"Davie was a man who thought he was a goner,
A job he knew that couldn't last,
Davie left all the unpaid players down in Gretna
For some Greenock Morton grass"
I apologize for probably the worst attempt at a Beatles parody ever.
But the continued existence of Gretna, let alone their attempts to remain a side in the upper echelons of scottish football, now lives or dies with Brooks Mileson, apparently seriously ill in a hospital in Newcastle.
It's difficult to decide how to feel about the prospect of Gretna's demise. For a start, though, let's separate Brooks from this. His philanthropic attitude to lower league football has been a joy in recent years, and he's brought a lot of good to Scottish football with what he's done. For example, he funded countless supporters' trusts, and, even with ICT, he once provided, through his company, "Charlie's Angels" t-shirts for Caley's female fans after Charlie Christie became boss. If this turns out to be his last illness, he will be a great loss to the game.
That last statement does not, however, apply to Gretna.
They appear on the brink of being the fourth club in the SPL to go to administration, following Motherwell, Dundee and Livingston. All three of those were lucky in that they managed to stay up for at least another year, rather than instead ending up slumping down the divisions. In the case of the latter two, they were able to put their houses in order (in Livi's case only slightly) by the time of the inevitable drop to the SFL. 'Well, meanwhile, got away with sacking a ton of players and staff - unfortunately lessons from this have not been learnt.
Let's face it, there is absolutely no football supporter in the country who was ever remotely deluded enough to believe that the Gretna "dream" was sustainable. My fear was that they might have enough lolly to fund staying up for two years, thus potentially relegating Caley. But even if they managed that, a team with such a tiny fan base was never going to make it in the long term.
The speed of the demise (if this is what it is), though, does come as a surprise. There is something distinctly amateurish about the whole thing if it entirely rests on one man putting a cheque in the bank every week. But once more the SPL has failed to see this disaster coming, despite it's complete failure to learn from the debacles of the past. For crying out loud, this is a team that still doesn't even have a slightly worthy stadium for top league football (in fact Raydale Park is on the brink of losing it's safety certificate - think Brockville without the atmosphere). Davie Irons has already legged it, but what about the players - are they now stuck at the club because of the transfer window? - and all the other staff who suddenly aren't getting paid? This was utterly preventable, yet potentially dozens of families in the South of Scotland this week are without some of their income. It's not funny.
I'm sorry, Gretna fans. I slag your club off only in the way I would slag Albion Rovers fans if someone bankrolled them to the top division. As Inverness, Falkirk and St. Mirren are now showing, the only way to get up and stay there is to do it slowly and carefully. If you depend on one wallet, then what do you do when it's empty?