Socrates MacSporran

Socrates MacSporran
No I am not Chick Young, but I can remember when Scottish football was good

Monday, 26 June 2017

OH FFS!!! They're After OBFA Again

HERE we go again, fresh from their “triumph” in trebling their number of Westminster MPs the British Labour Party in Scotland – the political wing of The Greatest Fans In The World – are flexing their muscles, their target now is that terrible affront to democracy – the Offensive Behaviour at Football Act.

Regular readers of this blog will be aware, I hae ma doots about OBFA; of course, you do not have to have the forensic legal training of Donald Findlay QC to know, it is not a good piece of legislation, it is flawed, but, it is better than nothing.

You don't need the wit and wisdom of Donald Findlay QC to know: OBFA is bad law

There always has been, perhaps always (until the football authorities decide to do something about it) will be, offensive behaviour at football. You can see it at Lugar Boswell Thistle v Muirkirk Juniors (the bottom two teams in the Ayrshire League), just as you will see it at an Old Firm game.

As I have said before: one of the most-vicious fights I ever saw at a football match involved two pensioners, at an Arthurlie v Pollok game. But, while some (most?) clubs will accept, they have a handful of followers they would rather went elsewhere for their fun of a Saturday afternoon, the big two can count their lunatic fringe” in hundreds, maybe thousands.

Well, not quite, the self-anointed GFITW don't make a lot of noise at games – far too busy polishing their haloes – on their planet Self-Denial, it is all the fault of that other lot, you know, the knuckle-dragging True Brits from the ground down Edmiston Drive.

That's the GFITW's view, and, when some of their less-disciplined members began to be caught-up in the web of OBFA, well, this wasn't in the script. Ever since, they have, with the help of their placemen such as James Kelly in the ranks of the People's Party, been hell-bent on having OBFA repealed.

The quickest way for this act to be abandoned is, quite simply, for Football to get its act together. For the clubs to accept, we have a minor problem here, let's sort it out. But, this will never happen. For Football to sort itself out, would require a force of will and an intelligence which is sadly absent from the sixth floor corridor at Hampden.

And, until the game comes to its senses, we will need laws, even flawed laws, forced on the game by lawmakers who, by and large, don't give a toss about the game.

OVER the weekend, I down-loaded a copy of the International Football Board's (IFAB's) policy document, outlining their suggested amendments to the Laws of the Game.

I was somewhat surprised – the document makes a lot of sense and contains several what I feel are genuinely innovative and welcome suggestions. However, how many of these survive the horse-trading during the document's evaluation process, is anyone's guess. I would have gone further, but, it's a start.

Here is the link to the document:

I hope you read through it and enjoy it.

AH TELT YE that peace would quickly break-out between the SFA and the Scotland Women's team. Good sense at last from Hampden, the Scots Lassies, plus their new midfield enforcer: The Sturgeonator, were always going to be too-thrawn for the “Blazers” to oppose them for long.

MIND YOU, according to “The Stenographers”, the HUGE news over the weekend was the Glib and Shameless Liar's latest press briefing for the gullible, at which GASL came up with the cracker, that Celtic had only actually won two-in-a-row.

 As glib and shameless lies go, his weekend effort was worthy of an Oscar

Well, I needed a laugh after Scotland losing to Fiji at rugby. This guy is a total embarrassment, but, not as big an embarrassment as the so-called journalists who dutifully took-down his dictation as if on tablets of stone.

Please remember: Rangers is a club without a credit line at a bank, surviving on soft loans and donations from well-heeled fans and directors. For as long as there are Real Rangers Men willing to keep the lights on at Ibrox, the club will survive, but, the future does not look bright.

How best to sum-up Rangers' situation – I give you this lady:

Thursday, 22 June 2017

Dave King Has Spoken, But, Do We Believe Him?

PARDON me if do not slaughter the fatted calf, or call for the ringing of bells and the setting-off of fireworks, because Rangers have signed a new retail deal with Sports Direct. Experience has taught me two things: Mike Ashley does not readily give-away a commercial advantage, and, Dave King was branded: “A glib and shameless liar” by a leading member of the South African judiciary.

 Would you buy a nearly-new football club from this man?

I await with interest the information which Phil Mac Giolla Bhain's highly-industrious “moles” bring blinking into the sunlight. Of course, Phil has a vested interest in pricking the pomposity of Ra Peepul, but, he has a track record of being right more-often than the Stenographers, when it comes to Rangers matters.

Of course, it is very much in Rangers interest to reach a deal with Sports Direct over replica strip sales, but, surely they have learned in their previous dealings with him – Mr Ashley strikes a hard bargain.

Meanwhile, the clock is ticking on the club's preparations for their Europa League qualifiers. How they must long for the good old days, when a Scottish team being drawn against one from Luxembourg was a guaranteed victory. But, these days are past now.

Rangers should still win. Let's face it – they have to win, first time out, with a brand new squad. It should be a skoosh case, but.......

TIME moves slowly when it comes to the SFA. That was my first thought when I heard of the discord between the governing body an the Scotland Women's team, as regards perks, such as appearance and bonus money, around the upcoming European Championship finals.

Because, we have been there before. Much of the aggro around Jinkygate, that quiet swally in Norway and various other sub-plots, lang syne almost forgotten, which surrounded the Scotland World Cup effort in 1974, stemmed from the failure to agree a perks deal between the players and the SFA.

The three white stripes on the SFA-supplied Adidas boots were blackened over; there were a lot of furious rows and genuine bad feeling. Given this row with the women, it seems, the SFA has learned not a lot in 43-years.

SFA - don't argue with the Women's team - look who's their new midfield enforcer - The Sturgeonator

Any way, everyone on the sixth floor ought to know – you never argue about money with a Scotswoman, she will make an absolute fool out of you as she wins her fight. There are some lovely girls in our squad, but, behind the eyes there is that tell-tale steeliness best explained as: “Ay widnae want tae tak a broken peay hame tae hur”.

OUR clubs who have qualified for the European competition qualifying rounds will be kicking-off their new season before the end of June. Indeed, it is not outwith the bounds of possibility that some of our teams might be out of Europe before the Glasgow Fair has started. How are the mighty fallen?

Has it never occurred to the intellectual giants on Hampden's sixth floor, that, just maybe, because Scottish football is now down among the dead leagues at the bottom of the European football food chain, we should maybe look at re-scheduling our season, perhaps to mirror the seasons of our Scandinavian neighbours across the North Sea, so, the early European rounds come in mid-season for us, and our representatives are better-prepared to compete.

Aye Son, but, fitba's aye been a winter sport – ye canna change that.

There, answered the question for you. Aye Beenism, Scotland's secret shame.

JUST a passing thought, but, what will our supposed big teams do when, after Brexit all goes tits-up, we re-take control of our own borders, and importing shite players from overseas becomes harder, as it will?

No more over-hyed continentals, we will have to survive on our home-grown players. Bring it on, I for one cannot wait.

Sunday, 18 June 2017

It Must Never Happen - But - Never Say Never

IT SEEMS we actually now are in the ever-shrinking “close season”. This being Scotland, I cannot definitely say this is fact, but, there does not appear to have been any football played in Scotland yesterday.

Savour the moment people, because, the first qualifying round draws for the Champions League and the Europa League will take place in Nyon tomorrow, an event which is sure to excite “the stenographers” - who can immediately begin spewing out their speculation as to how the draw will affect their two pet clubs, plus the other Scottish “diddy” teams who will be involved in the draw.

I spotted an interesting wee spot of speculation in one of the Sunday papers this morning, with regard to the draw. Celtic will enter the Champions League qualifying system at the second qualifying round stage, and, since the draw, at this early stage, is regionalised across Europe – there is the chance of Celtic being asked to visit Windsor Park, to face Linfield on 12 July.

Now, if I was a cynic, and a betting man, I'd be hammering on William Hill's or Ladbrokes' door tomorrow morning, keen to put some money on this draw happening. Mind you, I might well get better odds with Paddy Power.

It should not happen, it MUST not happen, the Police Service of Northern Ireland, plus Police Scotland are praying it cannot happen – but, this is UEFA folks. Return to your homes and prepare for war.

By my calculations, Rangers are ranked 46th of the 100 clubs in the Europa League first-round draw, but, never mind, they could still end-up facing such giants as Ballymena United, Connah's Quay Nomads or various other clubs from even-diddier leagues than the SPFL. Again, however, given this is UEFA – I can see Derry City looming. Well, it will be nice for RA Peepul to be able to visit one of their favourite places in all the world.

First qualifying round, first-leg games, are due on 29 June. Out of Europe before the Fair anyone?

SPEAKING of those awfully nice Rangers men. I can well understand Pedro recruiting guys he knows and trusts, but, can I rehash something I saw in one of the papers during the week: “Aye, but, can they cut it on a dreich nicht in Dingwall in December”? That my friends is the £X-million question. Of course, the BIG Rangers question is – who's gonna pay for all this new blood?

WHILE driving back from what had been a very-pleasant lunch on Saturday, I was listening to Radio Scotland, when on-air came a familiar voice, that of wee Darryl “Boyne Band” Broadfoot, the SFA's former Head of Media, now a partner in a PR consultancy.

Darryl Broadfoot - back in the real world and talking sense

Darryl – to me he will always be: “Young Darryl” actually came across very well, as a rare voice of sanity on Scottish football. We might, and we have had enough practice at this, consider parking one's brains at the door as being a pre-requisite for success along Hampden's corridors of power, but, as Darryl's contribution to Saturday afternoon's BBC Sport Scotland productions proved – there has occasionally been intelligent life on the sixth floor at the National Stadium.

The trouble is, while the likes of Darryl could and still can talk intelligently, make sensible proposals and have a clear vision of where Scottish football should be going – it never has been and still isn't them who makes the big decisions, that is left to the stumble-bums sent to Hampden by the clubs.

Fans with authority” might be a description of the club delegates, and, as we all know – fans are generally daft.

Still, it was good to hear Darryl making some intelligent contributions to the debate. Such a pity, when he had the platform as Chief Football Writer of the Herald – before he jumped ship to the calmer waters of the SFA's Media Department, Darryl didn't use that platform to argue for change, going instead down the safe, stenographers' route of printing the pearls of wisdom which dropped from the lips of the same constantly-recycled squads of players and managers from a handful of “big” clubs.

Maybe now he has rejoined Planet Earth, he can put his talents to good use in arguing for a better Scottish football world.

I SEE Billy Stark has been appointed Manager of East Kilbride. This is, I would suggest, a coup for the ambitious Lowland League outfit, but, shows the remarkable lack of vision and foresight among the bigger clubs.

 Billy Stark

Billy is now 60. He has been there, done it, got the tee-shirt, and, if a full Scotland cap is missing from his escutcheon, he is not alone in missing that – is he Sir Alex. To my mind, any Scottish club, genuinely seeking an experienced Director of Football, who has not considered Billy, has made a grievous error. He is still one of the best football men in Scotland.

I wish him well in his new post.

Monday, 12 June 2017

It's Shite Being Scottish

THE HEADLINE above this post is, as every red-blooded Scot should know, taken from “Renton's Rant” in 'Trainspotting'. I reckon it pretty-much sums up how we are all feeling this morning.

“It’s SHITE being Scottish! We’re the lowest of the low. The scum of the fucking Earth! The most wretched, miserable, servile, pathetic trash that was ever shat into civilization. Some hate the English. I don’t. They’re just wankers. We, on the other hand, are COLONIZED by wankers. Can’t even find a decent culture to be colonized BY. We’re ruled by effete assholes. It’s a SHITE state of affairs to be in, Tommy, and ALL the fresh air in the world won’t make any fucking difference!”

If only Stuart Armstrong had passed left, or whacked that ball into Row Z; if only Saturday had not been the day for Craig Gordon to show, he has crossed the brow of the hill and his considerable goalkeeping talents are in decline – we would all have gone to work this morning, smiling, cock-a-hoop, in full: “Here's tae us, wha's like us” mode.

Aye, Renton, or more-properly, Hibs supporter Irvine Welsh hit it on the head – it is shite being Scottish.

I might be old enough to know better, but, I still find myself thinking this present crop of Scottish players are poor. Aye, Leigh Griffiths is no Denis Law, Scott Brown isn't Billy Bremner, Tierney and Robertson will never be as good as Jardine and McGrain - we will never see another Baxter, or a second Jimmy Johnstone, or Davie Cooper.

 Even with these two in the team, we struggled at times

The present lot are honest triers, journeymen, when we, the poor bloody infantry of the Tartan Army are crying-out for a return to the halcyon days of the 1960s and 1970s, when Scotland was a real force in world football.

EXCEPT – our percentages of wins in each decade since the end of World War II are as follows:

1940s – 41.18%
1950s – 47.76%
1960s – 46.03%
1970s – 42.05%
1980s – 39.77%
1990s – 41.57%
2000s – 38.82%
2010s – 41.55%

In these seven and a bit decades since the end of the War, we have averaged 42.45% wins in international football. Over that lifetime, our best season of the 71 we have played was season 1948-49, when we posted a 100% winning record – four wins from four games. Our second-best was season 1975-76, when we posted an 85.71% winning record and our third best was season 1950-51, when we won 75% of our internationals.

Only 17 times in these 71 seasons have we won more than half of the internationals we played. So, even when we had Jim Baxter playing keepie-uppie at Wembley, Jinky turning Terry Cooper inside-out, when Lawrie Reilly was drawing the template for last-minute heroics from Hibs's-supporting Scotland number nines, or Denis Law was inspiring Hmpden Roars, we we not exactly setting the footballing heather aflame.

Lawrie Reilly, the template for last-minute-goal-scoring Hibs supporters in the Scotland team

You know, maybe we are shite, and simply have to learn how to live with it.

POOR wee Alan McCrae, the President of the SFA – an honest greasy pole climber, who isn't even household name in his own household, has enraged the massed ranks of the Orcs and Modred over the weekend – by suggesting it would be no bad thing if Celtic, or any club for that matter, never again produced an invincible season.

I actually saw nothing wrong with Mr McCrae's comment – always assuming the “stenographers (copyright Phil Mac Giolla Bhain) took-down his comments correctly. It was a wonderful feat by Celtic to go through the entire domestic campaign unbeaten – I mean, we have been playing organised football in leagues since 1890 and this is the first time any club has gone through the entire season without losing at least one domestic game.

If it has taken 126 years for this to happen, by the law of averages, it should not happen again for a long, long time.

But, the President's words were seized-upon by The Most-Easily-Upset Fans In The World, as an attack on their divine right to win everything. Their club, after all has never been defeated but always cheated since 1888.

The other cheek of the sectarian erse also farted out its disapproval. Mr McCrae appeared to be suggesting the natural order of things, currently being seriously upset by SFA shennanigans designed to punish Ra Peepul, should not be allowed to return in due course.

Aye, don't you just love the sense of entitlement which exudes from either side of the great divide.

Scottish football needs competition; we need to see the destination of the league title going down to the wire, with more than simply the same-old two clubs fighting it out, with the rest nowhere.

You know, there have only ever been, since the Scottish League was formed in 1890-91, three seasons in which both Celtic and Rangers failed to win at least one of the three main trophies (ok, I know, it has only been possible to win three national trophies since 1946-47).

These seasons were:

1894-95: Hearts won the League, St Bernard's the Scottish Cup
1951-52: Hibs won the League, Motherwell the Scottish Cup, Dundee the League Cup
1954-55: Aberdeen won the League; Clyde the Scottish Cup, Hearts the League Cup

I suppose that level of dominance of the trophies would give any fan of the two dominant clubs a sense of entitlement.

Alan McCrae is correct, it would be no bad thing for Scottish football if we never again saw one club so dominant, and, if the trophies were shared around a bit more evenly.

And just think, IF say Celtic was suddenly to unearth a squad of gilded youths – a 21st century Class of '92 if you like, and that young squad was to go out and win the Challenge Cup – you know, that diddy cup the big teams are not allowed to enter their first teams into, well, what would that say about competition in Scotland?

CONGRATULATIONS to England's Under-20s, for winning the FIFA Under-20 World Cup. Do you think this might shut-up the English media from rehashing 1966 and all that every opportunity? No, me neither.

Sunday, 11 June 2017

Bitterly Disappointed - Moi? You Better Believe I Am

YESTERDAY, I blogged about my first Scotland v Englan game, back in 1958 – a 4-0 loss to England. You know, this morning, I feel worse about that 2-2 draw, less than 24-hours ago, than I do about that scutching more than 50-years back.

But, hey, that's Tartan Army membership for you. If you cannot look the “twin imposters”, triumph and disaster, in the eye and treat them both the same – why did you sign on?

Let's have a look over my 59-years as a TA foot soldier:

1958 – out-played, lost 0-4 : 1959 – a dull game, enlivened by a Bobby Charlton header – lost 0-1.

1960 – Ian St John does everything but score, a Charlton penalty rescues an out-played England – draw 1-1 : 1961 – 9-3 to England, 'nuff said : 1962 – our first Hampden win in 25-years, 2-0 – ecstacy, but, England go off to the World Cup, we stay at home : 1963 – ten-men win at Wembley, Baxter imperious – 2-1 : 1964 – Gilzean's header, three straight wins – 1-0, amazing : 1965 - Baxter's out with a broken leg, we only draw 2-2, against nine fit Englishmen – Disaster for Scotland : 1966 – we lose a seven-goal thriller, 3-4, to a team which will, some weeks later, be crowned World Champions.

The abiding image of Wembley 1967 - Baxter plays keepy-uppy

1967 – Baxter's second Wembley triumph, we declare ourselves unofficial “World Champions” as we absolutely destroy the real champions 3-2 : 1968 – needing to win to qualify for the quarter-finals of the European Championships, the Scots show a lack of ambition and nous, to only draw 1-1 with an England team which does not play well, but, never looked like being beaten : 1969 – hammered 4-1 at Wembley, and, in spite of a terrific debut from Eddie Gray, we were lucky to get one.

1970 – a young and alrgely exprimental Scottish team fails to score in the first 0-0 draw since 1872 : 1971 – out-classed again at Wembley, 3-1 to England : 1972 – an Allan Ball goal wins a real kicking match 1-0 for England, a poor game     :     1973 - the Centenary Game, 5-0 to England in "the St Valentine's Day Massacre     :     three months and four days later we go to Wembley, out-play them; Shilton makes two unbelievable saves; England are up the park once and Martin Peters makes it 1-0 to them     : 1974 – a Scotland squad, on their way to the World Cup finals, outplay and beat 2-0 a poor England squad who are staying at home : 1975 – Stewart Kennedy, 5-1 to England, we avert our gaze and pass quickly on

Tam Forsyth's fantastic tackle on Mick Channon in 1976

1976 – Kenny's nutmeg, Tam Forsyth's tackle, 2-1 to Scotland Yee Haw!! : 1977 – Ally's Army lay waste to Wembley in celebration, 2-1 to Scotland; Yippee Kai Hay Mudderfuckers : 1978 – Steve Coppell scores to dampen the pre-Argentina euphoria, a taste of the hubris to come : 1979 – Another painful Wembley walloping, 3-1 to England, as we fail to defend or build on an early lead.

1980 – 2-0 to England and “an angry silence” descends over Hampden as a poor Scottish team , “makes an ordinary England side look good”, as one Scottish commentator wrote : 1981 – a Wembley win as John Robertson's penalty settles a rather dull game : 1982 With both sides having one and a half eyes on the upcoming World Cup in Spain, an early Paul Mariner goal wins: “an unreal anti-climax” of a game 1-0 for England. Jock Stein is criticised for playing a five-man defence at home : 1983 – a warm Wembley Wednesday night, and, according to the late Jim Reynolds of the Herald: “Scotland froze”, failing to trouble an average England team in going down 2-0 : 1984 – the final Home International finished as a 1-1 draw. It was an error-strewn game,best forgotten.

Gough's goal beats Peter Shilton in the 1985 game

1985 – Richard Gough's back-post header wins the first Rous Cup for Scotland, our first Hampden win for 11 years : 1986 – England win 2-1 at Wembley, Alex Ferguson's first defeat since taking over as team manager following Jock Stein's tragic death. It was Scotland's first defeat in nine games and a foretaste of the disappointment to come in the Mexico World Cup : 1987 – a “draw nae fitba”, 0-0 at Hampden, the fixture was starting to seem past its sell-by date : 1988 – Jim Leighton's heroics save a disappointing Scotland team from losing more than a sublime Peter Beardsley goal as they go down 1-0 at Wembley, but, there are empty seats, this fixture truly has lost its lustre : 1989 – England win 2-0 at Hampden, and reality dawns, regular games between these countries have had their day. Henceforth, they will only meet if drawn together in the European Championships or the World Cup.

1996 – football “comes home” to England for the European Championship finals, and England and Scotland are drawn in the same group, meeting at Wembley on 15 June. Alan Shearer puts England in front, against the run of play; Gary McAllister's penalty is saved by David Seaman, then Paul Gascoigne scores one of the great Wembley goals. Scotland loses, but, the Tartan Army gives England's barmy Army a lesson in how to support your team : 1999 – the luck of the European Championships play-off draw pits Scotland against England in a two-legged game. Paul Scholes scores twice in England's firt leg win at Hampden. Four days later, Don Hutchison scores a Wembley winner; 1-0, but, Scotland fail to level the aggregate and England advance.

Don's delight - Mr Hutchison shares his joy with Barry Ferguson and Neil McCann

2013 – the 150th anniversary of the Football Association provided the chance to reprise the oldest international fixture; James Morrison shot Scotland ahead, Theo Walcott levelled, before Kenny Miller restored Scotland's lead early in the second half; however, two late goals gave England a 3-2 win : 2014 – in a return fixture, at Celtic Park, Wayne Rooney scores twice as England stroll to victory : 2016 – England stroll to victory against a poor Scotland in a World Cup qualifier, before : Last Saturday, we suffer the cruellest of late blows as Harry Kane steals a draw, following those two sublime Leigh Griffiths' free-kcks.

Leigh Griffiths celebrates that second sublime free-kick

That's the story of my 59-years of Tartan Army service. The high spots – Scotland wins, are in red. So, you can see, I haven't had many "red-letter days" to celebrate in this fixture over just short of 60-years. You'd think we'd be used to disappointment and let downs, but, yesterday's draw still hurts more than any of the losses.