The Turtle and the Wiley FoxBy: Cham | March 14th, 2010
One of my favorite “thinking man’s” footie blog twohundredpercent has produced a very lucid, albeit slightly scathing deposition about this year’s (one-sided) see-saw Old Firm rivalry. In truth it’s more of what Celtic (and, I imagine Rangers) supporters have always known: Rangers, given their dread financials, have outplayed Celtic, somewhat financially sound, and the rest of the league with relative ease.
The article does two things that give it an edge over anything else that’s regularly reported about the latest installment of the Old Firm. First, it takes to task Celtic chairman John Reid, who was overly optimistic, perhaps even cocky, view about Celtic’s financial posterity in light of ‘Gers pitiful status:
As Rangers fly off into the sunset with the Scottish Premier League (SPL) trophy safely tucked under one arm and possible new owners under the other, I wonder if Celtic chairman John Reid has pondered the advisability of his premature triumphalism at Celtic’s Annual General Meeting last October. Reid dominated the show, as he does. And thinly-veiled attacks on “other clubs that are local and who have had a lot of publicity” were mixed with not-veiled-at-all attacks on “a boring crowd of Holy Willies… (on) the other side of the city.” This was not thought to be a reference to Partick Thistle.
Celtic’s AGM discussed a relatively healthy set of financial results for the financial year to 30 June 2009, at a time when Rangers’ £31m debts were the talk of the footballing town. And Reid got all superior about the financial strategy of “borrowing endless amounts of money,” claiming: “that way lies ruin…fans and shareholders know that” and insisting that following suit “is what we won’t do.” But the two clubs’ more recent interim results suggest as much of a turnaround in fortunes as the SPL table. And although the in-pouring of Champions League money to Ibrox put only a temporary gloss on Rangers’ finances, history has been as unkind to Reid’s remarks as the more sensible commentators were at the time.
The second portion of the article is the potential upswing on The Rangers Football Club PLC, new investors and buyers, and, in truth, this is uninteresting to me, and John Reid may have a spot of egg on his face, given a pinch of poor form combined with a heap of bad luck.
For all the percentages and bottom-line talk this article brings up, there is one name that is omitted from the article: Walter Smith.
Ceteris Paribus. Do you know this ancient expression? For all my years of Latin study, it was actually an economics class that taught me this one. Ceteris Paribus, literally “all other things being equal,” and were all things equal, Rangers and Celtic financial standing even and given the players on the field, Rangers probably would still be a number of points ahead, all because Walter Smith out-managed, out-maneuvered, out-foxed the green Tony Mowbray.
Walter Smith outlasted Gordon Strachan’s ultimate Celtic season to take the Scottish League and Cup. Strachan left, Mowbray entered, Strachan took players along, Mowbray revamped and is still revamping. All the while, Walter Smith steadied the unsettled ship, playing the wiley fox in nice guy’s clothes. And for all Mowbray seemed to do do do, Smith seemed to do very little, at least in the public eye. He kept his head about him, stayed the course, even threatened to manage without a paycheck, turning Ibrox into an impenetrable fortress. Rangers haven’t lost a Scottish League, Scottish Cup or League Cup match since hosting Aberdeen to a nil-1 loss in November.
Now we could discuss the on the pitch tactics, the key players he included and omitted (Boyd throughout the forgone Champions League campaign), but in the end, Smith has proved the better manager on the year.
Now, I will argue that in the end a Celtic eleven are and will be better than Ranger’s eleven, certainly while Rangers cannot go out and sign new players, and quality on the pitch will overcome tactics. Will Mowbray’s better side overcome Smith’s off-field tactics? There’s one more Old Firm match up, a potential/predictable Scottish Cup aside.