TO ME, nothing quite demonstrates the absurdity of modern football and the crazy finances of the English Premier League than this morning's story of Brighton and Hove Albion having an £18 million bid for Moussa Dembele accepted by Celtic.
Moussa Dembele - the reported fee reflects football inflation
Great business for Celtic, a nice wee profit made there and, if their scouting team can come-up with another young, probably under-priced foreign player, entice him to Celtic Park, put him in the European shop window, then move him on for a similar profit, it's job done.
However, to quote one of the great football books – Hunter Davies's master-work on Tottenham Hotspur - “The Glory Game”, football is, or used to be, all about glory. I know of just two former Brighton and Hove Albion players: “the other” Gordon Smith – the one who started his career at Rangers, and finished it as Chief Executive of the SFA, and Jimmy Collins.
I will start with Collins, one of, perhaps THE star of the greatest Junior Football team ever: Fraser; Love and Cathie; McEwan, Baird and Donnelly; Bingham, Collins, Sharp, Neil and Wilkie – the Lugar Boswell Thistle team which reached and were sadly beaten in the 1956 Scottish Junior Cup Final.
Jimmy was a Catrine boy, an apprentice brickie with a local building firm. That season, he scored goals for fun, won Junior Scotland honours and, when he saw a wall he had spent the morning erecting on the Onthank housing scheme in Kilmarnock – setting for the iconic 'The Scheme' TV programme, being blown over during his lunch break, he decided, aye, I will accept the offer of full-time football with Tottenham Hotspur.
Jimmy Collins in his Brighton days
He took a while, between completing his apprenticeship, then doing his National Service, to establish himself in the Tottenham Reserves,where he was occasional captain. His biggest problem, however, was the presence of a certain John White in the first team. Jimmy under-studied the “White Ghost”, but, only got two first-team games.
Then, Bobby Smith, the England centre forward, was appointed manager at Brighton, and immediately, he recruited Collins – his first team chances at White Hart Lane limited by White's genius.
Three weeks later, White was tragically killed by that lightning strike while golfing, leaving Jimmy, ever since, to contemplate what might have been. However, he prospered at the Goldstone Ground, eventually became captain, and played over 200 games for the Seagulls.
The wonderful John White
Jimmy who was still playing for his local pub team in his mid-fifties, turned 80 this week, and he still lives just outside Brighton.
Smith, in spite of six Under-23 and Under-21 caps for Scotland, and some vital goals, somehow never really convinced at Rangers, who off-loaded him to Brighton for a then healthy £440,000 in 1980.
In both cases, moving to Brighton was seen as a case of leaving a big club for a smaller one. Collins's nominal transfer fee, Smith's £440,000 fee and Dembele's £18 million fee might reflect football's transfer market inflation, but, there is surely something wrong when a young man voluntarily leaves a huge club, playing regularly in Europe and with a massive, world-wide fan base, for a club from a small seaside town on the south coast, which is more likely to be battling relegation than striving for European success.
What price glory to today's footballers?
THE douce citizens of Edinburgh are starting to get excited about the upcoming Edinburgh Derby, between Hearts and Hibs, and rightly so.
While the wee Ginger Whinger from Lagan has galvanised the green half of the city and sunshine is starting to peek over Leith, things have been a bit harder for Hearts this season. Craig Levein's return to the technical area was not universally welcomed by the Jambos' faithful, but, not least by halting the seemingly unstoppable Celtic juggernaut, he has restored faith down Gorgie way.
So, the war of words has kicked off in the fans' chat rooms and the btl comments section of The Scotsman. With Hibs fourth and Hearts fifth in the SPFL table, this one matters, although, to be fair, to the fans, every Derby matters.
Hearts' revival has been, to an extent, driven by their youthful midfield. It was disappointing to see young Harry Cochrane red carded at Perth on Saturday, but, the kid is young and impetuous and he will learn from the experience.
By the way, I enjoyed Hearts' assistant boss Austin McPhee describing being taken on a tour of “Hearts' pubs” after the win over Celtic, by Gary Locke as: “Like going out in Las Vegas with Elvis”. I know where he is coming from.
The late, great, Jimmy Reid
Ian Archer once sent me to a Clydebank game to “baby-sit” Jimmy Reid – I was doing the match report, Jimmy was doing a “colour piece”. Wee Fraser Elder has never forgotten that game – funnily enough against Hearts. Because Jimmy was there, the barmaid in the upstairs lounge of the Bankies Club, which doubled as the press area, but was normally closed during play, kept the bar open, in case Jimmy fancied a drink. Jimmy didn't, but, wee Fras and one or two of the boys did; so, that afternoon, there was "bevvying".
Any way, being with Jimmy that afternoon, was like being ADC to the King, or, the guy who accompanies POTUS and carries the nuclear launch codes.
DELIGHTED to see Kieran Tierney named in the Champions League XI from the group stages, a well-deserved honour.
Kieran Tierney - the future of Scottish football
How disappointing therefore, to see the Future of Scottish Football NOT named in the list of the 100 greatest players in the world earlier this week. This reflects Scotland's current place in the world, but, for my money, Tierney is more-worthy of inclusion in the list than some of the has-beens who are in it.