The Absolute Game Revisited – Part 30

July 1, 2010

THE FORGOTTEN ONES – Number 18 – Davie White

When the history of the last decade of the twentieth century comes to be written, future generations will puzzle over the baffling mystery of how Liam Brady ever came to be appointed as manager of Celtic. One solution to the riddle is that the panic-stricken and trophy-less Celtic board looked across the city and, with stunning inventiveness, simply decided to copy their Govan rivals. Kelly and Co had an identikit picture in their minds of a class midfielder who had played in England and Italy, who was a member of the true faith, and who had no previous managerial experience. Brady qualified on all counts. The fact that none of these qualifications was even remotely related to the man’s ability to manage a football club didn’t seem to matter. After all, it had worked for Rangers, and, give or take £15 million worth of players, they reasoned that it would work for Celtic as well. Unfortunately, Brady’s appointment merely accelerated Celtic’s smooth transition from the trying pan into the fire, all as exclusively forecast by Ian Morrison in TAG 24.

Twenty-five years earlier a similarly panic-stricken Ibrox board had gazed along the London Road at the success which Jock Stein was showering on Celtic to the detriment of Billy-Boy interests. At that time Rangers were managed by Scott Symon, who in the early sixties had presided over some of the most exciting and successful Ibrox sides of the post-war era. However, with the advent of Stein at Celtic Park, and, in particular, with the arrival of the European Cup in the Parkhead trophy room, unfavourable comparisons began to be made between the vital, dynamic and progressive methods employed by Stein and the staid, old-fashioned and conservative style of Symon. This was all encapsulated in the media buzz-phrase that Stein was “a track-suited” manager. As Rangers trailed in Celtic’s wake the newspapers were full of contrasting portraits of the two managers, one training with his players, the other behind his mahogany desk, dressed in three-piece suit and clearly unable to remember where the training ground was.

In a spectacular example of the pot calling the kettle black, the ailing octogenarians on the Ibrox board decided that the answer to all their problems was to copy Celtic and employ a younger ”track-suited” manager. Symon was unceremoniously dismissed (at a time when Rangers were actually leading the league), while Lawrence and Co stepped out into the mean streets of Govan and appointed the first person that they came across wearing a track-suit.

Step forward Davie White. Davie was a genial man of no fixed ability, with a voice and general demeanour which bore a striking resemblance to Jim Farry. In fact, it has been frequently observed that Davie White and Jim Farry have never been seen in the same place simultaneously, giving rise to allegations that they are, in fact, one and the same person. I also mention, in passing, that there is no truth in the rumour that Davie’s track-suit had been a bargain buy from a juvenile street-urchin known to his intimates simply as “Wee Mo”.

I’m quite sure that there’s a lot of modem Rangers supporters who either don’t know, or have conveniently forgotten, that the club had a manager by the name of Davie White as recently as 25 years ago. He seems to have been the subject of a Stalinist excision from the collective memory. I digress for a moment to tell you of another example of how quickly great men become forgotten ones. I was in Tower Records in Glasgow recently and asked a young female assistant where I could find the John Coltrane records. After a few minutes she produced a CD by Robbie Coltrane.

To get back to the point (yes please – Ed). Given the peculiar circumstances of his appointment, and his curious haute couture credentials, it was only natural that Davie proceeded to make a complete bollocks of the job, his brief reign being characterised by ever increasing humiliation for Rangers, culminating in horrible defeat home and away to the team with the most unpronounceable name in European football, namely Gornik Zabrze (what about Dnepropetrovsk? – Ed).

After that defeat, graffitti began appearing on walls and in telephone boxes all over Glasgow urging the populace to “ring Gornik 1313 and ask for Davie“. When this was coupled with Rangers fans chanting “He’s White, he’s White, he’s a loada fuckin’ shite, Davie White“, then Davie had clearly passed his sell-by date. It was time for him to swap his track-suit for a UB40, while Rangers boldly went where no club had gone before and appointed a journalist from the Daily Express as their new manager. On that basis, Celtic should perhaps have given serious consideration to Alex Cameron as Brady’s successor.

Ultimately, though, Davie’s period in charge at Ibrox was not completely devoid of record-book statistics. For example, he was the first Rangers manager never to win a league title. He was also the first one never to win the Scottish Cup. And for the sake of completeness, he was the first one never to win the League Cup. In short, he won fuck all. After three years of his hapless bungling and clueless mismanagement, the Ibrox board were forced to the conclusion that possession of a track-suit was not, after all, a passport to success.

Davie wasn’t quite finished though. He made a guest come-back at Glasgow Sheriff Court in 1971 as a star witness in the Fatal Accident Inquiry into the Ibrox disaster. The Glasgow Sheriff heaped plaudits on Davie’s head, observing, in the midst of other similarly complimentary remarks that,

“The impression created in evidence by Mr White became increasingly unimpressive…… having regard to his demeanour in the witness box there is, I fear, no escape from the conclusion that on this matter his evidence must be rejected as wholly unreliable and untrustworthy”.

Armed with these glowing references Davie continued his career as manager of Dundee. The trail goes cold there. I can’t remember anything else about this genuine forgotten one. What happened next? Answers on the back of a fag packet to TAG, please.

First published in TAG 36 – January 1994

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