IT'S THAT time of the decade again, as we Scots look out our ABE (Anyone But England) tee-shirts, order-in the additional supplies of beer and popcorn and prepare for the highlight of any World Cup – watching England implode and crash out, hopefully on penalties to the Germans.
Gareth Southgate, a good and decent man doing an impossible job
Well, it helps us to forget, we are so-shite we cannot even get there in the first place. But, I have a confession to make: I kind of feel sorry for the England players and for the thoroughly honest, decent and nice guy Gareth Southgate, who will carry the can when England – as they surely will - bomb out early, or, more-concisely, too-early for their fans, with and without lap tops.
If the SFA systems and management plans are ot fit for purpose, and many of who can see past the usual Scottish problems of tribalism, low expectations and caring more about two big clubs than the national side, can see this: then England's problems are different, but no less serious.
All that money sloshing around in the Premiership, all those house-trained journalists telling their clientele - “The Premiership is the Best League In The World”, when the evidence says different, and the fact which Southgate mentioned when he faced the press today: “I can only pick from one-third of the Premiership.” He's in a no-win situation.
WHEN, WHEN WHEN, will the rest of the English and Scottish football world tell the “big” clubs, enough. You are supposed to be “English” or “Scottish” clubs – why don't you positively discriminate in favour of English or Scottish players?
WHEN, WHEN WHEN, will the rest insist on – as happens in the English Rugby Premiership – a 70% English-qualified or Scottish-qualified insistence on match-day squads? Bring back the “three-foreigners” - or as Chick Young dubbed it for Scotland - “the eight-diddies” rule and promote home-grown talent.
I HAVE used this tale before, but, nae harm in repeating myself. One of dear old George Reid's – or as he was known around Somerset Park - “Enclosure George's” best quips was used during George Burley's spell in the Ayr United hot seat.
United had a free-kick in front of George's place, in the Somerset Park enclosure behind the home technical area. Gathered round the ball were player-manager Burley, Arthur Albiston and midfielder Gordon Mair, ages 35, 36 and 37. George couldn't resist it, he turned and roared up at the Directors' Box: “Aye Mr Chairman, your youth policy is working today.” The combined forces of HM Press nearly died laughing.
Allan McGregor - Rangers' youth policy!!
I can envisage the Ibrox version of “Enclosure George”, come on, every club has one, using that line of the GASL, when he turns up at Ibrox next season. With 30-year-old Scott Arfield being joined by the returning 36-year-old Allan McGregor, Rangers really are going down the youth development route. Tell me, Is Stevie G coming as a player-manager?
NOT THAT long ago, the mighty Auchinleck Talbot were reportedly being written-off. Their early to mid-season form had been up and down, but, true to form, the Spring weather has seen them come good and, if they beat Pollok, at Beechwood Park, on Saturday they will have clinched another West Superleague title – and they still have the Junior Cup Final to come on Sunday week.
So well done Tucker Sloan and the troops, because, even if they don't pump Pollok, they have another game left in which to get the needed points. But, let's celebrate another great Junior Football club, on a remarkable run.
Ross Mathie - a Cambuslang Rangers great
Before Talbot, Cambuslang Rangers were probably the best-known junior team, their great Junior Cup-dominating side of the late 1960s-early 1970s could, I am assured by older hacks who saw them at their peak, have given a lot of senior teams of the time a going-over, and would certainly have given even Willie Knox's “three-in-a-row” Talbot team a really-hard game. Ross Mathie, who played in that wee Rangers side always insisted, his team would have beaten Talbot's best.
But, of late, Cambuslang had slid down into the Central Second Division. However, just this week they secured their third promotion in as many seasons and will be back in the new, expanded, 16-team Superleague when the new season kicks-off in August.
With Petershill also promoted and Irvine Meadow's late run at least getting them into the play-offs, the old guard are re-asserting themselves for the new look to the West uniors' top flight.
Now, just when are my favourite wee junior team, Lugar Boswell Thistle, going to emerge from our too-long stay in the soccer shadows? It must be about our turn for a change of fortunes.
FINALLY, in the eternal battle of one-upmanship between the two footballing cheeks of Glasgow's sectarian spincter, the rule is – never give the other lot an opening.
So, why then did the men currently running Rangers give the Celtic fan that gaping open goal, with their crass and insensitive handling of the case of that young player who claimed he was abused by the alleged paedophile Gordon Neilly?
Celtic have had their own problems in this department, with Mr Torbet. The more-crass elements of Ra Peepul have made repeated noises about how: “Big Jock Knew”, now, in one bound, they are free and they have rotten fruit of their own to throw at Rangers.
I just wonder at the supposed intelligence of the troops at the top of the marble staircase these days, or, is it they think they are so-superior, they are untouchable? The man “Phil Four Names” likes to refer-to as: “an inter-galactic PR guru” clearly didn't have his brain engaged on this one, or the bad publicity Rangers have had this week could have been avoided.
And, of course, the SFA are finally on their case over European participation. It never rains but it pours down Ibrox way.