Socrates MacSporran

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

Thursday, 28 September 2017

Good Result, But, Let's Not Get Carried Away

PARDON ME if I am not turning cartwheels at Celtic's tremendous win in Brussels last night. I am naturally delighted at their 3-0 win, it was a very good result, but, and I am sorry there has to be a but – Belgian opponents are of a level we should expect our teams in European competitions to beat fairly regularly.

Given the relative size of the countries, and the numbers of players and clubs, I have always felt, if a Scottish club beats a German, French, Italian Spanish of English club in Europe – that's a good excuse for prolonged celebrations and banner headlines. Wins over, Belgian, Dutch, Swedish, or Austrian clubs – to pluck a few names out of thin air, are to be, if not expected all the time, taken as gettable on a regular basis. In fact, back when Scottish clubs were in truth powers in Europe, being drawn against Anderlecht, Standard Liege or FC Bruge – the traditional power-houses of Belgian football, was seen as a “gimmee”.

 Campbell Money - "We were pilloried for losing to the eventual winners".

For example, St Mirren were roundly criticised for losing to KV Mechelen in the 1987-88 UEFA Cup-Winners' Cup. The Buddies drew the first leg 0-0, but lost the second 2-0, which was seen as a terrible result. Mechelen had already beaten Steau Bucharest, and would go on to defeat Dinamo Minsk, Atalanta then Ajax 1-0 in the final, before beating Dutch rivals PSV Eindhoven in the Super Cup Final. So, clearly not a bad side – but, St Mirren losing to them in the second round was unacceptable.

We were absolutely pilloried for losing to them, but, as they showed by winning the whole thing – Mechelen were a bloody good side,” says Saints' goalkeeper in the tie – Campbell Money.

Why have we fallen so far, that beating a Belgian side in Europe is now a cue for killing the fatted calf and having three days of feasting?

Carlo Ancelotti - hopefully Celtic can take advantage of his sacking

NEXT up for Celtic are Bayern Munich, who sacked Head Coach Carlo Ancelotti after their midweek defeat at the hands of PSG. OK, I said right at the start, if a Scottish team beats a German one, it should spark-off prolonged celebrations. Well, while it hasn't happened for many a year, Bayern have lost to Scottish opposition in the past, even in the days of Der Kaiser. So, now, when they are in disarray, depressed and having to bed-in a new coach, why should not Celtic build on their Anderlecht win?

I HAVE been taken to task by one of my Rangers-supporting friends, for defending as “wind-ups”, some of the things which Scott Brown and Leigh Griffiths did at Ibrox on Saturday. As he said: “There are wind-ups, and wind-ups,” before going on to criticise the two Celtic players. My mate, to be fair, is an old-fashioned dignified Rangers supporter; perhaps a dying breed on both halves of the Glasgow divide, in, he will applaud good football from the hoops, and be scathing in his criticism of his own team, when necessary. His response perhaps demonstrates how far we have fallen in what we do and do not consider acceptable behaviour these days.

Bud Johnston - carpeted for winding-up the Celtic team and fans

He mentioned Willie “Bud” Johnston, being carpeted by Willie Waddell, after he sat on the ball during an Old Firm game. That, apparently was taking the piss too far for his manager. Changed days. I sometimes think, a wee pre-match pep talk from the Police Match Commander to the players, reminding them they are playing in a powder keg match, and, perhaps, reminding them: the old “catch-all” offence of - behaving in a manner likely to cause a Breach of the Peace is still on the statute book.

A couple of “show trials” and even the serial heid-cases and wind-up merchants might learn; then, with the players and staff sorted out, the force of law and order could turn their attentions on the fans.

When it comes to winding-up opponents, however, nothing ever has or ever will come close to the old Jim Baxter standard: “Let's humiliate them 1-0.” The Slim one was a great believer in this and practised it religiously. I remember, my second Old Firm game – at Celtic Park. Rangers had to put Jim Forrest into the team for Jimmy Millar, and he was an instant hit, but, while Forrest grabbed the headlines, the telling part of the match was the final five minutes, when Baxter orchestrated a period of keep-ball, in which the Rangers defence simply passed the ball around among themselves in their own half of the field.

They made no effort to go forward, they were not interested in forcing home their advantage, and, with every pass and road of “Ole,” the drain away from the ground of the Celtic fans seemed to grow in intensity. Now, that is what you call a wind-up.

SINCE I have known the wee bugger since he was a cheeky schoolboy – I even kicked his erse a couple of times when he was over-cheeky – I have a lot of time for wee Billy Dodds, who lost his job this week, when he and boss Jim McIntyre were sacked by Ross County.

Billy Dodds - one of the good guys, who will not be out of the game for long

OK, fitba is a results-driven business, and the results did not justify the pair remaining in-charge in Dingwall. But, I sincerely hope wee Doddsy is soon back in the game, either in a management role, or, in his other role as a very good fitba talking head. But, I am certain, he will not be on the outside, looking in, for long. Wee Billy has worked his socks off for everything he has ever done in the game, as he himself acknowledges – as a boy, playing on the Greenhead playing field, across from his house, he was never the most-talented, but, he was the hardest-working.

When he got his break, taken to Chelsea as a 16-year-old, after both Kilmarnock and Ayr United declined to take him on, his work ethic was there for all to see. He went south, but, at the end of his first season, every day he and Craig Burley could be seen training in New Cumnock. Billy set fitness records in New Cumnock Games Hall which will never be beaten – since they've pulled it down.

If every Scottish footballer had worked as hard at his game as Doddsy did – we just might have won as many World Cups as Brazil by now.

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