IT COULD be said that football sold its soul to the media sometime around 1966, when, believe it or not, England won the World Cup. I know, they don't really talk about it much, but, it did happen. After that, it suddenly became the only game in town, TV was all over it like a rash and, the football authorities sold out – setting us off down the slippery slope to where we are today – 24/7, wall-to-wall TV football. Never mind the quality, feel the width.
Back in the days of “steam radio”, the broadcasters were not even allowed to tell you which game they had permission to broadcast the final half hour of. OK, you knew, if it was Ne'erday, you were going to get the Old Firm game, but, they liked to keep you guessing. Scottish football was particularly suspicious of television, the great Celtic Chairman, Sir Robert Kelly being, as I recall, a particularly vociferous opponent of unrestrained TV football.
Sir Robert Kelly - warned against football selling-out to Television
Prior to TV coming to Scotland and an increase in broadcast matches, the newspapers were the kings of Scottish football. It was suggested the Scotland team was actually chosen by Waverley of the Daily Record, REX Kingsley of the Sunday Mail and Jack Harkness of the Sunday Post, over a long lunch, with the result of their deliberations placed before the SFA Selectors by lunch guest Sir George Graham. Kingsley, so the story goes, once broadcast a commentary on an entirely fictitious war-time Old Firm game – which could not be played due to a really thick fog, in order to bamboozle the monitoring Germans. I'd pay money to hear some of today's BBC experts trying to pull-off that one.
Any way, once the TV talking heads – the sainted Arthur and Bob, Brillo-head McPherson and Co, got involved, the papers became somewhat desperate in their efforts to keep up. Sure, we still had some class acts in the print media – Dan Archer, Brian Scott, Hughie Taylor, the young James Traynor – before he began to believe his own hype – and his more-talented elder brother John. But, there was a time when, the so-called “A-Team” (aka the Lap Top Loyal) were too-busy crawling up the erses of “Walter” “Alex” and whoever was Celtic boss that week, the really good football writing was being done further down the food chain, by the likes of leader writer turned part-time football scribe Willie Hunter, super-sub and part-time writer Hugh McKinlay and the young Bill Leckie.
Today, Leckie is a national treasure, to be cherished; we still have Hughie Macdonald, Phil Gordon, Graham Spiers and, representing the younger school, Alan Pattullo, so, there is still some quality. Sadly, much of the output is gossip and tittle-tattle.
Take today's big story – apparently Kenny Miller has been banished to training with the Rangers development squad.
In an ideal world – this would be a “good” Rangers story – vastly-experienced former Scotland captain passing-on his knowledge to the next generation. But, in today's over-heated atmosphere – carnage. I have nothing against Kenny Miller. Never absolute top-quality, but, what he lacked in natural ability, he has more than compensated for in grit, determination and energy.
Kenny Miller - not an absolute top-class striker, althoug he has other virtues
In his Rangers career, that is his three spells at Ibrox, Kenny has played 284 games, and scored 113 goals – an average of 0.39 goals per game. That is under the common benchmark of a “great” goal-scorer, 0.5 gpg, or a goal every second game. I appreciate I am comparing Miller, perhaps a more-rounded striker with out and out goal-scorers here, but, the respective figures for Ally McCoist and Kris Boyd are: Coisty – 581 games, 355 goals – 0.61gpg; Boydie – 235 games, 138 goals – 0.58 gpg.
For balance, I had a look at Henrik Larsson's Celtic stats, 313 games, 242 goals – 0.77gpg. Larsson was a great “world-class” striker, McCoist and Boyd were great domestic strikers, all three are way ahead of Miller. Now, if that's the best Rangers have at the moment, then something is far wrong with that club. They have probably kept Miller involved in the first team for a couple of seasons longer than they should have, if he has a future at Ibrox, it could well be as a specialist coach of young forwards, but, that's not a route Scottish football is comfortable with.
We keep hearing how Rangers has a split dressing room, with the worldly, Roman Catholic Portuguese and South American players not communicating with the traditional Scottish “Proddies” - well, other Scottish clubs have dealt with this split for years – Papes v Proddies is apparently the traditional way of picking sides for a practise match in many Scottish clubs!! I accept, there is an element of the Rangers support which would rather the selection method was Orange Lodge v Masonic Lodge, or Orange v Black, but, these days are past.
Still, a wee newspaper stooshie around team selection, the demotion of a fans' favourite and so on is a handy one for the Rangers management, by which I mean the decision-makers in and around the Blue Room – it means the press are ignoring the REAL story at Ibrox just now – the totally-inept upper management, led by the Glib and Shameless Liar.
In all honestly, I fear Pedro is a Dead Man Walking – there will be a parting of the ways, perhaps sooner, rather than later. The problem for the GASL and his cohorts is – the club is in such a bad way, could anyone turn them around? I further fear, these sensational headlines about Celtic dominating Rangers for “generations” might not be too far away.
Jock Stein - ended Celtic's wilderness years
Of course, it depends on your definition of a generation. In real life terms it is something around 25-years – don't see that; but, if we take a football generation as being in the region of seven-to-ten years, well, it might take a couple of those before “normality” is restored. There were the long wilderness years for Celtic BS – before Stein: no league titles from 1938 to 1954, with just that one league title, two Scottish Cups and two League Cups won in the 20-years from the end of World War II to Stein's return as manager in 1965. Still the Celtic Family kept the faith through all the years of darkness. Will Ra Peepul, if required to, be as-patient?