Wednesday, January 09, 2013

Rangers: Say no evil

Jim Traynor has spoken.

We better all listen.

His second blog as the supremo of communications at Ibrox - jolly decent it was of the Daily Record to give him his first Rangers blog as part of his valedictory message to their paying readers - hit every target.

Let nobody accuse James of being high brow. He's so tuned to the lowest common denominator he can name check Benidorm and think he's got away with it.

A tour de force from James is always a thing of beauty, even if it doesn't last forever.

He gets a hard time from some quarters does Jim but I've always agreed with him on a number of issues.

I agreed with him when he said Rangers should end up in the Third Division. I agreed with him when he said Rangers' divisional rehabilitation would be better served by a new manager.

I agree with him too, when he says Rangers will eventually take their place in the top flight. The SPL? Yep, if it still exists. That flies in the face of comments made by Charles Green. But it doesn't mean Charles has been speaking with a forked tongue. Good salesmanship often only flirts with the truth.

I also agree with Jim when he hints at the power of social media. That old line about absolute power corrupting absolutely? The serried ranks of Scottish football tweeters, bloggers, Facebook-ers, Kiltr-ers, forum users et al don't yet have absolute power. But they can be influential and some will always confuse influence with a chance to be destructive.

Jim is right - again - that there are idiots out there using social media. Just as there are idiots writing in the press, just as there idiotic talking heads taking a shilling for bad punditry, just as there are idiots supporting football clubs, just as idiocy infiltrates the corridors of power at our football clubs and our footballing authorities.

Idiocy abounds in society. So does decency, intelligence, the milk of human kindness. We are a mixed bag, us people. Social media reflects us.

The good, the bad and the odd. Jim has never really understood that. He's worn his ignorance of it as a badge of pride. That's fair enough. He's hardly alone.

But it is intriguing. Because Jim's first blog for Rangers suggests he's now in the social media battleground.

It suggests that Rangers are going to try and colonise social media, turn the club website into an opinion driven blog and fight the battles their fans want them to fight using the very channels Jim has previously dismissed. 

I'd guess Rangers will eventually try to monetise that. It could be revolutionary. If there are ten Rangers blogs slagging off the SPL, 10,000 Rangers fans slagging off the SPL on Twitter, then how powerful could it be to harness that, take it in-house? The staid, say nothing drudgery of club websites could be blown away.

All by learning from social media.

Not that Jim would admit it. If you can't beat 'em, join 'em. But don't give them the satisfaction of telling them that's what you're doing.

If that is the plan then Jim is not just building barricades to keep out the tweeting enemies of Ibrox. He's also planting his tank amid a thriving Rangers social media ecosystem. And why not?

If there's an audience out there then why not nab them for the good of the club? It's common sense and too few clubs do it.

But there is a danger there. A danger that walks hand in hand with Jim's Phil Mitchell-like threat - these references to TV shows are contagious - to critics of Charles Green's Ibrox project.

Because what Jim really dislikes - more than he dislikes Twitter, more than he dislikes BBC pundits - is opinions.

Not all opinions. He's a big fan of his own opinions and he's being paid to be a big fan of Charles Green's opinions.

No, it's opinions that he disagrees with that really wind him up. And now he's threatening to throw the full weight of Rangers against any journalists who deviates from his world view.

Really? Militant new media atheist and opinionated scribe Jim Traynor using new media to threaten opinionated scribes. He'd have spiked this story himself.

We are, as football fans, a shallow bunch. We love to hear club employees say "woe betide the journalist/tweeter/opposing manager that slags off our club."

Unfortunately that means too many of us too often fall for the charming chancers that can blight this game.

Often it's those journalists and tweeters who hold the money men at clubs to account.

I'd agree with Jim's motivation: we'd all like to do our jobs free from the glare of critical comment.

We don't all have that luxury. Journalists should hold people to account. Strange that Jim Traynor should so quickly forget that.

Strange too that a man so against social media should now be employing social media by any other name to get his message across.

Get the fans onside, hunker down and turn that bunker mentality into cash.

Make sure every story critical of your new boss is derided as fantasy by your fans.

That's Jim's utopia.

I think Rangers fans, the spiritual guardians of their club, deserve more than that. They've carried the club through a nightmare. For doing that they deserve more from the future than Jim Traynor's airbrushed fantasy.

Sunday, January 06, 2013

SPL: Breaking bad?

The SPL's winter leave of absence seems to have taken a few people by surprise.

It is only a fortnight though and we're not supposed to have a winter break as such, so they've maybe been trying to keep it quiet.

There also seems a reasonable chance that the holiday will land plum in the middle of the most clement stretch of winter weather.

Maybe somebody could ask Neil Doncaster what the chances of that would be, of the SPL ushering in a winter break through the back door only for the bad weather to arrive in grand style just as we get back to the football?

They'd need to find him first. The Scarlet Pimpernel of Hampden is Mr Doncaster.

They seek him here, they seek him there. And then they just give up because he's never got anything useful to say anyway.

Still, the Doncaster Bank Holiday is a fine time to look back on the season so far. A chance to savour what we've seen and look ahead to the joys still to come.

So: Celtic will win the SPL. Dundee will be relegated. The ten other teams will fill the remaining ten positions, the order to be decided when their befuddling mutual pattern of inconsistency settles into a more readable pattern of inconsistency.

Simple game, punditry.

Celtic, certainly, have huffed and puffed. Heroic carrying of the standard in Europe doesn't always equal domestic bliss. As Churchill was rudely awakened by the order of the boot in 1945, so the SPL is blowing a giant raspberry at Georgios Samaras this season.

Theories abound on their SPL stutters.

I got a close up view last Saturday at Easter Road. It didn't appear to a be a Krypton Factor-esque teaser.

There are good enough players in the SPL to take advantage of bad defending and there is spirit enough in most teams to stand up to Celtic's attempts to get back on terms.

They might do that standing up physically, aggressively, energetically and in your face-dly. The answer, it seems to me, is not to get increasingly miffed and give up the ghost but to try and match the chippy upstarts.

When Celtic do that consistently - or when other teams find they have other battles sapping their energy - they will accelerate clear.

And the acceleration will be smoother if they avoid entrusting their best chance of any given game to Efe Ambrose's knee.

Dundee's board this week stepped back from the brink of sacking manager Barry Smith and promised to spend some cash in January.

I fear this might mean poor Barry gets his jotters in February after Dundee whittle away January spending no money.

Either way they look doomed. They look like a side that fell short of promotion getting an unexpected promotion with little chance to prepare for the challenges of that promotion.

Strange that. The unluckiest winners of Scottish football's daft summer.

If the job Smith did in taking Dundee to second in the First Division was good enough for his board, then the job he's doing for them in the SPL should be good enough for his board.

The rest? Stick a pin in them. Few will splash the cash in January so the transfer window is likely to be a study in survival, of holding on to assets and snapping up the odd bargain.

Relaxing at Butlins or Haggerston Castle this coming fortnight each manager will be able to reflect on good games, a few decent results and bad games, the odd poor run.

"We're building something here" say managers in the English Premier League and Scottish national coaches on the brink of being sacked.

Most SPL managers are only ever building a work in progress. The one that emerges with the most competent transitory package will grab second place in the league. High stakes when you're trying to build a house on sand.

High stakes and high pressure.

Kenny Shiels has gone the full Colonel Kurtz in Kilmarnock. Every post match interview Terry Butcher gives is a coded plea for help as his red wine dependency grows in Inverness. John McGlynn was reduced to tramping about in the Dingwall puddles wearing a shirt and tie coupled with tracksuit bottoms.

Will nobody think of the managers?

Or the accountants?

Money. Money. Money.

Neil Lennon bought Celtic the winning lottery ticket with Champions League progress.

Things have been bleaker elsewhere.

Hearts extended the begging bowl, counted the takings and still don't look as if they're completely sure how the fiscal circle can be comfortably squared.

Rod Petrie produced a set of accounts at Hibs that proved that frugalness and disastrous leadership create a black hole. 0 + 0 = -£900,000.

I've started building a scale model of Aberdeen's proposed new stadium out of matchsticks. It will be finished before Stewart Milne is able to pull the trigger and discharge the silver bullet of leaving Pittodrie.

We must concede that it's not been a season awash with cash. That, of course, has been the SPL way for a number of years.

Will any of the impecunious and infirm die on the operating table? That can't be discounted, as much as we hope it can be avoided.

The shouts of "hell mend you, it's your own fault" emanate from another place.

But no club in the SPL is a financial basket case because of events in 2012.

Those events might yet quicken a monetary decline. Eventually they might be pinpointed as the tumbling pebbles that set off an avalanche of doom at some clubs.

It's likely, however, that any club that falls victim will already have been flirting with financial insanity.

Most clubs need to think smarter. There's a leadership deficit in Scottish football and it's evident at club level and national level.

There's nothing inherently wrong with accountants and marketing men running clubs or running the game.

There is a problem if we have incompetent accountants and incompetent marketing men running clubs and running the game.

And that's been a problem since Motherwell-born billionaires were still Motherwell-born billionaires.

What solace can be sought from the football?

Some games have been absolutely honking.

The winter break by any other name was ushered in with a derby howler at Tynecastle.

Funny thing though. As Hearts racked up 500 corners in a 15 minute spell, as the Hibs defence heroically repelled the maroon advance then stood heroically about looking glaikit in the six yard box waiting for the next barrage, I was involved in that game.

Purple of face, hoarse of throat involvement.

The Sky sponsored imperialism of English football and the Scottish media's "no such thing as a meaningless Old Firm game" mantra can hide an obvious truth: without an emotional attachment to one of the teams, televised games are often pish.

People tell me - I say it myself - that nobody outside Scotland is interested in the SPL.

People - often the very same people - tell me that a lot of televised games are dire adverts for the SPL.

Surely we can take comfort from that? Crap, aye. But in the SPL nobody can see you being crap.

And we've given our TV masters a few moments of excitement, the odd flash of skill, the unearthing of a player or two who might, with a fair wind, one day be talked up during Sky's coverage of Swansea v Wigan.

The patient still has a pulse.

I once overheard a chat in my local:

"Seen Joe lately?"

"Aye, awffy limp he's got now."

"Aye, right enough. Bad limp. He's a quick limper though, he can limp at quite a rate."

Armageddon is not catching up with us yet.