Socrates MacSporran

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

Saturday, 2 September 2017

Don't Panic Men - But - We're Back In Contention

AFTER Friday night's win in Lithuania, I am starting to worry about our World Cup qualifying campaign. Because, we now have high hopes of qualifying, and, from my experience of Scottish qualifying campaigns, going back to the 1950s – when hope springs into Scottish breasts, then we are probably only two strides away from the banana skin.

 Is there a banana skin waiting for WGS and his squad

If any university in the world ever offered a course in theoretical hypothesis, it would probably be one of the Glasgow ones – we are great at it. We have studied last night's results, looked at the upcoming fixtures and we have worked it out.

Unbeaten England thump Slovakia on Monday night – we beat Malta at the same time, and we close to within a point of the Slovaks. We then beat Slovakia at Hampden, to leap-frog them into second place, before going to Slovenia to clinch second place in the group and qualify for the play-offs.

Simple enough on paper, but, this is Scotland we are talking about. I will not go full-throttelinto Private Fraser mode here, but, anyone who has been a Tartan Army member for as long as I have, can dig up a sufficiency of occasions when we got ourselves into contention, then blew it. It's Scotland's unique selling point.

So, for once, I will try to be positive and upbeat. Yes, this has been a typically Scottish roller-coaster of a qualifying campaign, but, we now have some good players out there, we SHOULD beat Malta on Monday and be right back in the mix for second, but, at the back of my mind, that still small voice is whispering: “Good, but, how will we contrive to blow it this time?”

I AM typing this post at just after 7am on Saturday morning. Even as I do so, the players and officials of Golspie Sutherland are almost-certainly all up and either on their way, or setting-off for the muster point, for their club's trip to New Cumnock, to play Glenafton Athletic, in the second qualifying round of the Scottish Cup.

There is an awful lot of road between the two places, and with the A9 road works, an already lengthy trek will seem longer for the men from the north. But, win or lose, they will enjoy genuine hostility during the game, and hospitality after it. This is the romance of the Cup.

I will, of course, be hoping for a Glen's win, and a good cup run to follow. Allowing the top junior sides into the senior Scottish has been a great move, evidence that, just occasionally, the SFA gets something right.

Many years ago, I was short-listed for a job on the Northern Times, which is based in Golspie – it seemed a nice place when Management and I went up for a look round, but, it didn't happen, or maybe I'd be on the opposite side today. That's life though.

ALL THIS hype about the Transfer Window leaves me cold. I can actually see the sense in it – allowing managers to boost their squads at a good time for them, and cutting-out the ability of the richer clubs to bolster their resources at will.

But, particularly where the English Premiership is concerned, it has all got a bit silly now, and the prices being paid for average players are obscene. No, it all leaves me cold, in truth.

I also cannot fathom why the SFA allows Scottish clubs to import so-many loan players from English clubs. Yes, I accept, since the dawn of football, Scotland has been a rich fishing ground for the richer English sides – from the days of “the Scotch Professors”, who went south to educate the Saxons on the intricacies of the passing game. Then, we were selling intelligence and class to an inferior league – today, we are being used as a toughening-up course for the players the English clubs think might not be hard enough.

This blog will never stop preaching – it is the SFA's job to encourage Scottish football and Scottish players. We should have a three foreigners rule in Scotland and an end to our clubs taking English and foreign young players on-loan, to the detriment of the advancement of young Scottish talent.

SPEAKING of Scottish talent. It was another case of “nae luck” for Glasgow City, our ten-in-a-row Women's Champions, when the draw for the Women's Champions League last 32 was made on Friday.

Glasgow City skipper Leanne Ross - long trek ahead

Scott Booth's girls face a 4200-mile trek to Kazakhstan, to face BllK-Kazygurt. City were one of the seeded teams in the draw – put that in your pipe and smoke it Celtic – so, to be drawn against a team which reached the last 16 last season, and which has won the Kazakhstan league eight times in recent years, was not the kindest of outcomes.

But, good luck lassies. The first leg is in Kazakhstan, with those ties due to be played on 4-5 October, and the return leg in Glasgow a week later.

MY OLD hero and mentor, the much-missed Ian “Dan” Archer surfaced on facebook this week. Well, he was mentioned, sparking-off some terrific stories of the great man, from those of us who knew and loved him.

Ian Archer - Competition Before Sponsorship

I thought of Dan as I wrote this. The thought processes went – should I mention the Irn-Bru Cup? Well, somebody might want to go and see one of the 12 ties being played today – Scottish football does not completely shut down because the top-flight clubs cannot cope without the thin veneer of supposed “international-quality” players they employ.

So, I looked at the BBC Scotland website for a list of games, and noted, they (the BBC) does not credit Irn Bru, the name sponsors; to them it is still: “The Scottish Challenge Cup”.

This had me thinking of a presentation Dan made, at a Sport Scotland seminar, at Heriot Watt University some 35-years ago. It was all about getting better publicity for minority sports. Dan, at the time, was Sports Editor of the late-lamented Sunday Standard, the Sunday Herald of its day, but with better writers and lot-better sub-editors.

Deciding to wind-up his audience, Dan announced right at the start, henceforth, the Standard's house style would be to name an event or competition sponsor the first time the event or competition was mentioned in a story, but, after that, it would be referred to by the name by which it was commonly-known.

Thus, the Betfred Cup would get a mention in the opening paragraph, thereafter, it was the League Cup, and so on. This announcement had the desired effect – cue outrage, but, it got the audience thinking – it is all very well accepting commercial sponsorship. Indeed, it is probably more-necessary in today's world than it was 35-years ago (my God, that's half a lifetime).

But, we should never forget, it's the competition that matters, not whether the sponsor gets a mention.

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