I AM sorry, I want to believe, but, long experience has taught me, Scotland is more-likely to blow World Cup qualifying than to get there. There are simply too-many things that can go wrong between now and the final qualifiers being revealed by November.
Wee Leigh - Sshh! I was offside, but, we'll take it
Mind you, Leigh Griffiths was clearly offside when he scored that second goal. Too often in the past, we have had goals wrongly chalked-off, and seen opponents be credited with goals that were not. Just this once, Lady Luck smiled on us and the assistant referee kept his flag down.
Might things be changing, and we are going to get a break or two?
I am trying to be positive here, and, the fact we are in a very-tight race just might pay-off in our favour. Scottish teams tend to trip-up in the games we believe should be relatively-easy. The final two games are “must-win” matches, we will need to be up for the fight – this could play in our favour. But, that said, I'd far rather Slovenia were coming to Hampden for the final, crucial match.
I hate to get too-far ahead, but, even if we do claim second place and one of the eight play-off slots. Our record in play-offs is woeful. There again, it has to change some time, why not in 2017?
AN OLD Gaffer of mine, one of these brilliant production journalists who could take our worst, hurriedly-penned against a deadline guff and turn it into sensible, well laid-out prose, went through the roof in my estimation the night he telt his boss where to shove his paper. Declaring: “This is no longer the newspaper I joined” as he handed in his notice, he has since gone on to fashion a more than decent living as a freelance specialist, who has also written a couple of very good biographies.
He is currently working on another, the tale of now dead Tartan Army Hero, “six-foot two, eyes of blue” big Jim Holton. I eagerly await its publication.
I thought of big Jim as I read about Scott Brown's frustrations with the Maltese player who spat at him, and spent 90 minutes on Monday night trying to get Broonie's legendary hair-trigger temper to explode.
All Broonie could do in this modern age of almost non-contact fitba was do his best to ensure Scotland won as easily as possible. Now, had our Malteser been daft enough to wind-up Holton – come-uppance would have been swift and painful.
Six-foot tow, eyes of blue - and unforgettable
Who who was around at the time will ever forget the raw young Holton, being instructed by Tommy Docherty to: “Let Martin Chivers know you are there early-on” and proceeding to send the then feared England centre forward into the crowd at the Stretford End of Old Trafford.
Chivers returned to the fray after prolonged treatment, to inform Holton: “You're nuffink but a big, dirty, Scotch Cunt.”
“Aye, and don't you ever forget it”, was Holton's response. That tale is in the book.
You know, when it comes to that sort of under-hand behaviour during a game – spitting and trying to get an opponent sent off – there is something to be said for ice hockey's tolerance of “the fight”.
There are rules, although not inscribed by the Marquis of Queensbury. Off come the gloves, quite often, also the helmets, the other players and the officials make room for the pugilists and they go at it. But, once they both hit the ice – it aint easy trying to punch someone when you are on skates – the fight is over. The combatants are then, nine times out of ten, ushered to the sin bin, where they serve their two to five minutes, and life goes on.
In ice hockey, even the goalies occasionally come to blows
Senior football should embrace this – it already works OK in the Juniors.
SPEAKING of hastily-written against a deadline copy. Kudos to my big Paisley Buddie, Graeme Macpherson of the Herald, for a smashing “colour piece” on Monday night's Hampden game. The colour piece is a distinct sports-writing art form, which Graeme and his oppo across at The Scotsman, Alan Pattullo, have both mastered. We are lucky to have them these days.
Big Graeme also penned a smashing indictment on the English transfer market over the weekend, I commend it to the House.
TODAY, between Sky, BT, ITV and BBC, we have virtual 24-hour, 7-days per week, wall-to-wall football. Guys who, on a ability grounds would, in past years not even be household names in their own households are today: “stars”.
The Scotland team which drew with Wales in 1957
Well, over the weekend, the Sports Heritage Scotland website posted, on facebook, the above picture of the Scotland team which drew 1-1 with Wales at Hampden, in November, 1957, relaxing after training. I could, straight away, go down the line and name 11 of the 13 guys in the picture. The two I didn't get straight away were the two new caps.
Show me a picture of the squad Gordon Strachan currently has with him, and I would struggle to do that. To paraphrase Norma Desmond's great line from 'Sunset Boulevard' – “those players are big, it's football that's got small.”
By the way, the Scotland team, as pictured is, from the right: Trainer Dawson Walker of Clyde, Bobby Evans, Willie Fernie, Tommy Docherty, Tommy Ewing, Ian Gardiner - (the two I didn't immediately get), Alex Scott, Alex Parker, Jackie Mudie, Tommy Younger, John Hewie, Eric Caldow and Bobby Collins – who scored our goal in the game.
Sadly, only Eric Caldow, Tommy Ewing and Tommy Docherty of that team of 60-years ago are still alive.