I’ve often been referred to a “dinosaur” – mostly by the new breed of Rangers fans (though age does not seem to be a determination in this equation) who see our Protestant, Unionist, Loyalist and British identity as something… not exactly to be ashamed of…. but quite clearly something they would prefer not to be there. I of course would disagree, but then again as a Protestant, Unionist, Loyalist, British Rangers supporter I would wouldn’t I ?
Furthermore I appreciate there are those who follow our club, and may I add, are as passionate as I am about her, yet who are not the slightest bit interested in being a Protestant, a Unionist etc. etc. Times change and so do attitudes and beliefs, often for the better. But for several generations, including my own, Rangers were not just a football club. They represented who we were, what we stood for and the things which we believed in. And it still does today, no matter how society moves on to other things.
No Rangers were not founded for overtly religious reasons, nor were they a bastion of Unionism, Presbyterianism or anything else for that matter, it was simply 4 boys with dream to form a football club for football reasons. But it would be foolhardy and erroneous to suggest that the characteristics and identity alluded to in the opening paragraph did not evolve over time and I would contend, if one was to examine our song repertoire,symbolism and flags, is still very prevalent today.
We are not just supporting a football club, but a set of beliefs, of standards, when we sing we do so with a passion which goes beyond sport, into the realms of a celebration of identity and culture. They are our club and we are their people. I appreciate all do not feel this way, but those who do will know exactly what I refer to.
On Wednesday 24th July, 2013, that celebration of a football club intertwined with the beliefs of its people erupted in spectacular fashion in Sheffield. The people of Sheffield heard what we are, saw what we believed in, and the things we considered important, those worth celebrating, defending and, perhaps most importantly, in the case of Lee Rigby, were most worthy of our utmost respect.
They watched, they tweeted and they stood in awe and admiration at the Rangers support. Remarkable how an audience how are not motivated by a hatred of the things many of us cherish, can be so complimentary rather than derogatory. It makes one wonder where the problem really lies ?
Rangers are not a platform for these other views and never should be. Nor should our expression of our Protestantism, our Unionism, our Loyalism or our British identity ever be done in a manner which brings shame upon our club or for that matter that which we seek to celebrate. There is a delicate balance at work weaving it all together, and I would remind those of similar beliefs to my own, there are people out there who are determined to destroy that fine balance and eradicate it forever.
The power and passion on display at Sheffield is the reason why. They are frightened of it. Its the same power and passion which rescued a football club against the odds , which broke world records last season and filled stadium after stadium. To the consternation of many, that power and passion is on the march once again, and it does not intend to stop.
As the many Owls fans testified post match – no other set of visiting supporters has ever come close to matching that power and passion.
Let us celebrate our club’s identity and culture with responsibility, and in such a way which makes us as many new friends as we did in Sheffield.