Farewell is the hardest word after all

Date: 16th November 2021

The latest blog from our resident writer Donald Stewart

Farewell is the hardest word after all

“Dear Elton John, it’s out, you’re wrong…

Icons are something we all buy into. The players, the teams, the managers, the saviours. Right now, there may be an increasing feeling that Steve Clarke is working his way up to a statue outside Hampden but he, as he well knows, is flavour of this month, no necessarily the next yin.

Sir Alex Ferguson managed to make himself a hero in not one but two places, Sir Kenny Dalgleish did so in a somewhat similar fashion but for every fitba person who has made a solid impact, there are dozens who have been cast as the Judas, the snake, the betrayer.

For me, the reaction from some fans to the decision of our late 80’s hero John Sludden to cross the divide from Ayr United to Kilmarnock was a step too far. People speculated, poured over interviews, rumours, conspiracies and condemned the man. I found it over the top but cannot deny a deep sense of betrayal. For many of those reading this there shall be an underwhelming sense of who?

People who mean a tremendous amount to fitba fans tend to be people who are not always centre stage for the rest of the fitba world.

And then the biggest betrayer of all may always be Mo Johnston. The, I never want to play for another club man, sailed across to the other side moment was a pitch perfect example of how we all get to see things in a very different light – a betrayal or a sea change in sectarianism?

And so, the other half of the Auld Firm has woken up to their greatest betrayal since the last one.

Celtic fans had it with Brendan Rodgers when the lure of Leicester became too much for him. Many a Celtic fan rated Leicester somewhere between Elgin City and Stirling Albion in comparison to their great club as this turncoat took all his good work and turned it into pieces of silver that would sustain his family but destroy his reputation. I have heard many a criticism laid at Rodgers’ door about Chinese possibilities and the way he went about the Leicester job and none of it painted him positively.

There shall be little doubt that Steven Gerrard is in for similar treatment – it has already begun.

He did, apparently turn down the Newcastle job after Rafa Benitez left so there can be a defence mounted but Aston Villa may well be in the same category for Ranger’s’ fans as Leicester was for Celtic fans but is sainthood in Glasgow worth more than the riches of the English Premier League?

If you spend any time interviewing players, as I have done, and you discover that the desire is always to play at the highest level. Ayr United was never the highest level, for managers Celtic and Rangers are in a different way, also not the highest level.

It is a sad reality that we have found ourselves in a rich, money led set of circumstances that even with the vast diaspora of fans and global reach of both Celtic and Rangers that we cannot compete with the likes of Aston Villa, or Leicester City or a plethora of teams in the lower reaches of the English Premier League, or even in the Championship: League One might be our level.

And so Rangers fans have awoken to the sad reality that the man who delivered the League, who stopped Celtic getting their 10th Championship in a row has gone. He has taken his assistant with him and there is a new chapter in the club to come.

Who next?

Speculation is rife as you might expect and the farewell of once a Ranger, always a Ranger from Gerrard was a nice touch, but these are often hollow sentiments as fans grapple with what it is that is coming next.

For the rest of us it’s an intriguing thought. My own club have already changed their manager, Gary Bollan has gone from Cowdenbeath, and John Hughes is back in management at Dunfermline Athletic. There is a healthy merry-go-round but a shaky career pathway for all. Up one minute, on the slide the next, out the door the following day. Farewell can often be the least of your worries.  “

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