Refined By Fire

“See, I have refined you, though not as silver; I have tested you in the furnace of affliction. “
(Isaiah 48:10)

To describe the events at or club in recent times as “extraordinary” would be the understatement of the year. And as we Bears read of more boardroom unrest and battles, sadly via the media, the only thing missing from the pantomime which is currently our club, is the Benny Hill theme tune.

In fact it may seem there is little cause for comfort at our club, either on or off the field, but I beg to differ.

It’s been over forty years since my grandmother died. For those old enough to remember it, she was a member of The Temple Mission in Anniesland. She was a woman who manifested the Presbyterian faith she sought to uphold, being both a living example of the Word she held so dear. No surprise then that this boy was raised on biblical stories and proverbs and their application to the present day. A particular favourite of hers was how the Bible teaches that the most precious and valuable metals are refined by fire. Adversity was a test, a refining, which would produce a far more valuable and worthwhile product by the end of the process.

Many years later, on the completion of my commando training, I stood in the officers mess at the Commando Training Centre, Lympstone. It was only my second ever visit to the officers mess – the first had been on the day I had joined, when along with 65 other recruits, I had stood and listen to various addresses. Now however the sixty six had been whittled down to just 12, the gruelling nature of Commando training had done it’s own refining. That evening the address was given to us by the Adjutant, Lieutenant Ian Gardiner, whose rhetoric that evening attempted to prepare us all for the demands of being attached to a commando unit……”When you are up to your arsehole in alligators – just remember it builds character” he told us.

Whilst they were not words my grandmother would ever have used , I did see the parallels between alligators and metal refining !

But as the saying goes “true life is stranger than fiction” and a few years later I found myself sharing  the most meagre of shell scrapes on the slopes of Two Sisters in the Falklands, with the now Captain Ian Gardiner, whilst an Argentine Browning Machine Gun on sustained fire mode, attempted to end our lives. Amidst the chattering of mortars, machine guns and various other battle sounds, I shouted at Captain Gardiner “Does this qualify as being up to your arsehole in alligators ?” His reply “And then some” confirmed the gravity of our situation. The likelihood and acceptance of death had allowed for humour even in the most trying of circumstances. Had it not been for the skill of a Royal Marine sniper with a night scope, you would not be reading this now and Ian Gardiner would not have gone on to carve a successful career as an author.

As our club has lurched from crisis to crisis there has been an ever present constant at every stage – The Rangers support. Amidst the darkness of the age they have been like a shining beacon of hope defying the prophets and soothsayers of doom with their loyalty to a football club.

But having been thrown into the forge this support has been refined in the process. There is now a greater understanding of the depths and measures others will stoop to in order to damage our club.

Furthermore there is a belief and understanding as businessman come and go, that the very heart and soul of Rangers Football Club beats not in a boardroom, but in the Rangers support themselves.

Accusations of “gloryhunters” have been destroyed as the heart and soul of this club set new world records for the statisticians to record. Reporters came from across the continents, not to report on a boardroom in turmoil, but to witness the heart and soul of a football club actively beating for the world to see.

The history books will record it as a triumph over adversity, as a support refined by fire, scorched the predictions of those who said the heart and soul would fail in the face of such adversity.

But perhaps the greatest product of this refining process is a re-discovery for us all of the importance of Rangers FC in our lives.

One day soon the furnace of affliction will be at an end, and a support refined by fire will have their say.