IT USED to be said, when the good old “News of the Screws” was regularly exposing the foibles and frailties of the nation's leaders and “betters”, that there would always be a place in society for the muck-raker. There might be something in that. Given the allegations of improprieties such as “kiddie fiddling” among the great and the good these days. Is it just me, or, have these alleged practices increased since the threat of having your face splashed across the front page of the “Screws” vanished?
Shock (non)-Jock Chris Sutton
In Scottish football, we now have our very own muck-raker, in the shape of pundit Chris Sutton, who has got himself into more scrapes and hot water than even the notoriously wild SAS adjutant and former British Lion Blair Mayne – who alternated between picking-up four Distinguished Service Orders (DSOs) for heroism, and being reduced to the ranks for insubordination. Sutton shoots from the hip, and is unconcerned at the amount of incoming counter-fire he has to soak-up. The tabloids and the television companies love him, as he attracts controversy and subscribers.
This week, he's been upsetting one of his regular targets – Celtic and Scotland goalkeeper Craig Gordon, a player whom Sutton has repeatedly criticised. As a fully-paid-up member of Goalkeeper's Lodge Number One, in football freemasonry, I will always support Gordon. He might not, thanks to injury and maybe going to the wrong club in England, have totally fulfilled the promise he showed when first getting into the Hearts and Scotland teams, but, he has, at the time of writing, won 45-more international caps than Sutton, won an award for the Best Save In The History Of The English Premiership, and was, for a time, the World's Most-Expensive Goalkeeper. He will surely, before he hangs-up his gloves, enter the coveted SFA Hall of Heroes by winning more than 50 caps.
Regardless of the obscene transfer fees which each has attracted, I would say Gordon has had the better career – he has also done the TV pundit bit, a bit better than “Shock Jock” (or should that be non-Jock?) Sutton has managed.
In this instance, I would say Gordon's only mistake has been to bite back at Sutton – a withering: “His comments are unworthy of reply”, would have put Sutton, the lesser half of the SAS strike partnership with that other paragon of TV punditry – Alan “Wooden Top” Shearer, right in his place.
Truth is, Sutton's stream of controversial utterings are probably his way of saying: “Notice me, here I am”. He's a figure on the periphery of football when he wants to be front and centre, but, sorry Chris it aint gonna happen – you lack one basic ingredient – talent.
MAYBE THIS IS “Stairheid Rammy Week”, because, on the Kilmarnock Fans facebook page, a full-scale row broke-out on Tuesday, over the media activities of Kris Boyd. One Rugby Park stalwart wants Kris sacked, immediately, by Killie, because, in the fan's eyes: Boydie is more-interested in talking about Rangers, and is actively trying to engineer a move back there, than he is in playing for Killie.
It is to the credit of the other Kilmarnock fans on the site, that the complainant was given short shrift, but, I don't think he quite grasped the concept of comments by still-active players being generated by journalists's questions rather than the opinions of the commentator.
Kris Boyd filing his latest exclusive column
Whatever you think of Boydie the media pundit – and I think he does a very good job – one thing was clear this week. With an at-his-peak Boyd or McCoist playing on Tuesday night, Rangers would have beaten Partick Thistle inside 90 minutes rather than needing extra time. Several of the chances, from low balls across the six-yard box, which Rangers scorned at Firhill – sorry the Energy Check Stadium at Firhill – were meat and drink to both Boydie and Ally.
BRENDAN RODGERS came up with a quote this week, which will go straight into “Big” Kenny MacDonald's next edition of his Book of Scottish Football Quotes. The Blessed Brendan, master of all he surveys at Lennoxtown, said: “Lots of young footballers have the Louis Vuitton soap bag – but, they don't work hard or play games.” Very true, but, 'twas ever thus; the most-arrogant wee shite I encountered in around a decade of daily coverage of one of our senior clubs, was a Rangers reject, who felt, because he had once sat on the bench for a European game – Walter didn't trust him enough to put him on – he had made it.
Brendan Rodgers spies his new Louis Vuitton soap bag
There he was, one year on and one league down from Rangers, telling everyone how good he was – well, in his own imagination anyway. A fair player, I'll give him that, but, an unfulfilled talent – and there are literally hundreds such players, guys who went through the system at Auchenhowie, Lennoxtown, Currie, Ormiston or Aberdeen, got to the verge of the first team, but, failed to make the break-through and establish themselves.
The sting in that Rodgers quote is in the tail, the bit with the but: “they don't work hard or play games.” Getting picked-up by a top club is one thing – one of my fellow coffin dodgers is struggling this week with the conundrum, does he advise his son-in-law, a former Scottish age group cap who never quite justified his talent, to allow his NINE YEAR OLD to go into the Celtic Academy, or, does he keep him closer to home.
That kid just might make it with Celtic, but, he might well also make it by staying with his boys club and going into the local, lower division club's academy system. But, once a kid is in that system, there is always the chance, he puts all his eggs in the football basket – academic achievement and ambition lowers, then, if he doesn't convert his academy contract into a full-time deal, collapse.
Even if he gets a full-time deal, while the kid might think he has arrived, the reality is – he's only on the first rung of the ladder, and it's a bloody long one to the stratosphere of regular first-team games and international caps. The fall-out rate is sky-high – the truth is, the pubs of Scotland are full of talented young footballers who could have been contenders, but didn't want it enough, or work hard enough to make it.
Football does not have a great record in looking after the wannabes, who turn into not quite good enoughs. A fading Louis Vuitton soap bag isn't much of a memento of what might have been – and well done Brendan Rodgers for pointing this out.