Timing everything as Rangers ousted Mike Ashley – former director John Gilligan

John Gilligan, Dave King and Paul Murray at Ibrox
John Gilligan, Dave King and Paul Murray at Ibrox (PA Archive)
22:30pm, Tue 08 Jun 2021
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Former Rangers director John Gilligan admits it would have been impossible to disentangle Mike Ashley from the Light Blues had red tape not delayed the start of the club’s boardroom coup.

Former Tennent Breweries boss Gilligan joined forces with Dave King and a number of investors to oust the Sports Direct tycoon from Ibrox back in 2015.

It proved to be the turning point for a club mired in chaos – with this year’s title triumph under Steven Gerrard the vindication of their actions.

But Gilligan admits the wild scenes witnessed around Ibrox last month may never have happened had things panned out differently six years ago.

A hold up in announcing plans for the extraordinary general meeting to vote Ashley out of power turned out to be crucial after the billionaire then announced plans to lend the club £5million in return for control over the club’s key assets.

That delay saw pressure on Ashley ramped up – with King and his allies ultimately able to assume the Ibrox throne.

That was only the start of the Rangers recovery but Gilligan always had faith it would succeed once Ashley’s grip on power was smashed.

Speaking at the launch of a Just Champion, a new book by Jeff Holmes detailing last year’s title triumph, Gilligan said: “I never believed we’d bitten off more than we could chew, not with Dave, Douglas Park and John Bennett on board.

“I had no doubt these guys were committed financially and that’s what we needed at that point.

“I knew we could fix the other things, plus with the reaction of the fans I knew we would get there.

“I dread to think what would’ve happened if we hadn’t managed to get regime change, probably because it doesn’t bear thinking about.

“The week we declared the EGM was the week Mike Ashley said he was going to put in another £5million to secure the stadium and the training ground.

“To me that would have been the point of no return, we would have lost control of the club then. Mike Ashley would have controlled Rangers.

“We were going to declare on the Wednesday but there was a delay in the paperwork.

“They ended up announcing first they were putting in the £5m to take security. It was the night we played Hearts, the game was abandoned.

“There were ugly protests outside the ground so the timing actually worked in our favour.”

There were plenty of ups and downs after that but the last 12 months have been dreamland for the Ibrox faithful as Gerrard’s Invincibles steamrollered their way to the club’s 55th league title.

Gilligan stepped down from the board in 2017 but was invited back to Ibrox last month to witness James Tavernier hoisting the long-awaited league trophy high.

“That day was so special, just phenomenal,” he said. “For most I think it was a dream.

“I thought Celtic would have been too good for us again last year. I knew we would be closer, a lot closer, but we were fantastic.

“It’s been an incredible transformation.

“What Steven has done in three years is just unbelievable.

“Everyone is thrilled. It feels like one of these moments where there is a shift in the powerbase. I have lived through it the other way. I think this is it.

“What’s the potential of this club? I think we are back to the time we were in during the 90s, I think we’re heading back to that.”

:: Just Champion by Jeff Holmes is out now.

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