TERRY VENABLES is now one of football's “Yesterday's Men,” but, back in 1970, he co-authored, with Scottish writer Gordon Williams, one of the few believable examples of football fiction.
Terry Venables - was ahead of the game 40 years ago
'They Used To Play On Grass' was a world away from Roy of the Rovers, or Nick Smith and Arnold Tabbs, or “Limp Along” Leslie – some of the staples of football fiction in the DC Thomson comics of my youth. It is up there with the likes of Bob Crampsey's fitba novel: 'The Manager,' a terrific tale, well-told, except, and it almost seems blasphemous to say this, Bob was a gentleman, and sadly, his attempt to write a sex scene was a rare failure; Brian Glanville's two full-length efforts at the football novel: 'The Rise of Gerry Logan,' and 'Goalkeepers Are Different,' also a stand-out in a fairly thin field.
They used to play on grass was written at a time when Venables was still playing – with Queen's Park Rangers, who were the first senior British team to introduce a plastic pitch, and it forecast the day would come when every pitch was an artificial one.
Now, as we know, the Loftus Road pitch was pretty ropey and was dug-up, to be replaced by a grass one, but, that was nearly half a century ago, and, technology has moved-on somewhat since then.
Allan Massie, best-known as a writer of historical fiction, writes a very erudite Saturday rugby column in The Scotsman. A decade or so back, he introduced me, when reading his column, to an old Borders tradition which, up to then I was unaware of. This was “Aye Beenism,” which can be explained as someone suggests an innovation, only to be told:
“Naw Son, ye cannae dae that, it's aye been and aye will be done this way.” This is particularly true in Borders rugby.
But, events this week have convinced me, Aye Beenism is not restricted to rugby – it happens in football too. That's the only reason I can come up with for PFA Scotland's petition to try to force Hamilton Academical, Kilmarnock and Livingston to rip-up their state-of-the-art 3G and 4G pitches and revert to grass – for what looks to me to be no other good reason than: “It's aye been and aye will be grass we play on.”
ONE AYE BEEN which I am certain Aye Will Be is that we will always be stuck with bad behaviour from a minority of Scottish fans – and, and not only because there are more of them – the majority of these unsavoury incidents will involve followers of the Bigot Brothers.
Equally certainly, even when confronted by pictures, such as those on social media of those broken seats at Rugby Park on Sunday, and the video footage of Kris Boyd being struck on the elbow by a coin, flares being thrown from the Celtic support, and pitch invasions you will find the Celtic Apologists attempting to cling onto the moral high ground and playing down the incidents.
James Kelly MSP, led the campaign to get rid of OBFA - and how have his fellow Celtic fans thanked him?
Remember, it was the “Celtic-minded” MSP James Kelly, who led the ridiculous decision to get shot of OBFA (the Offensive Behaviour at Football Act), without replacing it adequately. Kelly, I have to admit, comes across as an idiot, but, I doubt if he is as daft as those Celtic fans who misbehaved at Rugby Park.
Of course, the self-styled Greatest Fans In The World, will ignore these “minor” incidents and insist: they are not as bad as the other lot. A plague on both their houses.
I have said before, and will surely say again – until the SFA grows a pair and calls the Big Two and their fans to account – there will always be bad behaviour at football.
Strict Liability will go a long way to curing the cancer. If clubs lost points for fan misbehaviour, they would actually start to treat the fans well, give them a bit of a say in how the club is run, and I would suggest – benefit financially and in other ways.
For instance, given the season ticket numbers of both clubs are higher than the maximum capacity of every other club ground in Scotland, Celtic and Rangers HAVE to operation a rationing scheme for tickets to away games.
It stands to reason, season ticket holders and members of official supporters clubs have a far-greater chance of getting tickets for away matches involving the two clubs. Therefore, the clubs have a fairly good idea of which of their fans and supporters clubs are at any game.
So, they must know which season ticket holders and supporters clubs were in the vicinity of the areas from which the flares and coin were thrown and the seats wrecked.
It the clubs tell these clubs/season ticket holders: you were in the vicinity, you're on-suspicion, so, you're not getting into the away ticket ballot for X number of games – the knock-on effect would be on these individuals and clubs to self-police, start identifying the hooligans and getting them banned.
That's what would happen with Strict Liability – and, I am sure, before ere long, Scottish football would be a far happier and safer place.
However, there would need to be a pay-off. Registration of official supporters, allowing the clubs to target their market with offers etc, surely discounts on admissions, club merchandising and so forth would be a bonus for the fans as well.
The clubs accept a lot of love from their fans, without being too giving in the opposite direction. A wee change there might give our clubs a big boost.
MIND you, expecting any kind of meaningful change for the better to come out of the Hampden sixth-floor corridor is asking a lot. That lot up there definitely could not run a menauge.
Scott Brown got a second yellow, then a red for this celebration, but, should have been red-carded earlier
I have yet to hear of any action being taken on Scott Brown's straight-leg take-out of Greg Taylor on Sunday. That challenge was, to me, an even-clearer straight red card than the Allan McGregor challenge on young Ferguson in the Aberdeen v Rangers game. Maybe it's because I'm a goalkeeper, but, unfortunate though the contact was, I saw nothing wrong with McGregor going for and getting the ball as he did. Yet the compliance officer, who has never been closer to the field than the spectating areas, landed him with a two-match ban.
The Brown assault on Taylor was a red card every day of the week, but, nothing happened. Nae wonder Scottish football is in a mess, when assaults like that go unpunished.
I appreciate SFA special by-laws 16.90 and 18.88 ensure, normal rules do not apply to the captains of Rangers and Celtic, but, come on – enough is enough.