THESE are serious times for the Churnalists and Stenographers in the Lap Top Loyal, The Green Brigade Apologists and the others in the Glasgow football-writing fraternity.
Hampden - should we stay or should we go
Because there is a story going the rounds, which will take these august gentlemen out of their comfort zone. I refer to the ongoing debate about whether or not the SFA should kick Hampden into touch as the National Stadium, and, if they do – where do they go?
I think there is general agreement – Hampden is not fit for purpose, but, what is to be done to either replace it, or make it fit for purpose, well that's an argument which could run and run.
I yesterday praised Wee Fergus for having his say, now, today, the Queen's Park Hierarchy have more or less said the wee man was talking through his bunnet, but, they will not rise to his bait and discuss the matter in public.
For Queen's Park to take this stance backs-up William Randolph Hearst's old dictum about news and advertising: “News is something somebody doesn't want discussed – everything else is advertising.”
Much as we journalists would love to be writing about this story, the men in the bowler hats at Hampden would rather it remained confidential. This is the Queen's Park way, minimum fuss, get on with things, nothing to see here. Annoying though this stance is from a journalist's perspective – I rather admire it. And, might I say, I have covered football at nearly every one of Scotland's 42 senior grounds, and nowhere have I met as-nice people as I met when covering Queen's Park, at Hampden. Ladies and gentlemen, every one.
Why, they even had a well-known sports journalist on their committee, a man I could quite happily have strangled many times in arguments of a professional nature – but, a total gentleman when I encountered him wearing his Queen's Park tie.
So, if the Queen's Park men say wee Fergus might not have been scrupulously honest in his assertions regarding relations between the two clubs – I think I will prefer the Hampden version.
The trouble with the SFA pulling-out of Hampden is, when the ground was, albeit badly, redeveloped at the back end of the last century, as part of the deal, the SFA abandoned their Park Gardens offices and moved in there. Since when, serious money has been spent on such things as the Hampden Museum. Now, I dare say, that could survive an SFA pull-out; likewise, the sixth-floor office space could well be re-let to perhaps a non-football organisation, but, the SFA would then be forced to relocate, and office space in Glasgow is not getting any cheaper.
They could always, I suppose, move into sportscotland's village of governing bodies in Edinburgh, but, what a body blow that would be to Glasgow's view of itself as Football City. The same loss of status is, while on the face of it a tenuous one, a thread in the argument against switching internationals and big cup finals to Murrayfield.
As I have often said, Scotland is a very-conservative nation – except when it comes to voting Conservative and Unionist. So, you have to think, when all the sound and fury has been expended, when all the pros and cons looked into – that 100-plus years of football history will come into play, and we may well see Scotland remaining at Hampden.
I have no doubts, expensive though another re-development would be, with or without Scottish Government assistance, it could be financed. And, this time, it would be done correctly – with the “Rangers” and “Celtic” Ends' stands brought in closer to the bye-lines, more-steeply-tiered seating and other improvements made – why, even a state-of-the-art 4G pitch installed, and, perhaps an increase in capacity. We could, for all it would not be as good in my view as a totally new greenfield site national stadium, have a neutral ground fit for purpose.
While it was being done, I would like to see a deal, whereby Lesser Hampden was also re-developed as a fitting home for Queen's Park, rather as Cardiff rugby Club's Arms Park now sits in the shadow of the Principality Stadium.
If bringing Hampden properly into the 21st century, why not, at the same time re-locate Queen's Park back to the site of the second Hampden Park, or as it later became known – Cathkin. The first Hampden is, I understand, now a bowling green, but, bringing Cathkin back into football use would not be a difficult task, and re-locating Queen's Park back there would free-up additional space at the National Stadium.
Present-day Cathkin Park
The clock is ticking on this one, the interested parties really need to get their act together, starting with the SFA. Mind you, some of us have been waiting for the SFA to get their act together since the days of brown Manfield Hotspur boots and leather Tomlinson T-balls.
A WORD for all the Hibs' fans – of course it was a penalty, but, in terms of Great Rangers Penalty Escapes, I am afraid, it will not get into the first edition of the multi-edition chronicle of such poor decisions.