a long way to go yet. As far as I can see, we need one striker, one who would be playing at a level below his ability, and we'd be well placed for automatic promotion - not that we're badly placed as it is. Going forward, we certainly need a better centre back pairing, given the amount of work they have to do even at Championship level. Granted the top league isn't much better but it is a bit stronger and we will need to address that.
Other than that the main focus must be to keep inching forward, a game at a time, while trying to find some antibiotic which might flush the worst of Sports Direct's norovirus out our system. It may be that time is the greatest healer - but who ever gives Rangers time?
Anyway, Merry Christmas! To paraphrase Tiny Tim, God help us, every one.
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