LEE McCULLOCH'S departure from the manager's office at Rugby Park is hardly a surprise. Whether Lee jumped, or was pushed, is neither here nor there – he has gone, another example of modern football's obsession with short-termism, success now, and yes, perhaps the fashion for “name” managers. In managerial terms, Lee was a mere novice, yet, there he was, managing one of the country's to clubs.
Lee McCulloch - who will replace him?
Appointing Lee was always a risk. Let's face it, promoting the Number Two, as happened in Lee's case, was the quick fix, the soft option – but, he has gone after less than a full season's worth of games in charge. Yet another example of poor management and strategic thinking in a Scottish football club's board room. Killie have, in recent seasons, become almost serial manager changers. At least, on this occasion, the disgruntled Killie fans cannot blame the problem on their former Chairman Michael Johnston – who got the blame for everything from home defeats to a poor batch of Killie pies.
I would not presume to punt a favourite for the job, although, it has to be said, there are a lot of former Killie favourites and potential managers out there an majority shareholder Billy Bowie has a difficult choice to make. I would, however, like to see the new man having an Ayrshire connection and a willingness to make use of the many good, young, grass-roots players to be found around God's County.
THE BIG NEWS this week is, of course, Thursday night's crucial World Cup qualifier against Slovakia. This is, yet another “must win” match for Scotland, and, as so-often happens with Scotland in such games, we will be without key men – skipper Scott Brown and his Celtic team mate Stuart Armstrong Their loss is doubly unfortunate inasmuch as, last time out, WGS opted to go down the route of basing his team around the Celtic men in his squad, and playing something like the normal Celtic club game.
It worked too, and WGS was hoping to keep things going – now, he has to decide which players are best suited to filling the Brown and Armstrong roles. Not an easy question to answer, but, I have every confidence in the wee man pulling it off. Naturally, with two important midfield roles to be filled, the football writers can go into overdrive between now and kick-off, arguing the case for various alternatives. I would like to think Darren Fletcher and John McGinn will get the nod, but, what do I know?
AS a former goalkeeper, I am looking forward to seeing big Craig Gordon winning his 50th cap on Thursday night. Like many a Scotland 'keeper, Craig has had his career ups and downs – his memoirs, when he comes to write them, will be very interesting and worth reading I am sure. Gordon demonstrated, yet again, on Saturday, in Celtic's 2-2 draw with Hibernian, that when it comes to reflex saves, he is still top drawer.
I have long supported Gordon, but, I just wish, he would be more-assertive at set-pieces and when the ball is in the air in the six yards box. But, I have seen all the great Scottish goalkeepers in action, from Tommy Younger, via Bill Brown, Bobby Clark, David Harvey, Alan Rough, Jim Leighton and Andy Goram through to Gordon. He is right up there with the best. Mind you, I am biased, I played against him at school and always thought, Kilmarnock's Bobby Ferguson, like Gordon to be sold for a world record price for a 'keeper, was something very special and disgracefully under-capped.
The wonderful Bobby Ferguson makes "the save" against Hearts, which won Kilmarnock the Scottish League title in 1965. Great 'keeper, great save
BEING from the heartlands of Junior Football, I just love the wee daft stories which come out of the realm of the bastard child of Scottish football. And, we got a cracker this week with the wee stushie between Kilsyth Rangers and Darvel, when their McBookie West of Scotland First Division clash at Duncansfield Park was called off because of “plumbing issues”.
There are accusations stemming from Darvel, that the cancellation had more to do with the overlap with the Old Firm game. Hmm I wouldn't know about that, but, something smells of something other than Old Spice, if you ask me. It must have been a gey serious plumbing problem if the game had to be called-off on a Friday morning. There must, therefore, be an opportunity for an energetic and capable plumber in Kilsyth.
My favourite Kilsyth story concerns the Rangers scout, who was despatched to Duncansfield to watch a young centre forward, who was scoring goals for fun for the wee Rangers. The Ibrox representative duly turned-up, saw the kid score a hat-trick and moved in to speak to him after the match.
Frank McGarvey - the Rangers of the time could not sign him
“What's your name Son?” was the first question. “Francis Peter McGarvey,” was the response.
“Aye, you played well tonight Son, good luck for your future.” End of conversation. Later that night, allegedly, the Rangers scout bumped into Alex Ferguson, told him about this hot-shot centre forward, whom Rangers could not sign because he was a Roman Catholic. Fergie stepped-in and signed him; the rest is history.
ONE WEEKLY item of journalism to which I look forward, and which seldom disappoints, is the Saturday two-page interview in the centre of The Scotsman's Saturday sports supplement. This long read is usually written by my old mate Aidan Smith, and this week, he came up with a corker – a 70th birthday reflection on the career of Tommy Hutchison, one of the 1974 World Cup heroes.
Tommy Hutchison - performed as a Scotsman should
Tommy's is a great story, from apprentice painter – because his Dad did not want his son to follow him down the pit, to still playing into his forties, but, for me, the high spot was the quote, from the late John Rafferty's match report on his Scotland debut, in the immortal win over Czechoslovakia in September, 1973, the win which took us to those 1974 World Cup finals. Rafferty wrote: “Hutchison performed as a Scotsman should.” There can be no higher praise for a Scotland debutant.