Socrates MacSporran

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

Tuesday, 17 July 2018

Losing Davie McParland Was Not A Firhill Thrill

THE LOSS of Davie McParland, just one day after they announced, the club's new training ground would be named McParland Park, was a hard blow to even those resilient souls at Partick Thistle.

 

Davie McParland: 1935 - 2018


Coming as it did after the earlier blow of the loss of John Lambie, this means the Jags have lost arguably their two finest managers inside a year. Add relegation and 2017-18 has not been a great season. However, and as ever, the Jags will bounce back.

In penning Davie's obituary, I did what I always do when writing about a Firhill man – I spoke to “Mr Partick Thistle”, as Robert Reid is known, and he did not let me down with some stories of McParland.

Knowing he came from Larkhall, and had played for Larkhall Thistle, I asked Robert how Rangers had missed him. His reply was a corker: “Well as Davie explained to me – 'When you're a Catholic from Larkhall, you have to be quick' – and, although not as fast as Johnny MacKenzie, Davie was quick.”

Davie spent over a decade in the Thistle first team, following his signing by the great Davie Meiklejohn, in November, 1953. In that time he played nearly 600 games and scored over a century of goals.

He began, of course, as a fast, raiding winger, being good enough to feature in the very first Scotland Under-23 team, in February, 1955. We will not say too much about the fact, they were gubbed 6-0 by an England team, who turned a half-time 0-0 scoreline around, by the simple expedient of switching the marvellous Duncan Edwards to centre forward, where he gave big Doug Baillie what that great future Sunday Post stalwart admits was: “the roasting of my life.” Unlike four of that team: Alex Parker, Eric Caldow, Dave Mackay and Graham Leggat, Davie did not step-up to full international level.

Juve's John Charles - an opponent on Davie's Scottish League XI debut in Rome

In 1962 he won two Scottish League XI “caps.” The first was earned in Rome, against an Italian League side which included – Swedish winger Kurt Hamrin of Fiorentina, Spain's Luis del Sol, then with Juventus, as was the legendary Welsh centre forward John Charles, while at inside left was the notorious German star Helmut “Hamlet” Haller, forever remembered for getting a boot up the bahookie from Tommy Gemmell.

The Italians won 4-3, the winner coming at the death. McParland, goalkeeper Sandy McLaughlin and half-time substitute Johnny Divers were the only members of the following Scottish League XI not to already be capped or to later win a full cap. That team was: Sandy McLaughlin (Kilmarnock); Alex Hamilton (Dundee) and Jim Kennedy (Celtic); Paddy Crerand (Celtic), Ian Ure (Dundee) and Jim Baxter; Willie Henderson (both Rangers), Willie Hamilton (Hearts), Jimmy Millar (Rangers), Charlie Cooke (Aberdeen) and McParland.

Celtic's Divers replaced Willie Hamilton, after the Hearts man and del Sol had a difference of opinion, following which, the respective team managers decided to keep them both on the bench for the second half. McParland is credited with two assists, for goals by Cooke and Millar, while Divers got the other Scottish goal.

He won a further two Scottish League caps. Two weeks after the Italian job, he helped the League XI thrash the League of Ireland 11-0 at Celtic Park, then, two years later, in Dublin, his final outing for the League XI ended 2-2 against the same opponents.

It could be argued a League “cap” in the 1960s is every bit as good as a full cap in an “international challenge match” is these days. Davie might lack that full cap, but, nobody should doubt – he was international class. And look at the competition he faced – at club level, he was vying with Johnny MacKenzie and Tommy Ewing, both international wingers for a place; Tommy Ring was strutting his stuff on the left flank, Davie Wilson and Bertie Auld were also in contention for caps, not forgetting Andy Weir at Motherwell.

Later in his career, Davie moved back to right-half, then he prepared for the future by stepping down to be a “father figure” in the reserves before hanging-up his boots and switching seamlessly to coaching.

Scot Symon had, after his ridiculous sacking by Rangers, moved across to Firhill and he put McParland in-charge of the reserves, before making him his assistant. Thistle were relegated out of the top flight in 1970, whereupon Symon relinquished team management duties, moving upstairs to be General Manager, with Davie becoming Thistle Team Manager in his stead.

 Davie McParland took a chance on this young goalkeeper

In the Second Division, he began to feed-in some of the youngsters he had had in his charge in the Reserves – the likes of the teenaged Alan Rough, John Hansen, Ale Forsyth and Jimmy Bone – all of whom would go on to win full caps, as would the even-younger Alan Hansen, then too-young to be considered. A young PE student named Frank Coulston was also introduced, as was Denis McQuade, a winger who, in the great Thistle tradition could entertain and infuriate in equal measure, while on the other flank, Bobby Lawrie was lightning quick and had an eye for goals.

Robert Reid recalls how McParland gave his young team their heads, but, they didn't always click. Reid remembers: “Early on in that season we had a bad run, we lost to Clydebank, Albion Rovers, then Brechin and we on the board were starting to worry. I said this to Davie, who replied: 'They're young Robert – give them time.' We hardly lost a game for the rest of the season and romped to promotion.”

In the top-flight, the Thistle kids went off like a rocket, beating Rangers, then, just over a month later, they became immortals – thrashing Celtic 4-1 to win the League Cup. Legends abound about that match – how, introducing Grandstand on BBC TV that afternoon, Scotsman Sam Leitch mentioned the game, then added: “Thistle have no chance.” The same Leitch, when the score-line came through on the teleprinter, refused to believe it and reversed it, but, the Jags had indeed stung Celtic.

There is an urban myth around Glasgow that the city's taxi drivers made a killing that day, ferrying Rangers's supporters from Ibrox to Hampden – evidently seeing Thistle thump Celtic 4-1 was better fun than watching Rangers put four on Motherwell without reply.

With that result, McParland's place in the Firhill Hall of Legends was assured. That was the high point of a four-year spell as manager, one which ended in disagreement with the board and the severing of his ties with the club.

A dug-out filled with talent - Neil Mochan, Davie McParland, Jock Stein and John Clark

He had a successful spell as Head Coach at Queen's Park, then went to Celtic as assistant to Jock Stein. The Big Man was still a bit fragile after his near-fatal car crash, so McParland took charge of the training and preparation of the team, He did well, Celtic winning the league by an impressive nine points from Rangers (14 points in today's three points for a win system). A Scottish Cup win over the old enemy in what was Kenny Dalglish's final match for the club completed rather a good year.

Back came Rangers the following season and, without Dalglish, Celtic slumped to fifth in the table – the “Families” who ran the club then had their excuse – they eased Stein out, McParland departing with him.

McParland then had a spell as manager at Hamilton, before coaching positions – working with younger players – at Airdrie, Dunfermline and Motherwell. His final position in football was as Director of Football at Dumbarton, before he retired to spend time with his devoted wife Terry, daughters Yvonne, Tracy and Hazel and his grand-children.

As Robert Reid points out: “Thistle win a major trophy about once every 50-years, so by that measure, Davie was a very good Thistle manager, as well as being a really great guy.”

He mended his fences with the club, was naturally enough inducted into their Hall of Fame and, until illness curtailed his activities latterly, he was always a welcome guest when he turned up at Firhill.

The final word has to go to Robert Reid: “I am so pleased Gerry Britton and I were able to visit him in hospital before he passed away and tell him of the club's decision to name our new training ground McParland Park.

You know, he deserves that honour. Davie McParland was one of football's, and nature's gentlemen.




Monday, 16 July 2018

That Was The World Cup That Was

THE Socrates' take on World Cup 2018

 

EH BIEN! Football has indeed come home, given it was a Frenchman, Jules Rimet, who came up with the concept of the World Cup. Fitting then, Les Bleus should end gallant Croatia's gallant pursuit of the trophy.

 

Luka Modric - deservedly won Player of the Tournament


THE player of the tournament was, of course, Luka Modric, the little Croatian captain. We have known for a long time, he is a class act, and he deservedly won the Player of the Tournament call. I could not take my eyes off him during the Croatians' semi-final win over England. The way he drifted off his markers into space, then delivered a stream of perfect passes was pure John White – there can be no higher praise for a midfield general.

GOAL of the Tournament: There were one or two contenders, but, which one to pick. In picking a winner, you are torn between two opposites – individual brilliance and team efficiency. In the latter category, you cannot go past that last-gasp Belgian winner against Japan; one end of the park to the other in under ten seconds. It was brilliantly-constructed, more-so given the point in the match in which they pulled it off, marvellous team work.

That was the easy pick, but, for individual goal, well, I am going for a set-piece. I have long said, football does not pay enough attention to set-pieces. Association Football is the purest, most free-form code of football. But, I have always maintained, only with set-pieces does a coach have a chance to really set his side up to score; and, if they can complete the set piece move successfully, then, a team will or certainly ought to, score more goals.

Hey World - watch this. CR7 prepares to shoot against Spain

For that reason, I am torn between two strikes, the Toni Kroos last-gasp free kick for Germany v Sweden, and CR7's almost as late free-kick goal against Spain. On balance, I am going with Ronaldo's goal. I think the Kroos effort owed something to poor goalkeeping, I'd have been annoyed had I been beaten from there, but, there was absolutely nothing De Gae could have done to keep out Christiano's effort.

Add the timing, and the pressure he was under. Go on, admit, the world was willing the big-headed so-and-so to mess it up, only he didn't.

TEAM of the Tournament: They didn't win it, but, I am going with Croatia. They arrived in Russia, ranked 20th in the world, then, often dragged their by Modric and Rakatic in midfield, they went all the way to the final. Along the way, they fairly boosted another nation not there – Scotland.

Yes, Gareth Southgate grew on us as the tournament went on. Sure, this was a different, an almost humble England. But, and what a shame there has to be a but. There media was the same-old, same-old: “England expects”, “football's coming home”, blah-de-blah-de-blah. Let's hope, by 2022, we are independent, have our own independent media and, whether Scotland is there or not, we get a Scottish slant on things, and are not subjected to the myopia of the English media.

England – we don't hate you, but, we hate your fucking media.

VAR: What can we say about this. As someone who covers a lot of Rugby Union, I am well-used to seeing the TMO – Television Match Official – rugby's version of second-guess technology in operation. Rugby's been using it for far-longer than football and still, occasionally, they get it wrong. This will always happen, because of the human element, and humans make mistakes.

But, by and large, I thought VAR worked. I dare say the system will be reviewed and refined. I do feel, however, as is the case with rugby, the final say always has to go to the man in the middle. We must always uphold Law V (I): “The referee is the sole judge of fact.”

ENGLAND: Yes, I know, why should we bother about another country? Well, quite simply, as in so-much of Scottish life, we pay attention to England. We only started the bloody SFA because the (English) FA looked as if they were going to take responsibility for all football in these islands, and, to quote that great Welsh sage Max Boyce, if you are from Ireland, Scotland or Wales: “It matters not who won or lost – so long as you beat England.” They are the common enemy.

Gareth Southgate - Scotland's favourite Englishman

The soft-spoken, argely undemonstrative Mr Southgate almost made England loveable up here. He was the guy the English media didn't want, but, he is now as impregnable as no England manager has been since Sir Alf Ramsey on 1 August, 1966. Of course, they still, eventually, sacked Sir Alf, and may well do the same to Gareth.

He knew his players from the Under-21 team and he kept the faith. His problem, however, is this – English football is in-thrall to the Premiership, whose clubs are, in turn, in-thrall to Sky TV, BT TV and the billions flung at it.

There is also the fact, the basically thick as mince England fans have been brain-washed by their media into wrongly believing the Premiership is: “The best league in the world”, so, rather as they believe England is the entire UK, they believe, because their league is the “best” (which it isn't), then the England team must be the best.

There were signs during this World Cup, that a lot of England fans had had a reality check, but, England Expecting, and managing these expectations, is still the biggest obstacle in Southgate's way.

WHETHER SCOTLAND? Good question; an furrit tho' Ah canna see – Ah guess and fear. Like England, we seem to delight in putting obstacles in the way of young Scottish talent, although, to be fair, the fiscal realities of Scottish football means, we are perhaps more-ready to give young players a chance to shine. The trouble is, as soon as they make a name for themselves, they are off to the bigger money in England.

That, however, has been a fact of life since the Scotch Professors were enticed south during the reign of Queen Victoria.

We need a plan, a system whereby we develop our young players properly and give them a chance to grow into international players, and, until we get this, we may well continue to be on the outside looking in.

In drawing Albania and Israel in Group 1 Of League C in the new UEFA Nations League, which kicks-off in September, we have got lucky. If we cannot win the group and be promoted into League B, we should just give up. But, we need to plan, execute that plan and work hard, over the next decade or so, if we are to get Scotland back to where we want to be in European and World football.

We need to get more Scottish players playing in our top league, and give these players more-exposure to European football. If we don't, we are going nowhere but down among the easy-beats.

If Croatia, Iceland and Wales, all smaller nations, can reach the finals of the big two tournaments, we have no excuses for our long years of failure continuing.



Wednesday, 11 July 2018

Calm Down Lads - It's Only A Game

FOOTBALL is not coming home then, and, while every Scot should be relieved, that our English-based media will not be able to bring-up 2018 quite as often as they have 1966 over the past 50-plus years, we ought not to be over-pleased that the 2018 World Cup will be won by someone other than England.

 

Never mind England - it's only a game


By rights, we should have supported our next-door neighbours, the players we are most-familiar with via TV and the other branches of our media. Except, as all us Scots ken fine – God gave us the English as neighbours to compensate for the many blessings he bestowed on this land of the Scots; while he gave us the mentality to allow them to lie, twist and cheat us as our overlords – so they think – to offset our natural: here's tae us, wha's like us arrogance.

Hopefully, Croatia will have us asking, if a nation that wee can get to a World Cup Final, why cannot we? It's a simple question, but difficult to answer. For me, it comes down to the fact, for over a century – in Scottish football, if you want to make it big, you had three options:

  • Get a move to England
  • Join Rangers
  • Join Celtic

And, that third option, was quite often a precursor to option one. The High Road to England has been: “the noblest prospect which a Scotchman ever sees,” since that old ham Dr Samuel Johnson came up with the line back in the 18th century. Today ambitious Scottish players don't seek to improve themselves to the extent of being targets for Real Madrid, Barcelona, Bayern Munich or any of the top Italian sides – naw, the obscene money sloshing around in even the second tier of the financially over-heated English game will do. And in any case, you don't have to learn a new language, or adapt to a foreign lifestyle.

Similarly, our club owners don't have to bother too-much about improving their players, of making them work harder on their technical skills and fitness. There might just be something in this thing about people being Scotland's greatest export you know.

Jamie the Saxth, when he high-tailed it south to become James I, King of England took some of his hingers-oan with him. These barons and clan chiefs quickly adapted to the crush the peasants mindset of their English contemporaries, and, back up the road, they began to clear their clansmen off their lands, to be replaced by sheep.

The braver displaced Scots went off to build-up Australia, Canada, South Africa and the United States. The less-brave headed for Glasgow, or maybe even England. And so it began. The Clearances gave way to a gradual drift South and West, as others realised how well Tam, Jock and Erchie had done there, until today, I think we are left with the descendants of those too-feart to get out. If you keep moving-on your best stock, eventually, the quality of what you have left will deteriorate.

England's problem is, they have a top league which is virtually all-powerful in the politics of their domestic game. It is run to suit them, and the guys who run these top-flight English clubs are not necessarily England fans. Indeed, with the amount of cash in the English game, many of them are not even English. They do not care about England.

Greavsie was the best in his position in England in 1966 - none of today's England team can say that

For instance, if you were to pick a Best of English Football XI from 1966, when England won the World Cup at the very least Gordon Banks, Bobby Moore, Jimmy Greaves, Bobby Charlton and probably Ray Wilson would have been in that XI. Jim Baxter, Denis Law and Billy Bremner would have been the Scots' shoo-ins. Mike England of Wales would have been most people's pick at centre-half alongside Moore, while George Best would have been another shoo-in. That's ten of the team who would pick themselves, including five of the eventual England tournament squad.

If you picked a Best of English Football XI today, not one of the England squad in Russia would get into that team. You could not pick a Best of Spanish, Italian, German or French Football teams today without a large percentage of that team being genuinely Spanish, Italian, German or French.

And the situation is just as bad, if not worse, here in Scotland. I have watched the drip, drip announcements of new signings by our leading clubs – not many Scottish names among them.

Until the SFA forces our clubs to adopt a policy of having most of each match-day squad “Scottish-qualified”, we are not going to be going back to the World Cup or European Championship finals any time soon.

Of course, Brexit might change things. Without freedom of movement, it will not be as-easy for Scottish clubs to sign overseas players – however, I fear we will still see younger English players being sent up here on-loan to gain experience, at the expense of perhaps equally-talented Scottsh youngsters. Of course, if we become independent any time soon, that fact too will perhaps alter the signing playing field.

 GarethSouthgate is doing an impossible job rather well

But, all that is in the future. We still have Sunday's final, not forgetting Saturday's game nobody wants to play in – the third-place play-off, to get past. I feel sorry somewhat for Gareth Southgate and his men, who battled bravely, but came-up short. I genuinely like Southgate, but, he hopefully realises, he has indeed got the “impossible job”, trying to reconcile the realities of English football politics with the absolutely totally wrong-headed view the English media has of their current place in the football world.

England 2018 is not a shite football team, but, they are operating out of a shite football system. The same is true of Scotland, except, if anything our system is an even bigger pile of shite than England's.

Football will not be coming home to the island which fashioned it – until the systems, either side of the Solway and Tweed estuaries change.




Monday, 9 July 2018

Gillie's Gone - Will We See His LIkes Again?

THE PASSING, yesterday, of Alan Gilean sees another brilliant Scottish player go over to swell Jock Stein's selection options in the hereafter World Cup. I'd like to think we have had some success up there, to make-up for our constant diet of failure in this life.

 

Alan Gilzean - 1938 - 2018


It was typical Gilzean, to slip quietly away at a time when his adopted England was going ape shit over the deeds of an inferior Tottenham Hotspur number nine and probably the luckiest England squad ever to be sent to any international tournament.

Gillie never fitted the mould of a Scottish footballer. He came from Coupar Angus, rather than the mean streets of Glasgow for a start. He was prematurely bald, rather than sporting a shock of ginger hair. He was in the Scouts rather than the Boys Brigade, and, apparently – in spite of what Hunter Davies wrote about him in his book The Glory Game – he preferred a night at the pictures to a weekend on the bevvy.

He did enjoy some Shankly influence in his development, but under Bob rather than Wullie of that ilk, but, he was never involved in the Old Firm lunacy as he made his name with a splendid Dundee team, which won the League in 1961-62.

Even 'Dee fans who weren't born when they dethroned Rangers to win what is so-far the club's only title, can recite the litany of legends: Liney; Hamilton and Cox; Seith, Ure and Wishart; Smith, Penman, Cousin, Gilzean and Robertson. With Gillie's passing, only goalkeeper Liney and the Seith, Ure, Wishart half-back line remain alive, to remind the Dens faithful of the glory days.

The legendary 1962-63 Dundee side with the League Championship trophy

Gilzean was a goal scorer of wonderful consistency: 169 goals in 190 appearances, an average of 0.89 goals per game, in a sport where the benchmark for a top-class striker is 0.5gpg. He scored more goals in one season (52 in season 1963-64) than any Dundee striker before or since. He scored 17 hat-tricks for the club and, naturally a club record seven goals in one game.

But, it was his four goals at Ibrox, as Dundee turned a goalless first half into a final score of a 5-1 win, in November, 1961, that really made his name. Before that day, he was already a Scotland Under-23 cap, after it, he was the hottest of hot property.

The following season, he scored nine goals as unfancied Dundee charged to the final of the European Cup, which back then was a straight knock-out competition featuring the champions of each European league. Along the way, Dundee eliminated Cologne, the German champions, Sporting Lisbon from Portugal and Anderlecht from Belgium, before falling to eventual winners AC Milan in the semi-final. Big English and Italian clubs were not falling over themselves to sign Gilzean.

Dundee, however, would not sell, and in those pre-Bosman days, they could hold a player against his will. So, Gilzean went on strike, and had to sign-on for unemployment benefit as he withheld his services. Eventually, a compromise was reached, he returned, to be quickly sold-on to Tottenham Hotspur, who were determined to capture him after he scored twice for “A Scotland XI” in a White Hart Lane testimonial for Spurs legend John White, who had tragically been killed – struck by lightning while golfing.

He had played with White for Scotland, and, Gilzean's iconic first Scotland goal, when he rose above Spurs' Maurice Norman and goalkeeper Gordon Banks to head home the only goal of the 1964 Scotland v England game at Hampden was another reason why Tottenham boss Bill Nicholson was so-keen to pay £72,500 and get him onto his roster.

Jimmy Greaves - the other G-Man in the Tottenham ranks

Gillie was an immediate hit at the Lane, striking-up a wonderful partnership with Jimmy Greaves. The “G-Men” at their best, were unstoppable and before long the Spurs fans were hailing Gillie as “The King of White Hart Lane” as the goals flew in.

Then, when Greaves was sold to West Ham, Gilzean formed another brilliant partnership, with Martin Chivers, who, before injury dulled his potency, was the England centre forward.

Gilzean was no slouch internationally. Competition was fierce for a place in the Scotland team. He was competing against Denis Law, Ian St John, Ralph Brand and Jimmy Millar, then John O'Hare and Colin Stein for a place. He won 22 caps, and score 12 goals for Scotland, giving him a strike rate of 0.55 gpg, the same as Law.

In ten years with Tottenham, he scored 133 goals in 439 appearances, Adding one FA Cup, two League Cup and one UEFA Cup winner's medals to his League Championship medal with Dundee. Then, after a short stint in South Africa and an unhappy spell in non-league management, a position he never really fancied, he quit football.

Then, famously, Gilzean “vanished”, for nigh-on 40-years. What actually happened was: he joined a transport firm near his Enfield home and quietly worked away there. His marriage to childhood sweetheart Irene failed, and his firm moved him to its Avonmouth base, with Gillie settling in Weston-Super-Mare, which is pretty much as far from football as you can get in England.

James Morgan's Gilzean book

He retired from work and, from somewhere, the rumour arose he was now a down and out. Where was Gillie? Became something of a cause celebre among sports journalists, to the extent that James Morgan, Spurs fan and Deputy Sports Editor of the (Glasgow) Herald wrote a best-selling book: “The Search for Alan Gilzean.”

His search was successful, Gillie was “found”, the down and out rumour rubbished and after 40 years away he returned to Spurs, to be greeted like the Prodigal Son, and a huge hug from Greaves, who said: “We worked well together, he did my heading, I did his running.”

Greaves asked: “Why were you gone so-long?”

To get away from you,” was the response of Gilzean, a man who, like Jim Baxter, was never all that enamoured of football when not playing.

The reconciliation saw Gillie join the Spurs legends on corporate hospitality duties at the Lane, and be a part of the celebrations when Spurs closed the old ground prior to their temporary move to Wembley and the building of their new ground.

Sadly, a brain tumour, only discovered weeks ago, has claimed Gillie's life, so, the King will be missing when the new Lane opens. But, he will be there in spirit. Alan Gilzean, a member of the Dundee and Tottenham Halls of Fame, a 2009 inductee into the Scottish Football Hall of Fame and one of the game's genuinely nice guys may have gone, but, he will never be forgotten.

Not least around Dens Park, where the most-popular fanzine is entitled: “Eh dae ye mind o' Gillie?” That's a silly question, those of us who saw him play will never forget him.


Sunday, 8 July 2018

Hold Scotland, Hold, They've Won Nothing Yet

IT'S TURNING into a Dad's Army World Cup, if you're Scottish. Right now, the call is Lance-Corporal Jones' catchphrase: “Don't panic, don't panic.” They have still to get through a semi-final, and possibly a final, before we can all turn into Private Fraser and say: “We're doomed, doomed Ah tell ye.”

 

 Sound advice from the village butcher - they haven't won the thing yet


I must admit, I am not certain about the ability of Croatia to beat Them in the semi-final. I think the Croats have the better players, Modric and Rakitic for instance, however – they have been through extra time and penalties in both the last-16 and the quarter-final, and, that might tell on Wednesday night. But, even if England wins the semi-final, I am absolutely certain that whoever wins between Belgium and France will prove too-strong for Them in the final. But, there is always the feeling – it's fitba, and nothing is certain.

Actually, They are growing on me. I have long had a soft spot for Gareth Southgate, I like and admire the guy and the job he has done since being appointed keeper of the poisoned chalice.

They don't have quite as many bawbags and fuds in their squad as in the past; for instance, I really admire Harry Maguire. I don't think he is international class, but, by heck the big lad from Sheffield has played a blinder this far. He's the sort of big, solid defender who was supposedly out of fashion years ago. He'd be in my team at Kilbirnie, as we say in Ayrshire.

But, and what a shame there has to be a but – with England in the World Cup, you get the English media. Of course, since it is in effect the propaganda arm of the English/British Establishment, we in Scotland MUST be subjected to the ridiculously jingoistic and over-the-top pro-England cheer-leading which passes for commentary on BBC TV these days – Oh my McLaren and my Arlott long ago.

 John Arlott - proud Englishman, but never an England cheer-leader

At least, yesterday's game was on BBC. Bad and biased though they may be, the BBC commentary and studio talking heads teams are less overly pro-England than their colleagues on ITV. I personally think Clive Tyndesley is the SNP's biggest pro-independence asset.

Any way, why cannot we have a dedicated, less-biased BBC Scotland commentary? And, speaking of commentators, Ally McCoist and John Champion showed, yet again during the Croatia v Russia quarter-final, they are, by a lang Scots mile, the best commentator/analyst team at these finals – or any I can think of.

They have achieved the “Test Match Special” criteria, of sounding like a couple of pals, sitting together and watching the game as fans. Of course Champion wants England to win, but, alone of the ITV, and more-so the BBC commentators, he doesn't shove his pro-England view down the throats of the other UK nations. While Coisty, a natural broadcaster, also brings I feel, far more insider, technical knowledge than even the likes of the much-hyped Glenn Hoddle.


OF COURSE, we are a long way away from even qualifying for the World Cup, far less contesting a semi-final, so we need diversion, to stop us dwelling on events in Russia and what it might be like if They win the damned thing. No, best not to go there.

There was a wee diversion in Glasgow on Friday night, with Steve Gerrard's new-look Rangers sticking six goals on Bury, a team I would fancy Auchinleck Talbot to beat at Beechwood. Forty thousand of Ra Peepul turned-up to witness Stevie G's managerial debut; well, if nothing else, it gave some of the cross-Channel (North Channel that is) tourists something to do in Glasgow, as they readied themselves for a Saturday disrupting the traffic in the city centre and parading their bigotry and prejudices.

And, to be honest, poor team though Bury might be, it was fitting that wee Johnny Hubbard's old club was in town in the week the South African legend was buried. But, even a six-goal win cannot hide the fact, which is not being reported that much by the mainstream media – that all is not well off the field at Ibrox.

The Chairman – the Glib and Shameless Liar (GASL) is up to his erse in alligators in his ongoing fight with the Take-over Panel, and, should he ever enter Scotland, he could well find himself facing contempt of court charges. Then, we learn from The Donegal Blogger, who relishes such stuff – Mike Ashley is ratcheting-up the pressure in his ongoing battle with the club over who sells the replica strips.

Apparently, Ashley is sitting on a warehouse full of Puma replica kit, which may impact on Rangers' ability to flog their new Hummel kit – with a subsequent negative impact on Rangers' finances. There is a belief, the GASL and his allies have arranged an alternative replica retailer, and in so doing have breached the existing agreement with Ashley's Sports Direct business.

This is, as we say in the business – a developing story, but, don't expect to read too much about this in the mainstream media, where it doesn't do to upset Ibrox.

SPFL Chairman Murdoch McLennan - has upset the GASL

Elsewhere, Rangers are continuing what amounts to a witch hunt against SPFL Chairman Murdoch McLennan, who is also Chairman of the Irish Independent News and Media group once owned by rugby legend Sir Tony O'Reilly.

Apparently, the fact Celtic's principal individual shareholder, Dermot Desmond, and Denis O'Brien, his fellow Irish billionaire and Celtic shareholder are also shareholders in IN&M is unacceptable to Rangers and their GASL Honcho.

Responsible Rangers fans of whom there are many, are, at the least, somewhat shame-faced at some of the stunts which the GASL have pulled since taking control of the club. One friend, who has a seat in the posh area of Ibrox told me frankly: “He's not Rangers-class and to me, he is proof of Ian Archer's opinion on Rangers' fans. This was, in case you've forgotten: “They are a permanent embarrassment and ocasional disgrace.”

Still, there's European football next week, with the early qualifying rounds of the Champions League and the Europa League. I wonder, how much Progres will Rangers make, if any, this season.