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Tom English On The Requisitioners V The Current Board


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Yesterday brought another picture for the Ally McCoist photo album, another shot of the Rangers manager shaking hands with a suit and declaring his support for a guy, Graham Wallace, with a “good pedigree”.

 

Without wishing to be unkind to Mr Wallace, whose CV is, indeed, highly impressive, we can, for now, file this photograph alongside McCoist shaking hands with the Easdale boys and, before them, Craig Mather and, before him, Malcolm Murray, and before him, Charles Green, and before that, Craig Whyte. It’s quite a collection.

 

Wallace is going to have to forgive us our scepticism for the moment because too many men with “good pedigree” have been unveiled at Rangers over the last few years only to metamorphose into an embarrassment a little while after. McCoist has endorsed all of them and hasn’t got it right yet.

 

It now appears that he’s throwing his weight behind the current board, saying on Friday that to do anything else at the forthcoming Annual General Meeting would be tantamount to career suicide.

 

He followed that up by saying that he wasn’t just going to vote for the current board, as opposed to the requisitioners led by Jim McColl and Paul Murray, because of his own survival instinct but that he would do so because he felt it was in the best interests of the club.

 

That phrase – as in, “I have the best interests of the club at heart” – has been bandied about Ibrox so often in recent years that it has now become almost as big a footballing cliche as “over the moon”, “game of two halves” and “sick as a parrot”.

 

If it was true that all these boardroom people, from David Murray onwards, had “the best interests of Rangers at heart” then they wouldn’t have become such an epic shambles, now would they?

 

McCoist, understandably, craves calm at Ibrox. He is fabulously well-rewarded for what he does but, still, these past few years haven’t been much fun for him.

 

Giving his imprimatur to the current board is McCoist backing what he thinks is the winning horse, a symbol of his belief that the board will not be beaten at the AGM. A belief that they have become too powerful now to back against. That the decision last week by Isle of Man-based hedge fund Laxey Partners to buy more shares and then commit their support to the board, and not the requisitioners, was a key play in the battle for Rangers and that McColl and company are close to being a busted flush.

 

McCoist has backed a few losers in this Rangers business over the last two years, but the smart money is riding on the board winning the big AGM vote in December. Rangers people are now entitled to ask about the strategy of the requisitioners. Little has been heard from McColl of late. Malcolm Murray gave it the cringe-making “No Surrender” routine in an interview he did with a fans’ group a few weeks ago, but where is the grand plan from these people? Telling the fans that they “can win the vote at the AGM simply because they must” is not exactly a gameplan.

 

Malcolm Murray talks enigmatically about the level of support the requisitioners have from some unhappy and nervy institutional investors but won’t say from where it comes and what it amounts to.

 

Sections of the Rangers support are busting a gut to try to bring about change to the board – change that is needed – but, all the while, what they are seeing is millions of Rangers shares being traded on the market and, seemingly, none of them being purchased by the McColls, the Murrays, the Kings – “the people with Rangers’ best interests at heart”.

 

If this is a war, then the requisitioners appear to be fighting it with pop guns. If they want control of the club, then McColl and King combined have more than enough money to hoover up shares and put themselves in a strong position, but they haven’t done it. They have allowed the Easdales to do it. They have allowed Laxey to do it. They have allowed the opposition to strengthen their position, while the requisitioners have sat on their hands, vowing that they have major support from institutional investors. If they do, then they are going to win a famous victory. If they don’t, given all they have said, they are heading for a humiliating defeat.

 

Let’s be honest, Rangers could have avoided all of this stuff years ago. Whyte was allowed in the door because no Rangers man would touch the club while the big tax case hung over it. The defence was that they’d have been mad to take it over while the big tax case horror show was still in play. Instead they stood back and allowed Whyte to finish a destruction job that David Murray had started.

 

Later, Green was allowed in the door because the Blue Knights didn’t blow him out of the water, even though they had the financial wherewithal to do so. Yes, there are serious issues surrounding the performance of Duff & Phelps throughout that period, but the fact remains that Green was allowed in the door and, by the time McColl and Walter Smith and others made their move, it was far too little, far too late.

 

Twice bitten. No, make that three times bitten. Still there is deep unrest, still there are mystery shareholders, still there is great uncertainty about the club’s finances and its future and still there is a lot of posturing from the requisitioners and, it would seem, not a lot of real action. McColl and King have the money to go to war and to win but they haven’t. It has reached a stage now where the Rangers manager has backed the board, partly because he has to, if he knows what’s good for him, and partly because he thinks he knows which way the wind is blowing in all of this.

 

There’s been so much noise about Rangers men being concerned about the way the club is heading and yet there is a simple truth in all of this. If they are that fearful that the place is moving towards the rocks again, why have they not used their financial muscle to change the narrative – as Fergus McCann did when Celtic were about to go under?

 

McCann arrived at Celtic, put his money down and did the deal to save the club. He didn’t talk, he executed. McCoist – like all managers – will have had cause at times to ask his players about hunger and whether they wanted victory more than their opponents.

 

You could ask the same of the requisitioners. Not the supporters, who fight on in various ways, but the men who are in the lucky position in life to have the wealth to do the things they truly want to do.

 

But do they want it enough? More and more, that seems to be becoming a rhetorical question.

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Richard Wilson's take on events.

Rangers supporters are still trying to make sense of the events of the past week.

 

The club has been in a turmoil of intrigue and politicking for months, and the intent of recent days has been to present a decisive outcome.

 

News of the appointment of Graham Wallace as chief executive and the declaration of Laxey Partners, now the largest shareholders, that they will support the current board at next month's annual general meeting was designed to be a definitive turn of events.

 

It remains unclear who Laxey Partners bought three million shares from last week, or the details of a further transaction of three million shares revealed in a statement to the Stock Exchange last Friday night, the voting rights of which were proxied to Sandy Easdale.

 

Whatever consolidation of shares took place, the current board can rely on the support of at least 35% of shareholders. The four nominees who hope to be elected as directors at the AGM - Paul Murray, Malcolm Murray, Scott Murdoch and Alex Wilson - are still backed by the institutional shareholders, but will need to secure most of the other available votes.

 

There is still time for developments, but it is drawing short. Official notification of the AGM, which is set for December 19, will need to be published by Tuesday. The board has been improved by the appointments of David Somers as chairman, Norman Crighton as non-executive director, and Wallace, who friends and former colleagues have described as "independent, steely, intelligent, shrewd and a man of integrity".

 

Questions remain, though, most notably how the board will address the need for fresh funding. Dave King remains keen to underwrite a share issue, while the institutional shareholders were only prepared to put more money into the club if they were confident in the board.

 

The new directors also need to win over a large swathe of the support, who remain ranged against those at the club who were involved with previous regimes. Wallace is the fourth CEO, after Ali Russell, Charles Green and Craig Mather, that the support are being asked to trust. He, and Somers and Crighton, will need to earn that faith, though, by exerting their independence.

 

It remains a fragile balance, even if the dynamic appears to have shifted inside the boardroom - where James and Sandy Easdale's block shareholding had allowed them to hold sway - and among the shareholders.

 

Ally McCoist is among the latter and although he acknowledged it would be "suicide" to vote against the board at the AGM, it is awkward for the manager, who is in almost daily contact with Somers and met Wallace for the first time last Friday.

 

"I'm just hoping it'll be a positive outcome in terms of at least knowing where we all are and moving forward from there," McCoist said of the AGM. "I've not made up my mind about any vote - I've got enough to concentrate on."

 

The manager has an awkward trip to Gayfield tomorrow to face Arbroath, then a Scottish Cup tie against Falkirk on Saturday. The team has won every league game so far. McCoist, though, does not believe it will be possible to maintain that record for the whole season.

 

"I just think that it's not going to happen," he said. "For any team in any league to think that - and I'm not playing mind games - it's not feasible. The proof would be the games we've had at Stenhousemuir, Forfar and Brechin."

 

Rangers are still in an uncertain place, at least off the pitch. Much will happen in the coming weeks.

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other than it completely misrepresenting what mccoist said on friday?

 

he very clearly stated he hadn't made his mind up yet who he was voting for.

 

English says it appears he is throwing his weight behind the current board. That's how it appears to me as well, and does anyone seriously believe that if the AGM was tomorrow McCoist would vote against the current board?

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English says it appears he is throwing his weight behind the current board. That's how it appears to me as well, and does anyone seriously believe that if the AGM was tomorrow McCoist would vote against the current board?

 

do you believe he would go against walter smiths wishes?

 

but it's not black and white he can vote yes to all.

 

regardless of all that english entirely misrepresents what ally said something wilson manages not to do and i think we all know why. wishful thinking and mischief making.

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do you believe he would go against walter smiths wishes?

 

but it's not black and white he can vote yes to all.

 

regardless of all that english entirely misrepresents what ally said something wilson manages not to do and i think we all know why. wishful thinking and mischief making.

 

The way McCoist votes will have nothing to do with Walter and everything to do with job preservation.

 

I've been away and haven't seen McCoist's latest comments but It doesn't negate English's criticisms in other areas.

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The way McCoist votes will have nothing to do with Walter and everything to do with job preservation.

 

I've been away and haven't seen McCoist's latest comments but It doesn't negate English's criticisms in other areas.

 

the rest of his column is fair and accurate it's just a shame it starts of dishonest. ally is in a difficult position for sure and i guess it depends how secret any ballot on these things is.

 

but as i say people seem entrenched in this view that it's on or the other but it needn't be. i can easily see requisitioners getting voted on and even the likes of laxley voting against stockbridge etc.

 

if ally had any sense he would give his proxy to walter and just say that as he work for the club it's better that someone independent and with rangers at heart has the votes.

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other than it completely misrepresenting what mccoist said on friday?

 

he very clearly stated he hadn't made his mind up yet who he was voting for.

It's pretty clear.

 

McCoist has still not decided which side he will publicly endorse, but is in a situation which makes it highly unlikely he would oppose his current employers.

 

That would be committing suicide, to be honest with you,” said McCoist

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