Rangers chairman predicts end to Celtic's reign under Steven Gerrard... but Takeover Panel fight continues
Bullish about Steven Gerrard, Rangers’ title prospects and a £16 million summer share issue, but ‘bullied’ by the Takeover Panel - those were the headline messages from Dave King, the Ibrox chairman, as he contemplated what is bound to be an eventful passage for the club, one way or the other.
Gerrard’s choice of Rangers for his first foray into management attracted 7,000 fans to Ibrox on Friday but the appearance of the former Liverpool and England midfielder evidently galvanised King, who fielded questions about prospects on and off the field for the better part of an hour on Monday.
Rangers’ craving for some sort of parity with Celtic has only been sharpened by the crushing defeats inflicted by their arch-rivals in the William Hill Scottish Cup semi-final and at the Hoops’ Parkhead title party eight days ago, when Brendan Rodgers & Co moved to within a single game of consecutive clean sweeps of the Scottish honours.
With seven successive championships in the bag, the Celtic fans have sung long and loudly about the likelihood of achieving a record 10 on the bounce. Rodgers is apt to characterise as ‘noise’ any suggestion that Rangers are closing the gap between the sides and King probably prompted the Hoops boss to reach for the earplugs again.
Asked what it would take to catch up with the juggernaut on the other side of Glasgow, King said: “We appoint a manager who can win games, with more resources, and we take one league away from Celtic. We only need one league. We don’t need two or three. We need one. Once we take one away, it’s a pack of cards.
“The question was that with Celtic’s resources, does it put them beyond us forever, then the answer is clearly no. We have seen the cycle. I was with Rangers when we thought Celtic would never catch up - never in a hundred years.
“Dick Advocaat said they would never, ever catch up but I think it lasted 11 minutes into the next game we played against them when we went 3-0 down. They caught up and then went past us because Martin O’Neill came in and figured out a different way to do it.
“We have invested in the squad and struggled with stability in the manager’s office. We have now gone very, very strong in the management squad.
“Celtic’s cost structure is more like we were 10 years ago. We needed Champions League football and if we went into the Europa League we were in trouble because the cost structure was so high. Take that away for one season and it will change the numbers on the Celtic side very, very quickly.
“They have the comfort levels we once had of knowing we were going to get Champions League money. We have to take that away from them and hopefully we started that process on Friday.”
Sharp-eyed scrutineers on both sides of the city’s schism will note the key words - ‘with more resources’. The Telegraph revealed that Rangers were attracted to Gerrard by the prospect of him luring cadets from the Anfield academy to Ibrox, a disclosure confirmed by King.
“If you were at Liverpool certainly, and other clubs probably, and you’ve got a chance to put a guy for a year or two with Steven Gerrard and Gary McAllister and what they’re going to get week in and out and playing for Rangers - would you rather they went there or played for Hull in the Championship?
“I would think if the player was of that quality and Steven wanted them they would be better giving them to Rangers, knowing at the end of that loan period they would have had the experience and exposure to a really smart, winning team.
“For Liverpool that would make sense because they would know exactly how they would be treated, the way they are going to play and train and what they’re going to get back at the end of it. We’re significantly better off with Steven being there in terms of loan players than we would be without him - significantly better off.”
Loans off the field have also been an ongoing topic at Ibrox, where operations have been part-funded by interest-free borrowings. The club’s auditors signed off the most recent accounts on the understanding that a further £7.2 million would be raised over two seasons, to take the soft loan total close to £23m.
“I would expect us only to start making a profit when we are back playing Champions League,” King said. “Until that point, I think we are going to have to continue funding the deficit every single year.
“We have had Chinese and Indonesians and Indians looking at Rangers Football Club because Steven Gerrard is here. That’s good, but in the short term it will have no impact whatsoever.”
King has plans for a rights issue, perhaps next month. “We'll be looking at just over £16m. Right now, it's £6m and £10 in loans but we might go £8m and £8m,” he said. “We've not yet made our final decision but it won't be less than £6m new cash.”
There is, though, the ongoing distraction of a prolonged collision with the Takeover Panel, which ruled that he had acted as part of a ‘concert party’ with three other shareholders in March 2015 when he launched a successful boardroom coup. The panel ordered him to make an offer for two-thirds of the club’s equity at 20p a share, significantly below the stock trading price.