Socrates MacSporran

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

Tuesday, 12 September 2017

Another Bad European Night In Paradise

EVEN the very best teams can have bad days or nights: the glorious Hungarians of Puskas, Bozsik, Hidegkuti and Co were never world champions, ditto the mesmeric Brazilians of Socrates , Zico and the boys in 1982. Even Scotland, in 1978, could beat eventual finalists Netherlands but, could not themselves score in their 1-1 draw against Iran. But, mostly, the good sides beat the not-so-good ones, as happened last night at Celtic Park.

I must admit, I didn't think PSG were as good as they were being built-up to be. Again, football history is choc-a-bloc with stories of what the tabloid press used to term: “Bank of England” teams – assembled without thought of cost, crashing and burning, usually because the mix was wrong. Back in the 1950s, in the early days of European football, Real Madrid would scour the planet for the best talent, but, the catch was, whichever big name they brought in HAD to be able to work with Alfredo Di Stefano. The likes of Puskas could – resulting the glorious celebration of pure football that was Hampden, 1960 – Didi, the mastermind of Brazil's exhilarating victory in the 1958 World Cup Finals could not, and was swiftly moved-on.

 Neymar Jnr - the lesser-beings are fitting-in well around him

Thus, it was all very well the French champions paying an obscene amount of money to recruit Neymar, but, it was quite another thing getting the lesser beings, great talents in their own right, to play with him. On the evidence of last night, they may have squared that circle. By the way, my spell-checker's suggestion for an alternative to Neymar is: "money-maker", how apt.

I must admit, I thought Celtic were capable of giving PSG a game last night. OK, the Hoops maybe could have, should have had a free kick right at the start of that counter-attack which led to Neymar's clipped execution of the opening goal, but, the referee didn't give it. The ba' was still on the grass then, but, for Celtic, it was on the slates when the French side went 2-0 up. Thereafter, it was damage limitation and, given the paucity of the opposition they face on a weekly basis in the Premiership, Celtic are unused to having to mount damage limitation exercises.

There is another area in which the club MUST initiate damage limitation protocols, after, once again, a Celtic fan got on the park and embarrassed the club; this incident will see Celtic, not for the first time, making a contribution to UEFA funds they should not have to.

 Juan Guy in his latest guise - causing Celtic more grief

I know, the Celtic family apologists will drag out their usual mitigating statements: “It was only Juan Guy” - well, be it Juan Guy, Raphael Guy, Pancho Guy, Ramon Guy or even Guy Fawkes – it's time that dissident family was dragged into line.

I never occupied the press seats at Celtic Park too often – Celtic games were for the big names, not for the talented but unrecognised journeymen journalists such as yours truly. But, whenever I was sent there, I got the impression a lot of the staff at the club, the stewards and so-forth thought, because they were working for Celtic – they were actually wearing the hoops.

When you turned up to work at Celtic Park,you had to run the gauntlet of some arrogant arseholes, who seemed to think it was their duty in life to make your working day as unpleasant as possible. Then, when the match kicked off, you would find them getting in your way, crowding into what was then that magnificent press box suspended from the main stand roof – the best working environment for a match reporter in Scotland – apart that is from the club staff seemingly determined to make for an unpleasant day.

I am not saying this happens, but, it might be, some of the stewards, who should be watching the fans for potential incursions are, like the guys I had to work past, more interested in getting-in to watch the game for free. Some football fans are scornful of us “fans with lap tops”, maybe, in the case of Celtic, they have a problem with “fans in hi-viz”.

Last night's incursion is a gift to the poor beleaguered Rangers fans, as the Celtic Family's efforts to occupy fandom's moral high ground is under-mined from within.

FOOTBALL ground naming rights is an emotive subject. I fear it is yet another North American marketing idea which we poor saps this side of the pond have rushed to embrace. Now, dear old Partick Thistle, Glasgow football's perennial third force, have jumped on the band wagon. The “Energy Check Stadium at Firhill” for thrills does not and never will scan. Mind you, the dear old Jags, forever squeezed between the Dibs and the Dobs, as Andy Cameron refers to the other two tribes, need all the cash they can get.

Good luck to them, but, for me – and I suspect the other horny-handed subs of toil putting together our sports pages, the Maryhill Magyrs will still simply be playing at Firhill. After all, the film actress Dame Elizabeth Rosemond Taylor-Hilton-Wilding-Fisher-Todd-Burton-Burton-Warner-Who Was The Last Guy Again was always simply known as Elizabeth Taylor. And, how many different names has Livingston tried to foist on us for dear old Almondvale?

Selling naming rights might work in North America, it has never caught-on over here, and, hopefully it never will.

Frank De Boer

FRANK DE BOER will doubtless be well-compensated for his 77 days in charge of Crystal Palace, but, the decision to dispense with his services is merely the latest example of the collective madness which has overtaken English football. Some club owners treat their clubs as little better than glorified train sets, and the football authorities – no tittering at the back there – seem powerless to bring a modicum of common sense to the game darn sarf.

Mind you, when you see the mess the English politicians are making of important things like Brexit, well, you kind of get the impression God wasn't kidding when he told the Archangels, objecting to so-many riches being wished upon Scotland - “Aye, but wait till you see who I'm giving them for neighbours.”

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