Football: MURRAY PLAYS TRUMP CARD; but Brian Ups the Stakes

By Keevins, Hugh | Sunday Mail (Glasgow, Scotland), September 3, 2000 | Go to article overview

Football: MURRAY PLAYS TRUMP CARD; but Brian Ups the Stakes


Keevins, Hugh, Sunday Mail (Glasgow, Scotland)


IF this is how Rangers react to going three points behind Celtic in the championship race who knows what would happen if Martin O'Neill actually wins the title this season.

Petulance on the park. Violence on the streets. And the re-emergence of the most well-worn cheque book and pen in the Premier League.

That's what you call taking defeat to heart.

I'm told David Murray was pricklier than a hedgehog before and after last weekend's 6-2 drubbing from Celtic which explains why Ronald de Boer is now preparing to pay his Community Tax in Glasgow.

But the Ibrox chairman's high-risk strategy at the bank is consistent with what he has said all along about his approach to the battle for supremacy with Celtic.

If they put down a fiver, he will put down a tenner.

Murray is clearly not bothered about the possible threat of European legislation abolishing transfer fees in the near future or the arrival of another high earner to increase an Ibrox wage bill that would give Donald Trump cause for concern.

Murray took pounds 31million of NTL's money earlier in the season as part of a down payment on a media tie-up that could earn him a breathtaking pounds 180m in the fullness of time.

Celtic chief executive Allan MacDonald rejected the offer of identical money from the firm, which sponsors both clubs' shirts, in the belief he could cut a better deal elsewhere.

Delivery of the goods is still awaited but Celtic did splash out this week on Alan Thompson and Didier Agathe. And they must continue to back O'Neill with hard cash, otherwise he will be at a disadvantage in his struggle with Dick Advocaat.

The Rangers boss was overheard to call some of his players prima donnas after they'd been ripped apart by Celtic last Sunday.

He will no doubt be reflecting now on his player's conduct away from Ibrox as well.

One question he might be considering is if it is better to continue buying foreigners than putting misplaced faith in the local product's ability to behave professionally.

No matter what he decides, the little Dutchman will be bankrolled by a man with an almost pathological fear of being overtaken by the other half of the Old Firm.

Against that background, I can reveal there was an interesting development behind the scenes 72 hours before the Glasgow derby.

I understand former Celtic director Brian Dempsey bought 40,000 shares in the club and aims to make those the first building blocks as he bids to become a major player again.

The timing of the shares purchase was meant to indicate a belief in Celtic's future under O'Neill rather than wait to find out if the investment was still as shrewd after his first clash with Advocaat.

It was also Dempsey's way of helping to ensure as many shares as possible stayed in the hands of people who actually supported the club. His return to the stage comes at a time when Dermot Desmond's long-term strategy is unclear.

The Irishman, who is the biggest single shareholder in the club, is the unsung hero of the hour.

It was Desmond alone who pulled the rest of the PLC board away from the idea of going after former Dutch manager Guus Hiddink to replace the disturbed dream team of John Barnes and Kenny Dalglish.

"Over my dead body," was the expression used, I believe, to sum up his confidence in Hiddink.

Celtic fans may yet have cause to be eternally grateful for Desmond's foresight.

But his way of operating in the board-room is to be a short-term investor. And Celtic need to have a long-term game plan while Murray shows the necessary level of determination for the long haul. …

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