The blue sea of the Western Cape Province is some way from Glasgow. The blue sea of Ibrox still means more than all the rest to Dave King. The former Rangers chairman no longer joins the throng in person as regularly these days, but he is still just as invested in his boyhood club.

It is from King’s home on the tip of South Africa that he speaks exclusively to the Rangers Review via Zoom call. Over his shoulder, the golden sandy beaches contrast with the sparkling turquoise of the Indian Ocean. King is now spending more of his time in this area of the country that he has called home since the 1970s, the appeal of the warmer climate and more relaxed way of living holding its own allure away from his business base in Johannesburg. Wherever he is, Rangers is on his mind.

The conversation turns in the end to the other great passions in King’s life. His golfing plans for the summer months with long-time friend Gary Player would make a handicapper of any level envious, while he shares an intrigue with Liverpool legend Kenny Dalglish over who will replace Jurgen Klopp at Anfield. Before that fond farewell, the Reds have a Premier League and Europa League to win.

King can afford to have his mind on other matters these days. He no longer has to sign every cheque or sign off on every decision at Ibrox, nor does he have to fight the good fight or for what he believes in. King has fulfilled the roles of investor, saviour, chairman and critic over the last three decades. He is still the major shareholder but his job these days is just to be a supporter.

“It has been nice, overall,” King told the Rangers Review as he reflected on life watching on from afar at the football and financial fortunes of a club that he has put so much time, money and effort into throughout his personal and professional life. “The change, I guess, comes over time. I was in the situation where I was chairman, I was the major shareholder, and at the time when you resign and step down, there is still a period of time where your knowledge base is still there and you still know what is going on. You are aware of the financial position because nothing changes in the first week or first month. With the passage of time, given that you don’t get the minutes of board meetings and those private conversations about the financial affairs, you do start to lose touch with your sense of belonging and your sense of what is going on behind the scenes.

READ MORE: The inside story of John Bennett's rise from Glasgow investor to Rangers chairman

“You become very much more of a supporter. I am no different to any other supporter in terms of my access to insider information, if you want to call it that, and it would be so old now that it is probably quite redundant. I have gone through this phase of knowing quite a bit and still being indirectly involved to becoming more removed and I would put myself in the position of any other supporter. I am watching it more as a pure supporter.”

The four-year anniversary of King stepping down from the Rangers board passed late last month. The time has gone by quickly, but King has not always been having fun. The emotional high of 55 was followed by events that he took to heart as Steven Gerrard departed for Aston Villa having seen his relationships turn sour. He has witnessed Giovanni van Bronckhorst and Michael Beale come and go and is now enthused about Philippe Clement. The run to Seville was offset by the defeat in the Europa League final, the lifting of the Scottish Cup and League Cup savoured at the respective times but perhaps serving to remind of the missed opportunities of recent seasons.

King had announced his intention to resign as chairman at the Annual General Meeting the previous November. The man that sat beside him, that had stood beside him through so many of the trials and tribulations at Ibrox, was his successor. Douglas Park believed it was his time but the doubts that King had in the back of his mind would come to the fore in the seasons that followed. Both men undoubtedly and unquestionably had Rangers at heart, but they were very different in the head.

At the 2021 AGM, King – who still holds a 14.12 per cent stake in RIFC plc through New Oasis Asset Limited – fired a shot across Park’s bows by voting against the re-election of his son, Graeme, to the board. The following year, the largest shareholder voted against the chairman as Club 1872 also refused to give Park their backing in words or numbers.

READ MORE: The Cole McKinnon story: Emerging from adversity, sliding doors and Thistle loan

It was not a case of King trying to be a backseat driver with the motor mogul but more a fear over the direction that Rangers were being steered in. Some fans would have dismissed his concerns, others would have shared them. Some disagreed with his methods, others backed his words and actions. As King’s entire association with Rangers, and indeed his business career, have shown, he is not the sort of man to sit back and do nothing, even from the outside looking in.

“When I was providing the business plan and driving the fortunes, I knew what was happening regarding the funding,” King said. “That level of disconnect, I guess, makes me slightly more nervous. That was also partly at the stage where I felt the club was taking completely the wrong direction and I still felt that I knew enough about it where I felt I had a greater obligation or need to try and influence, if you want to put it that way, from the outside. I didn’t like the direction that it was taking under Douglas and Stewart (Robertson) at that time, I felt that we had not only stood still following 55 but instead of kicking on as I felt we would do, I believed that we actually had gone backwards.

Rangers Review:

“We had managed to narrow the gap, certainly psychologically we had narrowed the gap in terms of where we thought we were, the feelgood, the financial situation, getting into the Champions League. I feel that we not only wasted that but slipped backwards and I couldn’t understand that. That is why I was more, let’s say, vociferous in trying to assert some level of influence for there to be changes at board level. I felt that if we didn’t make changes to the leadership of the operating company and the board itself, we would just continue to slide.”

It has taken time, but that slide has been reversed. The three men driving Rangers forward are not the same ones that heralded in a new era at Ibrox over the summer but King never doubted that two of the right people were in the right places heading into this season. John Bennett succeeded Park as chairman in April and James Bisgrove replaced Robertson upon his appointment as chief executive officer in July. The most important figure at the club, the manager, has changed more recently and the arrival of Clement has been the catalyst for Rangers this term.

When the Belgian took over in the aftermath of Beale’s departure, he inherited a squad that looked hopeless Premiership contenders. He has transformed them into potential Premiership champions. You will have to search far and wide to find a fan that doesn’t believe in Clement. Some 8,000 miles away, one supporter has full faith in the man in the dugout.

In part two of an exclusive Rangers Review interview, which will be released on Thursday morning, King speaks of his admiration for Clement, expresses his only concern and assesses the state of play in the title race. He admits he watches matches with ‘trepidation’ at times and no challenge is ever taken for granted, especially given the injury situation that has undermined Clement throughout his reign.

King points to the return of the walking wounded as potentially decisive in the bid for further glories and says ‘I definitely think there is something there’ when speaking about their chances of 56 this term. He acknowledges that resources will have to be carefully managed in the coming weeks. In Clement, he believes Rangers have the right man to do just that.

“I watch every single game,” King said. “I watch on RangersTV wherever I am, I can access it all over the world. I watch all of the games. There are certain games that are on ESPN and all the European games are shown in South Africa so I don’t miss anything. It is good. It is nice to have some of the frustrations that the supporters have without knowing what the answers are to some of my own questions. What is happening with the transfer policy? Why can’t we keep guys on the pitch? We improved the squad to try and narrow the gap and then the guys aren’t getting any playing time. Is it recruitment? Is it medical? I am just like any other supporter in that sense.

READ MORE: Adam Devine exclusive: A Rangers rise, Clement's man-management and Motherwell

“I must say I didn’t know much about the manager. Graeme Souness’ comment didn’t necessarily help by saying he would have gone for [Frank] Lampard. If you think that, keep it in house, you don’t have to go and announce it to everybody. My view overall is one of being more positive about it.”

Football fans can, of course, be notoriously fickle. Their mood and their opinions fluctuate depending on performances and results and the legacies of managers and directors are shaped by the efforts of those they put on the park. King did more than any other individual before, during and after regime change in March 2015 but he was, rightly, not immune from criticism.

The Mark Warburton era ended in claim and counterclaim, the Graeme Murty stints were sticking plasters on gaping wounds, and the appointment of Pedro Caixinha is still dumbfounding to this day. King had to take the rough with the smooth before stepping in and leading the process that saw Gerrard named as manager. It was a transformational move that delivered 55 and laid the foundations for all the highs and lows that followed.

The process of hiring and firing a manager is not an exact science. Bennett made the right call to remove Beale from office in October and his judgement in Clement looks shrewd so far. No chairman or director, just like no boss or player, can get every decision correct but Rangers and their supporters are in a good place right now.

“In that sense, I have the comfort now that I maybe didn’t have a year or so ago where I do feel that John Bennett is the right guy,” King said. “He should have been there. When I stepped down, John was the natural one, was the person to take over. But I am very confident with John, not only about his passion for the club. To be fair, Douglas had passion for the club. You could never criticise Douglas for not having passion for the club. I think John is a mature businessman. I really think if you look at where the club has gone since John took over, it is more on the track that I was hoping it would take.

“If you take John and James, they are both individuals I know well. John was someone I brought in post regime change, I know him well, I trust him completely. He is a smart guy who will do the right thing but it will be balanced, it will be done with a level of maturity and thoughtfulness over the whole picture.”

The summer was heralded as a new era at Ibrox as Bennett and Bisgrove helped Beale overhaul the squad with a £20million summer spend. It was a time of talk of rebuilding and refreshing but it proved to be a false dawn and it is Clement that is now leading the way. The importance of the support structure around him cannot be underestimated.

Rangers Review:

Nils Koppen became the final piece of the jigsaw when he was named as director of football recruitment at the turn of the year. The new football board also includes Creag Robertson and Zeb Jacobs, both beneficiaries of a summer reshuffle at Auchenhowie, and the experienced figure of Dr Mark Waller. Many of those from King’s tenure have now departed but the man that he appointed as commercial and marketing director almost five years ago is now running the club on a day-to-day basis.

“I personally was very excited about the elevation of James Bisgrove,” King said. “I think James is a very good fit for CEO, he is a very smart guy. He has come into the club initially where he didn’t have the background, let’s call it the cultural DNA, that some Rangers minded people might have. A few things, like the whole Australia thing, I think the board should have helped James and said ‘look, you need to be careful with this, this is not going to work with the supporters.’ James wouldn’t have known that, but he now knows it and he has learned a lot.

"I think he is going to be an incredibly effective CEO for us and I think he is one of the smartest young guys out there. I am very excited by what James can do for the club as well so we now have a good team where, even though I am now more disconnected, I am still a large shareholder and I do feel a lot more confident even with that level of disconnect. My assumption is that the guys will be doing the right thing.”

The final weeks of the campaign will determine if Clement and his squad are able to do the right things to add the Premiership title and Scottish Cup to the League Cup that was won in December. If they do, King may well be back in Glasgow to celebrate with them and take in the final fixtures of Klopp's Anfield reign. 

If King does return home, he will be welcome once again. That was not always the case. Rangers continue to hold individuals and organisations to account when required but the club no longer feels like it is operating at DEFCON One. Alliances are being forged with peers that share concerns and ideas, and Bennett and Bisgrove understand the value in making friends and influencing people, both for Rangers’ benefit and for the good of the game in Scotland.

READ MORE: Alex Rae's Rangers story: Commentary box to dugout, Clement bond and sliding doors

Relations with Club 1872 have been restored and there is a feelgood factor amongst the fan base as investment continues in and around Ibrox. A title win would only enhance the standing of those that have helped make the dream a reality. For King, it would be another sign that Rangers are doing what Rangers should do.

“When I stepped down and Douglas came in as chairman, for some reason, and I still don’t know why it happened, there was a departure from the whole ethos and everything we had done to get the club back on track since regime change,” King said. “That was reversed. All of a sudden, we seemed to be picking fights, for reasons that I could never fathom. Why are you picking fights with the media or the SFA? Yes, it is important that Rangers hold their ground when there are issues to be dealt with, but we seemed to be picking a fight with anyone. It made no sense.

“I think we have got a board now under the chairmanship of John and a club under the leadership of James that also understands what it is to be Rangers, that there is a Rangers way of doing things. You can have disputes, you can have hard conversations when you need to have them, but it is done privately, it is done internally within the club. We are all there for the same reason. That gives me great confidence about what is happening not only on the football field, but that we are getting a more recognisable Rangers in terms of who we are as a club and how we engage with our stakeholders. And there is still no more important stakeholders in a club than your supporters.”

That is the role that King happy to have once again. It is, after all, the position he has held for longest of all at Ibrox.