Socrates MacSporran

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

Sunday, 13 August 2017

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.”

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