Socrates MacSporran

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

Thursday, 24 August 2017

Cetic Can Get Through The Group Stages

WELL – We ken noo. The speculation is over; Celtic will face Bayern Munich, PSG and Anderlecht in their Champions League group. It could have been better, it might have been worse, but, I can see hope of our Champions being able to carry their European hopes past Christmas and on into 2018.

Scott Brown - he and his team mates now know their Champions League opponents

At this point in time, with the draw just made, many might feel Celtic's best hope is to finish above Anderlecht, in third place, and thus be able to drop into the Europa League knock-out stages. I would say, that ought to be the very least of Celtic's ambitions. Why should they not think bigger?

OK, Bayern are serial contenders in the knock-out stages, while PSG reached the semi-finals last season – and they have since broken the world transfer record to acquire Neymar Junior.

Well, one man doth not a team make, and, while PSG are a good side, they are not unbeatable. None of the other three teams is way above the level of Celtic, it will take an almighty effort, throughout the group stages, but, if they get the breaks and cut-out the daft defensive lases, Celtic could claim one of the top two places and reach the last 16. Let's hope they see this ambition through.

I HOPE Gemma Fay enjoys her retirement from international football, which she announced this week. After 203 caps, Gemma has earned the right to relax a wee bit and enjoy what remains of her club career. She has been an inspiring figure in Women's football and, in this instance, I think she has timed her departure well.

Gemma Fay - Getting out at the top

Meanwhile, football moves on and I wish our girls well as they get their World Cup campaign underway. The loss of experienced players such as Gemma, Ifeoma Dieke and Leanne Ross will be felt; however, the likes of Kim Little, Jenni Beattie and Lizzie Arnott will be back to bolster Shelley Kerr's squad.

Hopefully, we can build on the boost the girls got from qualifying for the recent European Championships, and, having qualified for one final tournament, the girls will want more. Ambition is a wonderful thing.

Still on Women's football; what a super start Hibs Ladies had to their Women's Champions League qualifying group, in Cluj-Napoca, the capital of Transylvania, Romania, beating Swansea City's women's side 5-0.

The Hibs girls next face Ukrainian side Kharkiv, who lost their opening game,this game will be played tomorrow – Friday. The girls then complete their qualifying group by playing host team Olimpia Cluj on Monday.

Who knows, we may have two Scottish teams in the draw for the round of 32, which will be made on 1 September, with Scottish Champions Glasgow City already automatically-qualified into the last 32.

Now, you might think, if two of our women's team reached the last 32, it might embarrass our under-performing men's teams into doing better. Naw, we're dealing with men's Scottish fitba here – they don't do red necks, or red faces.

OBFA – The Offensive Behaviour at Football Act is back in the news, with James Kelly, the left ootside of Scottish Labour leading the charge to have the Act repealed. The efforts to have the Act removed from the statute book are, you will not be surprised to learn, being led by the forces of a couple of Glasgow clubs, whose followers appear to believe – rules are for lesser mortals.

James Kelly MSP

Funnily enough, when the Scottish Government asked the general public what they thought of the Act, there was overwhelming support – but, that's the general public – not the entitled “Establishment” clubs.

I have never deviated from my stance on this Act. It was hurriedly introduced, I don't think it was properly thought through, but, it is better than nothing. We do see offensive behaviour at football, and not just from the usual suspects, and we need to cut it out. The opposition parties are Holyrood are very good at screaming: “SNP
Bad!” and rubbishing every proposal which the Scottish Government brings in.

As I have said before, if the Scottish Government was to bring-in legislation which guaranteed every person, man, woman and child in Scotland a tax-free income of £1 million per year, with the bonus of eternal life – the opposition parties would be against it.

I challenge them then, come-up with better proposals, think them through, get support from them within Holyrood and get your improved Act into law. Simply repealing the Act is not an option.

And, I again say, if the clubs would sort themselves out, insist on better fan behaviour and if they were responsible for the behaviour of their followers, with points deducted for bad behaviour – there would be no need for OBFA.

But, this is Scottish fitba – it will not happen any time soon.

THERE was an interesting wee item on facebook today. Richard McBrearty and his excellent gang at the Hampden Football Museum announced they were mounting a temporary exhibition, highlighting the history of Edinburgh Academical Football Club, which is celebrating its 160th anniversary this year – that's ten years older than Queen's Park.

Of course, the “Eccies”, as Academical are known to the lesser beings of Scottish rugby, play the gentleman's game, in which the ball is handled, but, their players, in the early days, would also occasionally mingle with the ruffians who kicked the football.

Their Glasgow “cousins” of Glasgow Academicals have an even-closer relationship with football, and several of the Scotland internationalists in the early days were New Anniesland men as one of today's most-distinguished Academicals, former top miler Hugh Barrow, never tires of reminding me.

Jenni Beattie - her Dad's old rugby-playing school has a rich football tradition

And, of course, Jenni Beattie, one of our leading Women players of today, is the daughter of John R Beattie, Glasgow Academical, Scotland cap, British Lion and now one of the mainstays of BBC Scotland.

Aye, it's a small sporting world in Scotland.

Mind you, in the comments section of facebook, under the story of the Edinburgh Accies exhibition, one punter enquired: “What does Junior football have to do to get a mention at Hampden?”

Now, there's the rub – Junior fitba is Scottish football's bastard child – the one we never speak about.

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