Socrates MacSporran

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

Monday, 22 January 2018

Daft Irishman - Not Michael O'Neill

SO, Michael O'Neill has said: “thanks, but no thanks,” to the SFA's kind offer of the poisoned chalice of being Scotland manager. Well, I cannot say I am surprised, Michael has always come across as a rather sensible chap.

Michael O'Neill - staying put in Belfast

Right then, who's next? Mind you, I stick by my long-term view, the job of Scotland Manager is the ultimate Catch 22 situation (vacant). It is a poisoned chalice; the SFA, as currently convened, is simply unfit for purpose and, whoever eventually gets to succeed Wee Gordon Strachan is on a hiding to nothing.

It makes no difference whether the Scotland team is managed by the butchers, bakers and candle-stick makers from the SFA “blazeratti”, or by either of the two best Scottish managers of the post involvement with Europe and the world generation – our national team is still shite.

The SFA is the Trabant or Lada of world football – pimp it all you like, it is still shite.

Aye well, while the brains along Hampden's sixth-floor corridor hold meetings about holding meetings, discuss their few options, and listen to the brains trust of the Scottish Football Writers Association, as they pay-back favours to their favourite agents, by bigging-up the chances of these agents' out-of-work manager clients, we will simply slump further.

Here's an idea – give the job to Scottish Women's team manager Shelley Kerr. Last week she showed the right qualities for a Scotland boss – her side lost to Norway. Mind you, the Norwegian women are rather good.

Ach well, speculating about who will get the Scotland job will I dare say keep some of the stenographers and churnalists from having to do any real work – such as telling the truth about the on-going series of Scottish Casualty (a soap opera about car and train crashes and sudden explosions) which is events at Ibrox.

I LIKE Craig Levein, on the few occasions I have met the guy, he has always impressed me; he is not afraid to try things, even when, like 4–6-0 or appointing Ian Cathro, they don't come off.

Craig Levein - winding-up Lenny will go down well with the troops on the terraces

So, I rather enjoyed his post-match comment on Sunday, about “the natural order” being restored, not since Christian Dailly's televised outburst in Dortmund, has a comment by anyone in Scottish football gone down so well with the core support. I bet the banter in the workplaces of Edinburgh and the Lothians was good today.

And, of course, it helped him the other side's manager was Wee Lenny, perhaps the easiest guy to wind-up in Scottish football. Craig cast the bait, Lenny took it – game, set and match Levein.

And still two Edinburgh Derbies to come this season; Ann Budge and Lee Anne Dempster will just love Levein, and his ability to put bums on seats.

I LOVED the banter on the Kilmarnock fans page on facebook, following Saturday's Scottish Cup win over Ross County – and, by the way, for me, it was never a penalty, but, considering Killie once went ten years without being awarded a single spot kick – I suppose we Killie fans should be grateful – we are and, I'll gladly accept the gift.

Onwards and upwards then, with Brora Rangers next-up. You can never say never, but, I will be truly gob smacked should Killie not reach the last eight.

Some of the troops are relishing the prospect of an Ayrshire Derby in the last eight, after all surely Ayr United should be capable of taking care of Fraserburgh, at Somerset Park.

 Ross Tokely - committed the worst foul I've ever seen

Mind you, I imagine any team managed by Ross Tokely, the Brora boss, will not be backward at coming forward and “putting themselves about”. I have long felt, Tokely should have been banned sine die by the SFA back at the start of this century, following his career-ending foul on St Mirren's Chris Kerr, back in the days when I covered St Mirren for the Paisley Daily Express. This remains the worst foul I have seen, it made Harald Schumacher's assault on Patrick Battiston look legal.

THE DEATH this morning of former England captain Jimmy Armfield is particularly sad, because “Gentleman” Jim was genuinely, one of the good guys – a smashing player, who became a very good manager and an even better football writer and commentator.

 In good company, Jimmy Armfield alongside Di Stfano, with Puskas and Bobby Moore behind them as he leads England out against FIFA in the 1963 Centenary game at Wembley

Jimmy was 82, a good innings by any means, he died laden with honours: 43 full England caps – 15 as captain, a one-club man, he played 627 games for Blackpool, starting as a 17-year-old breaking into that breaking-up great team of 11 internationalists – seven English and four Scots.

He was considered the best right-back in the world, when oor ain Eric Caldow was the best left-back and they were the rival captains for the 1963 Wembley match which saw an early leg break end Eric's Scotland career and Jimmy's mistake gift Jim Baxter the first of his two goals.

Jimmy was an unused player in the 1966 World Cup win, looking after the non-players, whom he called: “My lot” as a prequel to “Donal's Donuts” from a later British Lions Tour.

He picked up the pieces at Leeds United after the mayhem of Don Revie leaving and the disastrous 44-day reign of Brian Clough, and took them to the European Cup Final, where one of the most-corrupt refereeing performances ever saw them lose to Bayern Munich.

Jimmy left Leeds in 1978 and became a much-respected football writer and radio summariser. He was a consummate professional, a consultant to the FA, and he gave readily of his time to local causes in Lancashire.

He was made OBE, then CBE, he was a Deputy-Lieutenant and High Sheriff of Lancashire. The FA inducted him into the England Football Hall of Fame, Blackpool into the club Hall of Fame. The Football League awarded him its prestigious Sir Tom Finney Merit Award, while he was President of the Sir Stanley Matthews Coaching Foundation and awarded an honorary DL (Doctor of Letters) degree from Lancaster University, and, in 2009, along with “His Lot”, he was retrospectively presented with a World Cup winner's medal from 1966 – presented by Raith Rovers fan Gordon Brown.

Armfield was also, for over 30-years, organist, church-warden and treasurer of his local church in Blackpool. A quiet, humble, gentleman he was known as “the Conscience of English Football”, and as, “The Gandalf of Radio Commentary”.

I have two abiding memories of Jimmy Armfield. The first is of a conversation we had while I was watching Leeds United's youth team train. The young players were finding it impossible to get the ball off their coach - “The Wee Barra” himself, Bobby Collins.

Bobby's still got it,” I said to the guy next to me, then turned to see it was Armfield, then Leeds boss.

Yes, if I could get new legs grafted onto his body, I'd put him in the first team,” he said.

The second story is legendary. He was covering a Nottingham Forest game and, at the post-match press conference, Brian Clough was baiting the press. “You lot, you write about football, but, you know nothing about it, you never played the game,” said Clough.

Warming to his theme, he continued: “I won two caps for England, should have had more, so, come on, how many England caps have you lot got?”

He was then left speechless when, from the back of the room, Jimmy broke the silence with one word: “Forty-three.” This is widely held to be the only time Clough was ever lost for words.

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