Socrates MacSporran

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

Tuesday, 15 August 2017

Rangers Street Smart - They're Not Even Football Smart - Compared To This Lot

ONE OF the senior stenographers who are members of the Lap Top Loyal was having a whinge on Monday – apparently, the current Rangers squad are not “street smart” enough.

Street smart” - that's up there with: “Let him know you're there” in the lexicon of euphemisms for: “pit the bit in son”, rule one of the Junior football defender's hand book.

Our aforementioned Loyalist, then went on to bemoan the lack of an Ian Ferguson or a John Brown from the current Ibrox squad. In this, he was showing his age or lack of. Rangers have been fielding “street smart” players since 1872 – the lineage is glorious, and long. OK, I will admit, I never saw a couple of these guys play live, but my Dad did, and so, I give you – the Socrates Mac Sporran, “Street-Smart” Rangers XI.

In goal, tempted though I was to declare an injury emergency and have him registered as a player, I did not pick JOCK WALLACE, instead I went for BILLY RITCHIE.


The team will play in 4-4-2     formation, so, my back four is: DAVIE PROVAN, JOHN GREIG, WILLIE WOODBURN and SAMMY COX, none of whom will take prisoners.



 The midfield quartet are equally uncompromising: GRAEME SOUNESS, HAROLD DAVIS, SAMMY BAIRD and WILLIE JOHNSTON.
  Up front, I am ignoring my Dad's belief in big Jimmy Smith, instead, I am putting my trust in their ability to put the fear of God into opponents, before finding the net regularly, in ALEX FERGUSON and ANDY GRAY. That lot, I feel would not only be Aye Ready to live up to the Rangers' ideals; it would definitely be a case of: Wha Daur Meddle Wi' Me,
when facing them.

 WE MAY BE “enjoying” a typical New Cumnock Summer – it seems to rain every day, but, everyone in my adopted village is walking around smiling these days, and why not.

Our sporting heroes, Glenafton Athletic have continued their magical run of last season, when they won the Scottish Junior Cup, the West of Scotland Superleague and the Evening Times Champion of Champions Cup, starting faster than Justin Gatlin on the full steroid dose in the Ardagh Glass League Cup, by beating Auchinleck Talbot and Cumnock.

On Saturday they played their first William Hill Scottish Cup tie, beating Newton Stewart 6-0 in the first preliminary round. Next up is Golspie Sutherland, at home at Loch Park – win that and they could be facing true senior opposition in the first round.

The locals are living the dream and, long may it continue. Mind you, if they ever get as far as facing a Premiership side, let's hope it's not Rangers. You still get a picture of King Billy on his white charger for above the mantelpiece, with the keys of your council house in this village – drawing Rangers would definitely be a case of divided loyalties.

That thought gives me a chance to regurgitate one of my favourite football stories. Back in the Souness era, Rangers came to Loch Park to play a benefit match for the families of a young couple, killed in a car crash on their way to see the 'Gers.

Davie Dodds - no oil painting

After the game, David Dodds referred to one of the Glen's committee as: “That big ugly bastard over there”. Said official went to his grave delighted by the compliment – after all, if an oil painting like DD thought you were ugly, well, it had to be true.

I NOTE, Club 1872 – is that the long-service arm of Club 18-30? are not happy at the conduct of one Neil Francis Lennon, at Ibrox on Saturday.

Just a misunderstood boy - Lenny at Ibrox

That is an irony by-pass of truly epic American proportions. They have never complained about the poisonous atmosphere at Ibrox most match-days, the blatant bigotry and the songs of hate – and let's not go near the way the GASL continues to disgrace and mismanage their club - but, a wee ginger-headed Irishman cups his hands to his ears and waves his arms about and it is the end of civilisation as we know it.

Guys – get a life, please. And, a word to Police Scotland; there is such a charge as wasting police time.

IF YOU want to have a long and successful career in the sports media in Scotland, after counselling you to: get a life, my next suggestion is, pick a minority sport and work at it.

There are churnalists in Scotland covering minor sports – i.e. any sort other than football, rugby and Andy Murray who, to be frank, struggle with joined-up calligraphy.

Alan Campbell

But, the esteemed Alan Campbell is not such a man. Alan is a total pro who has chosen to become the go-to man for coverage of Women's football in Scotland.

Now recovered from the travails of the Women's Euros in the Netherlands, Alan is preparing to go on manoeuvres again, as Scotland, under new Head Coach Shelley Kerr, get ready to kick-off their World Cup campaign.

New Scotand Women's Coach Shelley Kerr

There seems certain to be to some extent a changing of the guard as far as the Scotland squad is concerned, with new faces coming in to replace long-serving regulars. As always, Alan will be there and, I hope, after the girls' good showing in the Netherlands, Alan's sterling efforts are better-appreciated by the desk jockeys at our various media outlets.

I really fancy the girls to show the men how to qualify for World Cup Finals. It's time to get serious about the ability our girls possess.

Sunday, 13 August 2017

Stokes And Beaton Should Be Beaten For Their Folly

TONY McGLENNAN, the SFA's Disciplinary Compliance Officer is in for a busy couple of days – reviewing the footage from Saturday's Rangers v Hibs game at Ibrox.

Ryan Jack and Anthony Stokes have a tete a tete

And if, at the end of it, Hibs' Anthony Stokes isn't looking at a lengthy suspension, then McGlennan clearly isn't doing his job. I refrained from saying too-much about this latest outbreak of unsavoury football, until I had seen the lowlights on TV on Sunday night.

Just how the fiery Stokes stayed on the pitch is a mystery to me. His assault on James Tavernier, early in the match, was as clear a red card as I have seen. He then commits another red-card offence, when he tried to throttle Ryan Jack. OK, Jack has only himself to blame for a clear retaliatory butt at Stokes, feeble though it was – but, just how John Beaton didn't also dismiss Stokes – particularly since he was already on a yellow card, has me totally dumbfounded.

John Beaton - had a "Collum" on Saturday

Maybe Mr McGlennan should also suspend Mr Beaton, for gross dereliction of duty. This was as poor a display of officiating as I have seen in a long time. I gather the technical term is: "He had a Collum".

PHYSICAL EDUCATION teachers, or as they were in my day: “Gym teachers” have long been the whipping boys of the teaching profession. It used to be said, because new students in each year at the Scottish School of Physical Education at Jordanhill College were, on arrival, given a number, these dolled-out alphabetically – PE teachers wore their IQ on their backs.

The same might well be said about footballers, although, with today's penchant for squad numbers, one or two are clearly being given numbers higher than their IQ.

I reckon that applies to Newcastle United skipper Jonjo Shelvey, who was rightly red-carded for as blatant a stamp on an opponent – Spurs' Deli Alli – which is the clearest I have ever seen, and I used to cover Ayrshire Junior Football in the bad old days.

 Jonjo Shelvey - plain daft

Stupidity doesn't cover Shelvey's actions. Those fantastic Geordie fans in the Toon Army deserve better from their skipper. There is an old Ayrshire saying which applies to Shelvey's action – it could only have been a rush of shite to the brain.

I SPENT several happy years driving the Sports Desk at the Paisley Daily Express, until they appointed an Editor who was a half-wit, but, still at that, twice as intelligent as the News Editor, whereupon I bailed out, with huge regrets.

Covering St Mirren wasn't always easy – two steps forward, one back, most of the time, but, getting to know great guys like Fitz – Tony Fitzpatrick, Norrie McWhirter, Campbell Money, big Mark Yardley and of course, the wonderful “Basher” - Barry Lavety – made the job tolerable. I will always have a soft spot for the Buddies.

So, I am feeling a bit down today, after their heavy defeat in the Renfrewshire Derby on Saturday. It goes without saying, losing a derby is the worst loss of all – more so, when much of the damage was done by the son of an old fan's favourite.

Jai Quitongo - a real chip off the old block

Jose Quitongo only spent a little time at Love Street, but, he was, as he was nearly everywhere else, smashing while he was there. It is great to see his son Jai develop into something of a chip off the old block, but, a bit disconcerting to see him play so well against the Buddies.

They take the derby seriously in Renfrewshire. I well recall one game at Cappielow, in which Morton simply could not contend with the twin Lavety-Yardley threat, as Saints strolled to victory.

As we headed down to the manager's office for the post-mortem, the press pack were surrounded by some very angry and not always stoney-faced 'Ton fans.

We reached the office and the late Willie Hunter - a Paisley Buddie who was so-dedicated to his home town, over the many years he spent living in a leafy Glasgow suburb, while working as Chief Leader Writer for the Glasgow Herald – back when its leaders were worth reading – he had a notice just inside his garden gate: “Welcome to Paisley”. Well that day, Willie, who was a truly iconoclastic football writer, was wearing the most serene smile.

He entered the office, poured himself a generous hauf from the complimentary whisky bottle, lit what was probably his 50th cigarette of the day, took a puff, a slurp of his hauf, before turning to me and saying: “Socrates – I rather enjoyed that”.

Yet, when you read his report on the Monday, you would never have known Willie had a pro-St Mirren leaning. Truly, he was the Paisley Grammarian who more than compensated for Fred Goodwin and Andra Neil. I still miss him.

Willie, by the way, played the mourners out of the Linn Crematorium after his funeral with a recording of his trombone solo: “When the Saints go marching in”. They broke the mould after they made Willie.

MY OLD mucker, Bill Lothian of the Edinburgh Evening News, over the weekend posted on facebook, a link to a Guardian story about changes to the immigration rules.

Bill Lothian - has flagged up another Brexit balls-up

Apparently it will soon become much more difficult for sports clubs to bring-in young talent from overseas. In particular this new ruling will all but eliminate the practice whereby young Australians, New Zealanders, South Africans and West Indians can join British cricket, rugby and hockey teams for a season's experience.

In cricket, which could be particularly hard-hit, these guys are known as “Overseas Amateurs” - they get their keep, some are fixed-up with none-too rigorous jobs, and, so long as they are not paid to play, all is well.

However the new rules will re-classify them as “professionals”, since, a lot of them return years later as full professionals, and as such, getting them in will become more-difficult.

On the face of it, this should not bother football too-much, but, it is not difficult to see a Conservative government, determined to “take back control” of our borders, being equally heavy-handed when it comes to bringing in foreign talent for football clubs.

In theory, this should help more young Scots come through and develop, but, some of our clubs might just miss-out on a genuine unpolished diamond from abroad they can polish and sell-on for a big profit.

See this Brexit – it's a nonsense.

Media's Prayers Answered As Lenny Enjoys His Return To Ibrox

TERRIBLE wee man that Neil Lennon – upsetting the second most-easily-offended fans in the world, at Ibrox yesterday. Really, he ought to save such behaviour for the real champions – the most-easily-offended fans in the world, on the other side of Glasgow.

Neil Francis Lennon interacts with his adoring public yesterday

But, of course, he will not. Everyone knew before hand, Lenny's return to Ibrox would make the headlines, and the papers were not disappointed. Such click-bait; the usual keyboard warriors will be letting rip below the lines, and the internet traffic will convince the guys upstairs, their faltering papers are still relevant.

Fair play to Hibs, they have started well on their return to the top flight. OK, Ryan Jack's stupid red card was maybe the difference between a win and a draw, but, Rangers are very much a work in progress, so, a Hibs team used to winning, probably got them at the right time.

The high number of red cards yesterday is a concern, however; particularly since many of them were distinctly of the: “Sudden rush of shite to the brain” variety. Now, there is a general consensus that big Kirk Broadfoot isn't the sharpest knife in the cutlery drawer in Drongan – a village where, if Police Scotland had their way, knives of any kind would be banned as bing a danger to the populace.

Scottish Government standing instructions have it, by the way - if any inmate escapes from Carstairs, an immediate cordon must be thrown round Drongan, if the escapee gets in there, they'll never find him. 

Some of us in God's Orange County reckon Drongan was only placed here to give Cumnock and Kilwinning a place to look down on and make fun of. But, even if we accept, big Kirk – lovely fellow by the way – is prone to the afore-mentioned sudden rushes to the brain, his red card yesterday was amazingly-stupid.

Kirk Broadfoot - lovely big guy, but, as his red card showed, still as daft as a brush

My late father-in-law was one of the first of the Canadians to come to Scotland in the 1930s, when professional ice hockey started-up in Scotland, and he once told me, he knew it was time to hang-up the skates, when he had to resort to fouling to stop guys. There's a lesson there KB.

Of course, there will be some who will blame the referees for the mayhem yesterday. As ever with the match officials, there was inconsistency to be seen, but, remember this – they are having to make spur-of-the-moment decisions, without benefit of replays, and in such cases, honest mistakes (are we still allowed to write that by the way) will and do happen.

One such mistake yesterday was the decision to only yellow-card Hibs captain Darren McGregor for one challenge, on Alfredo Morelos. Even in rugby, that was a straight red card any day of the week.

This "tackle" was a straight red in Rugby 

Some day, we will have in football, the sort of referee to Television Match Official inter-action we already have in rugby. That will be welcome, but, in rugby, some of the decisions reached after the TMO intervenes, are still wrong. Where the human element comes in, accidents will happen.

I do wish football would come down off its high horse, its high self-worth as, the Beautiful Game – there are so-many things it could learn from other games. You see a lot of yellow cards flashed in football matches, these are largely slaps on the wrist, which the players by and large ignore.

I would like to see football bring-in hockey's green card system. A green card in that sport is roughly the equivalent of a yellow in football. A second green means yellow and five minutes in the sin bin.

That would work in football – a badly mistimed tackle – green card; second green, upgrade to yellow and five minutes in the sin bin. Second yellow, as today – red card, cheerio.

The referee would still have the options of a straight yellow, again with the five minutes in the sin bin, or, for the really bad ones – a straight red. I believe a rash of early green cards might cut down the stupid fouls and make for a cleaner, better, faster games.

There is also a case for, as in ice hockey, “minor” and “major” penalties. A mistimed tackle for instance would be a “minor” penalty – a “professional” foul would be a major one – maybe five minutes in the sin bin for a minor foul, ten for a major one – again, for the over the top ones, the straight red would still be there to be used.

I have often said, Association Football is the most free-form and flowing of the many variants of “Football” which are played. As such, it requires the most-stringent type of officiating and regard for the laws. It is long past time that IFAB, football's supreme law-making body, stopped tip-toeing round the issue and really took steps to make it a game in which skill, talent, athleticism and entertainment was given free rein to operate.

Mind you, come to think of it – Wee Lenny's antics and inter-action with Ra Peepul was certainly entertaining.

MORE THAN one sporting legend has admitted, in retirement, the hardest decision they ever had to make was to retire from the sporting activity they loved.

Some have no-choice, I was speaking this week to one Scottish rugby legend who didn't have the choice, an ACL knee injury did for him. Others, such as the wonderful Usain Bolt on Saturday night, go-on too-far and it all ends in disaster.

One champion who went at a time of his choosing

Rocky Marciano - the original and genuine boxing Rocky - retired as undefeated Heavyweight Champion of the World – one of the very few who went out at the top. I remember reading somewhere that Marciano said the worst he ever felt in the ring was when he had to put away the great Joe Louis, another fantastic Heavyweight Champion, but, a man who, because of tax problems and mismanagement was forced to carry-on when spent.

In football, there have been a very few who got to pick their moment. Big Billy McNeill, for instance, went out as a Scottish Cup winner, his final act as Celtic captain to lift the trophy at Hampden.

Billy McNeill's last act as Celtic captain, lifting the Scottish Cup in 1975

Denis Law nearly did it. OK, his final international was his only one in the World Cup Finals, but, even Denis will admit, picking him for the Zaire game, his record 55th cap, was an act of generosity by Willie Ormond to a player who was over the hill.

 Denis Law also went out at the top, playing for Scotland in the 197 World Cup Finals

George Young, another Scotland icon, was denied the farewell he wanted by a jealous clique within the SFA. You know, there is something in the old saying: “treat every game and every day as if it was your last – one day, you will be right.”

Friday, 11 August 2017

More Sad News From Ibrox

LOVE THEM or loathe them, Rangers have always been a Scottish football institution – why else do you think the SFA hierarchy drove a Caterpillar D10 bulldozer through their rule book to keep a “Rangers” entity in Scottish football following the events of 2012.

The Cat D10 the SFA used to re-write the rules and keep Rangers alive

And, before the usual suspects start nipping my ear – if the same fate was to befall, the other lot, they'd fire-up the 'dozer again – some clubs are too-big to fail.

So, I was somewhat disappointed this week to learn, Rangers are now a “selling Club”. FFS, get a grip – football economics is now in such a mess – EVERY club is a selling club. Do you think, if some other club came along and told Real Madrid: “OK, we will give you €250,000,000 for CR7”; they would say: “No thanks”. Of course they would sell him, in football, everyone has their price.

But, for those of us old enough to remember when Rangers really was Rangers – when the club stood for something – even if we held our noses when we gazed upon their signing policy, this week's announcement from Director of Football Mark Allen was a bit of a blow.

Rangers were traditionally a destination club. “Once a Ranger – always a Ranger” and all that. The death of a former footballer, who perhaps played for several clubs, and enjoyed success elsewhere, either before or after a short spell of perhaps just one season, is usually marked by the headline: “Former Rangers star dies”.

As more than one former player has said – after Rangers the only way is down. So, it is sad that those inside Ibrox now accept, in world football terms, the club is now small beer.

Indeed, in the eternal battle for one-upmanship across the Old Firm divide, while the Rangers fans have been on the defensive and taking huge amounts of flak over their club's recent travails – the taunt: “You're nothing more than a feeder club for Southampton”, does hit home.

That clubs such as Southampton, whose history cannot remotely be compared to that of the two Glasgow giants can now pick-off their stars at will: well, that merely shows how the commercial imbalance towards the obscenely over-rich English Premiership has turned the football world upside down.

Celtic, of course, has always been a “selling” club, but, with Rangers, top players only left if they had had a fall-out with the management, if the offer was too-good to refuse and if they had blotted their copy-book and been moved-on – in the case of Jim Baxter, for all three reasons. Otherwise, they stayed until they realised, they were no longer first choice and it was time to go.

The great Jim Baxter - a rare example of Rangers selling an asset

Now, assuming they ever get back to having such talent – young Scottish players who would, in past years have gone on to become domestic legends, will be sold to lesser English clubs for whatever they can get. Aye, further evidence of the decline in Scottish football.

BRUNO Alves likened the Scottish Premiership to playing in the Porto B team, after Saturday's opening league game between Motherwell and Rangers. He said the similarity was because: “The ball was always in the air”. Now, I find that really depressing.

You see, I have had to take-down that quote before. Following his debut for Irvine Meadow, against Kilwinning Rangers, some 30-years ago, former Rangers player, the late Colin McAdam told me: “You could play midfield in this league and never touch the ball, it's always in the air”.

Colin McAdam - 30-years ahead of Alves in seeing the problem

It is one thing to have two teams playing as if their inspiration was Peter Kaye's character from yon John Smith's beer advert; quite another to have one of the most-experienced and respected defenders in Europe saying that after his debut in the top flight in your country.

That Scotland, the country which, through Queen's Park and the early “Scotch professors”, invented the passing game, reduced to hoofing the ball up in the air – can we get any worse?

Of course, aerial football was an English invention, the old Route One game beloved of yon wacky wing commander who worked-out, the sooner and oftener you lashed the ball into the penalty area, the more-likely you were to score. Well, give me “tika-taki”, the 21st century incarnation of the Queen's Park game, over hoof it and hope any day.

By the way. Even when they were one goal down, and rapidly running out of time, the Danish girls, against the Netherlands, in Sunday's Women's European Championships final never resorted to Route One football. It's not good enough for the top women's team, but, they still play it our Premiership. Nae wonder we are going backwards faster than yon WWII, Ferrari-engined Italian tank of myth and legend.

YOU CAN “never say never”, but, at the time or writing, this blog has no intention of deviating from our view, we need the European Clubs Association to get their act together and institute the European version of the North American sports franchises which will properly allow the top clubs and the top talents to co-exist and earn their right money.

Peter Lawwell - the ECA could do worse than pick him

So, I was intrigued to note that Celtic's Peter Lawwell could be a candidate to succeed the great Karl-Heinz Rummenigge as head of the ECA.

He might have a chance – the Europeans will not be keen to have an Englishman, should there be one of sufficient standing, in situ. A German succeeding a German, unlikely, so, to avoid rivalries between the French, the Italians and the Spanish, a suitable “neutral” candidate must be found – wee Peter could just be the man.

We might be shite at the moment, but, given Scotland's place in the development of football and, the fact we are not England.

Monday, 7 August 2017

Scottish Football Maybe Needs To Watch The Girls More

I REMEMBER, some years ago, reading in a newspaper golf column, the theory that your average male club golfer would be better-off watching women's professional golf, rather than the male tour.

The reasoning was – watching Tiger Woods & Co whacking drives over 300-yards down the fairway was a feat beyond the abilities of the average club hacker. No, better to watch the women, their abilities were more in-line with those of mere medium to high handicap men. This article came to mind, as I watched the Dutch girls, who made home advantage count, beating the Danes to win the European Women's Championships.

The Dutch girls done good

Maybe, instead of asking our wannabe young players to learn from the likes of Gareth Bale, CR7, Lionel Messi and their likes we should be pointing them towards the top women.

Certainly, in flashes, both teams in Sunday's women's final produced moments of magic which we very rarely see in even the SPFL's top flight. There was one wee vignette of close control from one of the Dutch girls which would not have been out of place in La Liega, while another produced a Cruyff Turn which even the late, great, originator of that move would have been pleased with.

Then, there was the sheer joy of being able to appreciate the athleticism, attitude and skill of Nadine Nadim, the Afghanistan-born refugee who was such a sensation up front for the Danes. That young lady is special, but, without being in any way parochial, Scotland's women's team too has its share of special players. The difference the likes of the absent Kim Little and Jenni Beattie might have made, is a definitely bad case of Scottish: “if only”.

Being the host nation at a major championships, has its pluses, of course, but, it also brings additional pressures. The Dutch girls rose above these extra pressures and delivered – something Scottish teams find difficult. Well done girls.

Shanice van de Sanden - a wee bit special

SPEAKING of the Dutch girls, might Shanice van de Sanden, their little right winger be the best Liverpool number 7, (in internationals, her club number is 11), since a certain Kenneth Mathieson Dalglish retired? Discuss.

YOU KNOW, I have long wondered about the mentality of some Scottish fitba fans. Since the start of the season, it had been the Celtic fans – particularly the Green Brigade - who had almost dominated the heid case rankings.

So, I almost reckon those Rangers-supporting loonies, who set-off their blue flares at Fir Park yesterday, were mounting a specific assault on topping the heid case rankings.

Such a lack of self-awareness, it is stunning. I can recall when the Tartan Army were seen almost as an invading army when they left Scotland. Bad behaviour was almost obligatory, then, the England fans started to act badly, the TA cleaned-up their act and became welcomed guests around the world.

I somehow doubt if the followers of the Bigot Brothers will ever have such a Pauline conversion.

I WATCHED the highlights of the FA Charity Shield match yesterday, and yet again had to shake my head at the FA's pandering to what Roy Keane so-memorably dubbed, in a Manchester United context: “the prawn sandwich brigade”.

Roy Keane - his memorable phrase will live long

There is a huge area of seating, the lower tier of the main stand at Wembley, behind the technical areas, which – except for the FA Cup Final and England home games, is basically desert.

Even at big games, some ten minutes into the second half, this area always seems to me to be sparsely-filled. These seats are held by debenture holders, the guys, often companies, who, for a hefty upfront payment, guaranteed themselves the right to buy tickets for home games at the new Wembley.

It has become clear, since the new ground opened – these people are not real football fans. But, I suppose, pandering to them and pricing real fans out of the ground is a price the FA though it worth paying to rebuild their home ground.

I cannot help thinking, England might have been better-off letting the old Wembley he demolished and built on, and taken England games round the big club grounds, where real fans across the country of England could more-easily see their heroes in action.

If they had to have a huge London ground, capable of hosting really big England games or the FA Cup Final, I am sure the gentlemen of the RFU at Twickenham would have been only-too-happy to rip-off their ruffian cousins.

 Thibaut Courtois - rubbish at saving, and taking, penalties

I liked the new format of the penalty shoot-out, as demonstrated yesterday. However, as an old goalie, I was disgusted by the poor efforts of two of the supposed “great” 'keepers of today to stop the spot kicks, and also, in the case of Chelsea's Thibaut Courtois to take one. Pretty pathetic I thought.