Stephen O’Donnell has written about Rangers. From their inception to their demise.
He has meticulously searched beyond the mainstream to find all the bits you never knew about the club, but thought you did.
You were wrong.
These are the bits they didn’t want you to know, and the bits they’d rather you’d forget.
Ralph Malph gives his thoughts on the story of the blues…
How much do you really know about Rangers ?
Well, they died. In 2012.
But if you got your information from the media alone, you’d be excused for thinking they didn’t die after all. They somehow survived liquidation, and carry on as before, the same brand, the same location and the same “history “.
Except that up until they lost their history, which went with their club, supporters and historians weren’t that keen on letting several skeletons out of their closets.
For example, as a club that won their only European trophy in their centenary year, they didn’t make -and haven’t made-too much of a fuss about what was, or should have been, a memorable occasion for them.
A historic one , in fact.
But , as Stephen O’Donnell explains, there isn’t too much in their history to shout about.
In previous works, O’Donnell has dealt in humour and fiction, but with a cutting edge that reflects modern Scottish society. Described by one reviewer as “Scotland’s Roddy Doyle ” , his style is almost conversational and reflects the great storytellers of many a bar room, interspersed with lines that occasionally jolt the reader out of the room he shares with the narrator, to reminding him that he is reading a book, and not sitting in the bar with him.
In that sense, O’Donnell can make sure the important points in the theme of the story get across.
A previous book, “Scotball “, dealt with a fictional talk radio show about football. whilst entertaining for what it was, there was the sinister undercurrent of media manipulation running through the work, which reflected how the news and views are presented in Scotland.
Scotball, whilst a light hearted story, became a serious work on just how the mainstream works in Scotland, especially where one club in particular is concerned, and the way in which the establishment protects it, in the early part of the 21st century.
Scotball led the author to look a little more deeply into the life and times of Rangers, and those institutions connected with it, and the results are surprising.
If you think Rangers are getting favours now, you should have been around at the beginning and the middle as well as the end.
There are several themes touched on this book, racism, fraud, bigotry, theft and so on, but the word “cheats” is the one that would best describe what runs through their history from start to finish.
You won’t find that in the media, which is why this book is an essential read for anyone who has an interest in Scottish football.
It is also , perhaps more importantly, an important read for anyone with an interest in sporting integrity.
What happened to Rangers is not for the local audience alone, it should serve as a warning for all fans of all football clubs of what can happen when secret societies take control and influence over a large part of any industry, which is what the sport has become.
And , as the book shows, it’s not a recent thing.
It’s been going on for a while. Which is why honest appraisals of the club from neutrals are very hard to find.
O’Donnell had to spend a lot of time getting to the information in the book, and one does fear for his security when it is out there in the world.
He’s not only drawn attention to an entity that openly practiced racism and sectarianism, as well as fraud, theft and latterly massive tax evasion but shows how and why it happened.
I never understood why there was virulent anti-catholicism amnd anti Irish racism at the club, which was happy enough to go along with the Auld Firm tag as it suited both Rangers and Celtic to make money and live in a symbiotic relationship.
This book is the first work that explains how the change came about, and pinpoints exactly when and how it happened.
For that alone, it’s worth the purchase price.
The first part of the book deals with what Rangers began as, and how they developed into a huge brand.
The sort of information the media kept from the public in pre internet days
The second part deals with how they threw it all away and slid into oblivion. which, of course, was widely reported on the internet
Look at the first part as the book of Revelations, and the second as a book of Collation.
When chronologically laid out in the text, the reckless nature of Murrays ego driven spending cannot be seen as anything other than self destructive.
The sheer number of players and amount of money spent when written down is astonishing.
Follow that with his imaginative salary scheme, and their demise was assured.
Yet none of it was played out in the media. no one asked questions, no one issued warnings, and above all, the authorities and banks turned a blind eye to all of it.
Tangled Up In Blue does ask these questions, it reminds us of what happened and it should serve as a warning to all supporters all over the world of what can happen when a governing body allows one club to flaunt the rules.
The answers to the questions posed in the final years of the club can be found in the annals of the early years.
It’s just that no one else has bothered to look for them.
O’Donnell deserves praise for tackling an issue that seasoned journalists have refused to touch, and his reward is the definitive work on Rangers, all the way from the pioneers right through to the pall bearers.
It’s not just about Rangers, in fact , it’s not just about football.
this book should appeal to anyone who has a sense of honesty and decency about them, because it shows what can happen when both qualities are absent, from either a person or an organisation.
It’s about the much wider issue of allowing unhealthy influence in society to grow unchecked to such an extent that it very nearly brought the whole edifice crashing down around itself.
Indeed, as the story continues beyond the book with the new “rangers “, it still might.
Available to pre order on amazon now, Tangled Up In Blue will be released on August 19.
Which will be about a week before the author is forced into hiding…