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michael ball spills the beans... and is david murray paranoid?
Terrible, isn't it, when a Chairman starts interfering in the business of running an SPL team. What do you mean Romanov? I'm talking about David Murray.
Readers with slightly longer memories might recall how Dave brought Scotland captain Colin Hendry to Ibrox a few years ago to give his club more of a home grown feel, only to have the Rug ditch big Braveheart at the earliest opportunity. Murray got off pretty much scot-free with that one (pardon the pun).
His most recent dabbling in team affairs is revealed in an interview with Michael Ball conducted by Philip Dorward which appeared in the Sunday Herald (6th November 2005). Now with a bit of distance between himself and the Death star (incredibly, Ball wangled himself a transfer to PSV Eindhoven on the last day of the transfer deadline in the summer) Ball was singing like the proverbial canary.
Amongst his revelations was the bombshell that: 'He was looking forward to his 'second' season when suddenly David Murray kick-started the drama. Part of the £6.5 million deal that took Ball to Ibrox was three payments of £500,000 every time he played 30 games. Rangers paid the first one no problem but rather panicked when they realised they were five games away from another instalment. 'When the season started all of a sudden the management said, 'Sorry we can't play you'. Initially no-one even spoke to me and I was like, 'Why am I not playing?' Then, before one of the games, the manager said, 'the chairman wants to speak to you'. He explained the situation, and that's what killed me. By my 56th game they didn't want me playing unnecessary games and so they were picking and choosing them for me.''
Everybody knew this was the reason cash-strapped Rangers weren't playing Ball, but does that excuse the continual excuses of injuries peddled by a sympathetic press in order to keep the facts from the denizens of the Death Star?
And talk about convoluted contract negotiations. How about this one: 'Murray, the player and his agent, Trevor Stevens, sought to solve the mystery. Talk of his contract being ripped up was mooted, as was him not playing at all. In January of this year an interesting compromise was reached. 'Rangers said they'd pay a contribution but they wanted a contribution off myself. I was paying £4,000 every time I played or I came on for Rangers,' explains Ball... In the end, according to Ball, Rangers paid the £500,000 owed to Everton on the proviso they could see out the deal over the next 30 games with a fee from Rangers and Ball every time he played.'
Perhaps the Laptop Loyal wouldn't mind sparing us any more talk of Biscuit Tins and penny pinching at Celtic Park.
On the subject of David Murray, you can tell there's a crisis looming when he decides to grant an interview to selected acolytes in the press. 'In a rare interview, Rangers chairman tells Moira Gordon how he ticks, his radical plans for rekindling Scottish football and his love of cold reading' ran the puff for this latest attempt at self-justification (Scotland on Sunday, October 16th 2005).
Interviews are rare, of course, because the Gers are in the deep doo doos and if you start talking to too many people then some of them might start asking awkward questions about why this is so.
Not Moira, though. The tone of this interview is set as soon as you've got as far as paragraph four, wherein we are given the aforementioned information abut what makes Murray tick. In the space of around a hundred words she manages to mention: 'Murray's opulent offices in Edinburgh's Charlotte Square... oak panelled rooms... fine art... supply of wine from his vineyard,' not to mention Murray leaning forward, 'across the kind of sprawling, sturdy desk Sherlock Holmes would not look out of place behind...'
His radical plans for rekindling Scottish football? Well, the unkind among you might already be suggesting that Murray should start by maybe rekindling his own club before starting on the game as a whole (stop spending more than you're bringing in, that's your first clue Sherlock) but if anyone's interested it involves doing away with promotion and relegation for a couple of years.
He also reckons that, with regard to football, 'The expectation level in Scotland is way out of reasonable proportion.' Not that Dave could ever be accused of stoking those unreasonable expectations, obviously, when he was telling his devoted Laptop Loyal in 2000 that 'We want to be successful in Europe and the money we are raising now will take us there.'
Dave must have been squirming under the heat from the anglepoise lamp by the time Moira got round to the burning questions of the day, such as the signing of Maurice Johnston. 'We all knew the Celtic and Rangers position...' says Dave. Perhaps he might have been invited to elaborate on what he calls the 'Celtic position' and how it differed from its Ibrox counterpart, but Moira is content simply to offer him congratulations on his 'courage and conviction' and give thanks for the 'follow-up work' which she says is ongoing.
Of the current debt situation not a word was uttered (perhaps the hired lackey was pouring Moira another glass of wine at that point) and nor was any sensible reason offered concerning why Murray doesn't speak to the Herald.
Indeed, reading between the lines I began to feel quite uneasy about the subject of Moira's fawning puff. What are we supposed to make of somebody who is 'sceptical enough to refrain from e-mail, fearful that people could tap into his deals and his thoughts.' This is a level of paranoia that puts the majority of us Celtic fans to shame.
Just on the off chance that Moira is granted another 'rare interview' (there should be another one offered quite soon depending on bad things are getting) then here's a few questions she might want to take along with her. Maybe Dave, who prides himself on his honesty, loyalty and integrity, might let the rest of Scottish football in on the answers before he starts sorting out our national game:
The last rights issue you had was portrayed as a huge success in the media. Is it not the case, though, that such a rights issue is not the recommended way of tackling corporate debts?
Is it true that since 1996, under your stewardship, Rangers has lost a total of more than £145 million?
Is it true that Rangers literally ran out of cash a couple of years ago and is that the reason for the 'revolving credit' (at commercial rates) from the Murray Group?
Is it true that Rangers would be technically insolvent were it not for the revaluation of Ibrox Park?
How likely do you think it is that anyone would pay £100 million for a second hand football stadium in Kinning Park?
You had to underwrite most of the last share issue yourself. Given your track record as chairman is it any surprise that nobody wanted to invest their money with you?
You said a while ago that unless you brought European success to Rangers you would consider your stewardship a failure. Do you still stand by that statement?
Do you actually own a private jet or do you just hire or borrow one when you want to make a good impression?
I'm sure Moira could think of some better questions if she put her mind to it.
Remember the 'cold reading' mentioned in the intro? Moira describes it as 'a form of psychological manipulation favoured by psychics and salesmen.' That could be the title of her next article: David Murray - Psychic or Salesman? I think Moira and too many of her fellow travellers in the Laptop Loyal have already fallen for the sales pitch.