Socrates MacSporran

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

Monday, 24 July 2017

A Family Affronted Hit Back At Their Naughty Children

I AM delighted to see the vast majority of the Celtic Family has taken umbrage at the childish response - dummy-spitting and toys out of the pram throwing - of the so-called Green Brigade to the two-game ban which Celtic handed them, following their attention-seeking display of stupidity during the Champions League qualifier against Linfield.

The banners that caused all the bother

As more than one Hoops fan has said, the GB appear to think collectively, they are more-important than the club whose name they drag so often through the mud. Their efforts certainly seriously undermine the efforts of the self-appointed: “Greatest Fans In The World” to cement bragging rights and moral high ground occupation in the perennial battle for this with the gang from across the city.

We non Old Firm fans have long held the respective fan bases to be: “Twa cheeks o' the same erse”, the difference perhaps is the Cancer in the Celtic support base is more concentrated in one place, the Rangers' cancer has spread further through the entire body, and at least, when it costs them money, the current Celtic management seems more-prepard than their counterparts across town to do something about its lunatic fringe.

MIND YOU, for all the efforts of the many heid cases who follow-follow across town – easily the biggest embarrassments around Rangers have been found in the poshest seats. I recall saying, when the whole thing first went tits-up, back in 2012, there were children then still to get out of kindergarten, whose entire school fees at some of Scotland's most-exclusive educational establishments would be covered by their parents' travails poring through law books, studying legal precedents and offering their expensive advice.

M'learned friends have done, are doing, and will continue to do well out of Rangers – one hopes, some day, a major legal entity will say a heartfelt “thank you” to the club by becoming jersey sponsors – it's the least the club deserves.

But, before then, we await the sorting-out of the latest twist in the tale, with the weekend suggestion that Le Vicomte Vert de Normandie and the Whyte Laird of Motherwell, or maybe more-properly lawyers representing them or their past interests are laying claim to whatever they can get from the wreckage of the liquidated pre-2012 entity.

There is always the “don't ever suggest it” scenario – whereby, everything that has gone on over the past five years or more is ruled to have been illegal – and ownership of Rangers reverts to Sir David Murray. I reckon he would then say: “No thank you, not for me”.

Sir David Murray - might get an offer he could refuse

WATCHING the early part of the final stage of Le Tour, meant I didn't have to sit through the Engerlund, Engerlund, Engerlund build-up to the Scotland v Portugal Women's Euro game. We certainly began well, but, once again watching our Women was just like watching our men – chances missed, a lack of composure – particularly in the opposition penalty area - then, the first time our opponents attack: the cry was no defenders. Seen this DVD before – often.

At half-time the shots-on-goal figure was 7-1 in Scotland's favour, and we were trailing 0-1. The second half was, if anything worse. Ach! Watching Scotland puts years on you, writes Socrates MacSporran, aged 105.

However, all is not lost, we are not out of it entirely. If the girls can beat Spain by two goals or more, assuming England beat Portugal – which they ought to do – then, Scotland can qualify.

Again, I have seen something like this video before. Back in 1963, a Scotland Men's squad which included such luminaries as Billy McNeill, Dave Mackay, Jim Baxter and a forward line of Willie Henderson, John White, Ian St John, Denis Law and Davie Wilson went off on an end-of-season European Tour.

They began by losing to a then amateur Norway – 3-4, lost 0-1 to an unranked Republic of Ireland, and, with John “The Voice of Football” McKenzie, demanding in his despatch from the five star Jury's Hotel in Dublin that the SFA: “Bring this lot home before they embarrass us further”, they set off to face Spain in the Bernabeu. Result, Spain 2 – Scotland 6.

Davie Wilson - scored in the Bernabeu

See, it's these sorts of occasional, impossible dreams, that keep you going back for more with Scotland.

I HAVE long railed against the personality-driven guff which passes for football comment in even the “series” newspapers in Scotland. You know, the article in which some hapless hack has managed to make sense of the witterings of some “personality” who once, in a meaningless end of group pot-boiler, on a wet October night in some central European state, missed a good half-chance for his club, or for Scotland.

Better for Scottish football if such “stenographers” summoned their inner Ian Archer or Cyril Horne and told it like it was. So, kudos to my big Buddie Graeme Macpherson of The Herald, for penning an interesting dissertation on televised football. A good read and well worth thinking about.

THIS MORNING'S inspirational text in the Monday sermon to “Ra Peepul” is all about how good Bruno Alves and Niko Kranjcar were during Rangers' 1-1 draw with Marseilles, at Ibrox on Saturday.

OK, I have told this tale before, but, this is as good an excuse as any to re-tell it. Years ago, when George Burley (remember him), was finding his managerial feet at Ayr United, he signed one or two experienced mates. United still stuttered occasionally and, one afternoon, with things not going well at Somerset Park, the Honest Men got a free-kick wide on the right, some 40-yards from the opposition goal.

Gathered round the ball were manager Burley (34), fellow former Scotland cap Arthur Albiston (35) and former Motherwell man Gordon Mair (36). “Enclosure” George Reid, the arch-critic of United managers and directors since before Ally MacLeod's first spell at the club could not resist it.

Turning to the Directors' Box, George bellowed: “Aye Mr Chairman, I see your youth policy is working”. It brought the house down.

 George Burley - part of Ayr United's "youth policy"

The message is: you need a backbone of experience, but, you also need some good young “legs” to work off the older guys. Do Rangers have that today? Only time will tell.

George Reid was an accountant, and legend has it, one morning a group of Ayr United players – the names given included Robert Reilly, Robert Connor, Alan McInally and Stevie Nicol – but, that might be gilding the lily, turned up at George's office, gathered round his desk and verbally abused him for five minutes.

 Robert Reilly - got his own back on a critical fan

When George objected he was told: “Well, you turn up at our work and shout abuse at us on a fortnightly basis”. Then everyone laughed. I bet a lot more players would like to have had the chance to do this.

Saturday, 22 July 2017

How Much Longer Before Scottish Football Lances This Boil

TO THOSE Scottish football fans who do not follow the Old Firm, the perennial Hatfields and McCoys or Capulets and Montagues of the game up here are: “twa cheeks o' the same erse”. “Wan is as bad as the ither” is the verdict on the street.

There are differences too in the approach of the two “families”. The Celtic Family sees themselves as: “The Greatest Fans In The World”, they occupy the moral high ground, convinced of their own superiority.

The two tribes exchange pleasantries

Across the city: “No one likes us – we don't care”, because: “We Are The People”.

Truth is, there are good and bad in both camps – as there are in the support of every Scottish club. The fact there are more hooligans following the Big Two than, perhaps, all the rest put together, simply magnifies the extent of the problem.

This week, after their Champions League qualifier against Linfield, it was Celtic in the dock. Leigh Griffiths picked-up a one-game ban, for his behaviour at the end of the first leg – when he tied a Celtic scarf to one of the goal posts; having earlier been yellow carded - for “time wasting”, when he complained to the Italian referee, after having a half-bottle, which once held Buckfast, and several coins and other missiles flung at him.

You would need a heart of stone not to sympathise with wee Leigh for the booking, but, the ban for intimidating the Linfield fans – yet another chapter in the ongoing saga of Leigh, the daft wee laddie.

Leigh Griffiths - sometimes a daft wee laddie

Celtic also copped a fine from the first leg, after having five players booked. Their tenth fine in the last five years in Europe.

Then came the second leg, and more trouble for Celtic – reported to UEFA for a breach of the competition's kit regulations, seminglyly for having a sponsor's logo on the substitutes' warm-up tabards. Then, the behaviour of the most-Ultra section of the Celtic support, the so-called Green Brigade, further incurred UEFA's wrath. This seems certain, under UEFA's strict liability code of supporter conduct, seems likely to see them writing-out another sizeable cheque to be forwarded to UEFA headquarters in Nyon, Switzerland.

Celtic, club and fans, have built-up in recent years, a thick file of what the courts term: “previous” - this means, the club and its fans are being watched; the chances are, misbehaviour by a Celtic player, or their fans, will be picked-up on by referees and UEFA observers, whereas, the same misconduct, by another club or its fans, might be overlooked.

In the bad old days, when it was suggested/assumed that Scotland's referees by and large supported the other side, and that membership of a masonic or Orange lodge was mandatory for elevation to Grade One refereeing status in Scotland, Jock Stein would urge his players to: “take the referee out of the equation”, by NOT giving them cause to perhaps give decisions against Celtic. Maybe Brendan Rodgers should be stressing this, hard, to his squad and backroom staff on a daily basis.

Big Jock - his: "take the referees out of the equation" mantra made sense

I appreciate, as with Leigh Griffiths in Belfast, it is difficult to turn the other cheek, but, it is not impossible.

During Stein's time, Celtic also introduced a fans liaison officer; if memory serves me correctly former Celtic and Scotland left-back Jim Kennedy was the first. He had authority to go along to supporters club meetings and tell them straight, if their behaviour did not meet with the club's approval. Whoever has the job today, he needs to be a bit firmer with some elements, not least the so-caled Green Brigade, who give the impression of being out of and beyond control.

 Jim Kennedy - Celtic's first fans liaison officer

Across the city, there was, at one time, apparently, less tolerance of unacceptable behaviour by fans. I have been told by a former Strathclyde Police Match Commander at Ibrox, he has seen club officials remove and rip-up in front of them, season ticket books belonging to fans who had been caught misbehaving inside Ibrox.

The copper felt this was a bit extreme, but, accepts it cured one or two miscreants – sadly, not enough.

We keep hearing: “It's not a football problem, its a cultural problem peculiar to Scotland”. Maybe so, and, as such, it is not the game's problem.

BUT, if football worked harder at ridding itself of the stigma of unacceptable behaviour, while the problem would still exist – it would no longer exist in football. Football can cleanse itself, however, the will to do this has to be there within the game, and right now, I cannot see that it is.

Fan ownership of clubs is perhaps the Holy Grail. It may happen across all clubs some day, but not any time soon. Meanwhile, perhaps if the clubs brought-in some kind of membership deals, which saved their core support money, and engaged them more with how the club is doing, longer term, behaviour would improve.

For instance, received wisdom has it, the worst examples of offensive behaviour at football tends to surface at away games involving the Big Two. With their massive fan bases, the easiest way for the clubs to distribute the insufficient number of tickets they get for away games, is through the official supporters clubs.

So, if unacceptable singing is heard coming from that section of an away stadium where the club knows Supporters Club A's members were seated, it would be easy to tell that club: “Your behaviour on Saturday was unacceptable – your club will not be getting tickets for the next three games”. The onus would then be on the real fans to self-police the nutters and get rid of them.

Same thing at home games – in fact even easier. Monitor the fans, if supporters club members or, more-crucially season-ticket holders are caught offending: first offence, warn; second offence, suspend; third offence – ban.

Longer term, education is called for. I have nothing against the traditional “folk songs” on the Rangers side – provided they don't have the FTP add-ons. I actually think the Famine Song, while some of it is historically shite, is a very good wind-up of the “Plastic Paddies” on the other side.

On the other side, I have nothing against some of the great Irish protest songs – I love the Fields of Athenry for instance. But, what the hell have these Irish songs got to do with Scottish football? They are ridiculous and unnecessary – both sides, get rid. If that's your “culture”, then it is way past time for a cultural change.

That's for the clubs, BUT, the biggest stumbling block to ridding football of the plook on its countenance of offensive behaviour, is the abject failure of the SFA to do something.

UEFA has, as Celtic keeps finding-out to its cost, a code of strict liability on clubs, to be responsible for their fans' and players' behaviour, good or bad. If the SFA would introduce a similar code, backed-up by points deductions for infractions, the clubs would be forced to act, to rid the game of the lunatics who so besmirch it; to engage more with their fans as I have outlined and to make football-going in Scotland a more-pleasurable experience.

How long must we wait for this to happen?

And, let there be no doubts, bad behaviour at Scottish football is NOT confined to the Big Two and their followers, but, if they can be brought to heel, the "diddy" teams will also clean up their lesser tribute acts.

Friday, 21 July 2017

Time To think About Bonus Points

WITH little in the way of real meat to get my teeth into this close season, I have been allowing my mind to flow freely over ways of improving Scottish football.

The Beautiful Game has been organised for longer than most, but, some of the younger team sports could teach football a thing or two. For instance, in rugby, a team can earn bonus points by scoring more than three tries per game. Imagine that in football, a bonus point when the fourth goal goes in. This, I feel, would encourage more attacking football. Today, a team goes 4-2 down, they park the bus to limit further damage, but, with bonus points, they could go for 4-3 and thus set-up a more-exciting match.

Even if you lost 5-4, or 6-5 say, you would come away with a bonus point. Also, another rugby bonus system might also be tweaked for football. This is the losing bonus point, so that, if the losing side finishes within one score of the winners, they get a losing bonus point. Lose 5-4 or 6-5, you get two points – that's better than playing for a draw.

Now, I accept, the losing bonus would not really work on 1-0 or 2-1 defeats, but, if the winning side was to score three or more goals, and the losing one get within a goal of them, then they would get a losing bonus. A few seven-or-more-goal thrillers would surely boost the game.

PRESSURE – what pressure. Well done to the again Dandy Dons, for that great win last night; to go safely through to the next qualifying round of the Europa League. After Rangers and St Johnstone fell at the first, and they only got a draw in their home leg at Pittodrie, there were real fears that Aberdeen might also go out early. So, huge congratulations to Derek McInnes and his squad – this result will certainly help Scotland's co-efficient, plus the Dons' coffers.

Derek McInnes - win in Bosnia a good result for Scottish football

They now face Apollon Limassol in the next round. Cypriot football has been on the up over the past two or three seasons, so we cannot simply assume: “The opposition's from Cyprus, Aberdeen will win”. To quote the sainted Andy Roxburgh: “There are no longer any easy games in Europe”.But, that said, onwards and upwards please Aberdeen.

EARLIER this week I mentioned Gary Lineker's BBC salary. It is of course, ridiculous that Gary should earn in one year, twice what the BBC pays Scottish football for its wall-to-wall (or so it seems) coverage of the game up here; however, that's not Lineker's fault.

He clearly is a good negotiator, or, has good negotiators working for him – plus, it goes without saying, if the BBC did not pay him what he asks, then Sky probably would, while BT, for whom he also works on European nights, would pay him more too.

Maybe the SFA should be playing hard ball with Pacific Quay. Next time they start talking, maybe they should tell the Beeb to take a hike, it just might focus their minds better.

Of course, different people getting a different rate for doing the same job is nothing new. Jackie Stewart when he broke into Formula One, was being better paid than Jim Clark, who even Stewart acknowledges, was a superior driver. Clark, unlike Stewart, had no idea of his real worth, but, quickly learned from his fellow Scot.

On a personal level, I quit the best job I ever had over this – a less-talented, far-lazier fellow hack getting more money in the same department, and have never regretted it. In football, perhaps the best story about one team mate seeking parity with another concerns one of Tommy Docherty's re-signing stand-offs with Preston North End.

Apparently Tommy was offered £12 per week during the season, and £10 per week in the close season. However, he knew (Sir) Tom Finney was on £14 and £12 per week and Tommy thought this was unfair.

Now Tommy, are you trying to tell me you're as good a player as Tom Finney an worth the same wage”, the Chairman is alleged to have asked The Doc.

 The Doc and Sir Tom Finney - equals in the close season

Aye, I certainly am as good as Tom in the close season”, was Doc's reply – he apparently got the summer wage increase.

AS A BOY, growing up in the dreich Ayrshire of the 1950s, a Christmas highlight was unwrapping the latest edition of Hugh Taylor's Scottish Football Album. Old Hughie, later to become a loved and valued mentor to me when I first got into the mad world of sports-writing, was a master of the craft, a Kilmarnock fan who spent his entire career convincing both halves of the Old Firm, he followed the other.

Hughie worshipped Hoagy Carmichael (google him), played a mean piano and could spot a split infinitive (present-day Herald subs please google) at the other end of Hampden, and also encouraged young would-be sports writers brilliantly.

He painted wonderful word pictures, and I still remember one from 1957. The Daily Record didn't do torn crests back then, but – Rangers were in crisis. George Young had retired at the end of the previous season, to be replaced by Queen's Park's John Valentine, by common consent the best young centre-half in Scotland.

Then came “Hampden in the Sun”, 7-1 to Celtic and Billy McPhail absolutely destroyed poor John Valentine. The new boy was immediately dropped and shown the door out of Ibrox at the first opportunity.

Willie Telfer - proved rather a good stop-gap

To plug the gap, Rangers signed life-long fan Willie Telfer, a true Larkhall boy, from St Mirren. Enter Taylor, who, covering Telfer's debut - wrote that: “A Victorian gentleman wearing a lum hat could have headed away the first cross into the Rangers box, but, when Telfer did this, from the roar which surged round Ibrox, you'd have thought he had scored an Old Firm winner”.

Telfer, in a September Song cameo, steadied the ship and from despair in October the Ibrox club recovered. Hearts won the league at a canter that season, and Clyde won the Cup, but losing a semi-final replay and finishing second in the league seemed a long way off when the board made the “panic signing” of Telfer.

What has this ancient history got to do with 2017 football? You ask.

Well, Bruno Alves, a veteran centre-half, OK with 92-more Portuguese caps than Telfer had Scottish ones, has arrived at Ibrox as “the Chosen One” – brought to end the chants of: “The cry was no defenders” which have followed Rangers around for years.

Bruno Alves

The fissures in the heart of the Rangers defence last season were obvious to all. One of my old class-mates, a 71-year-old, grey-hair worn in a bun lady, who makes full use of her Pensioner's season ticket at Rugby Park, summed-up Rangers' defensive difficulties in a sentence: “When Kris Boyd can out-sprint your twin centre-halves, you should accept you've got a problem”.

I am not certain Alves could out-sprint the Tarbolton Tank over 30-metres, but, if he can plug the gaps, he will prove as smart a buy as old Willie Telfer was. I note, however, “the stenographers” as Phil Mac Giolla Bhain calls out football-writing journalists, are apparently being primed for Alves' coronation as Rangers' captain – with quotes about him “wanting to be a leader” at Ibrox.

So, he could be Davie Weir 2, only time will tell. However, this blog has never deviated from its belief, what Celtic and Rangers both need is a fan on the park, and, better still, that that fan on the park is the captain.

We may not like some of the “culture” which surrounds the Bigot Brothers, but, we have to acknowledge, playing for the jersey, rather than merely kissing the badge occasionally, still matters in Scottish football.

Thursday, 20 July 2017

I Didn't See It Coming But I Still Bailed-Out Early

I SAT DOWN last night at 7pm, fully intending to watch the Scotland v England Women's European Championship match. I lasted until 7.22pm, then I switched off the television and went and did something else.

By then, I had realised, my worst fears were being realised – the broadcast would be: Engerlund, Engerlund Engerlund” on steroids. No, I decided lang syne, when they started that, switch off, for the good of my health.

FFS, before a ball had even been kicked, Channel Four had a graphic in place, detailing how “The Lionesses” would make it all the way to the dream final – England v Germany. Thanks Ch4, you just wrote a few pre-game team talks for their opponents, and, converted a few hundred more Scots to voting “Yes” at Indyref2.

OK, I fully expected England to beat us. There is simply no way our lassies can take on England, with half a team out injured. I sensed England would win, but 6-0 is another sore one. Let's see, I have now endured:

7-2 at Wembley, 1955
4-0 at Hampden, 1958
5-0 in the Centenary game in 1973
5-1 at Wembley in 1975

15 April, 1961 - a really bad day to be Scottish

so, last night was nothing new. But, bad though it was, it didn't hurt nearly a much as: Peru, then Iran in 1978; 7-0 to Uruguay in 1954; winning at Wembley but failing to qualify in 1999; beating England in 1967, then, in the next Euros qualifier, being taken apart by a one-man show of genius from George Best. To paraphrase Wullie Shankly: “If ye canna beat yin man, ye shouldnae be playin fur Scoatland”.

My long service in the Tartan Army has taught me to channel my inner Kipling – I can face the twin impostors and treat them both the same. Kipling did If, Scotland's sporting history is too full of If Onlys.

Any way lassies – that's the obligatory bad one out of the way, onwards and upwards.

THE FAN'S comment prize for season 2017-18 has already been won – and the season isn't even properly underway yet.

Surely nobody can top the Celtic fan, who tweeted last night, after the Celtic v Linfield Champions League qualifier at Celtic Park, that he had just gone to see his team, playing on their own ground, in his home city, and been advised from fans of the visiting team – from Ireland: “The famine is over, why don't you go home”.

President Trump isn't the only “orange man” who doesn't do irony, obviously.

SCOTLAND, it seems is, in spite of a marked reluctance to elect Members of Parliament who adopt the label with a capital C – a conservative country.

That's conservative in the sense averse to change for the sake of change, or adopting measures which appear too radical. In sport, this is obvious and was best expressed some years ago in writer Allan Massie's excellent Saturday essay in The Scotsman, in which he bemoaned the culture of “Ayebeenism” - “Ye canna dae that son, it's aye been done this wey” in Scottish rugby.

Allan Massie - identified Aye Beenism in Scottish Sport

Ayebeenism is also rampant in Scottish fitba – ever noticed how, any change in the game up here seems to be driven by the interests of the big teams, rather than the “diddy” ones – although, for my money, we tolerate too-many diddy teams at senior level. The Scottish fitba dug has a gey lang tail.

With little in the way of real fitba to write about just now, I thought I might throw a few ideas into the fires of discussion, and, maybe one might catch fire and we see something new in Scottish fitba.

For a start, a couple of reorganisations ago, the SFA did away with the local cup competitions – the Ayrshire, Renfrewshire, Stirlingshire and so-forth cups. In the West, the likes of the Ayrshire, Lanarkshire and Renfrewshire Football Associations, which let's be honest, were merely a means towards getting club directors closer to the big trough inside Hampden, were swept away, to be replaced by a West of Scotland region.

Now, some of the clubs, not wishing to slaughter the silver, if not golden goose, found ingenious ways of keeping these fans favourite local cup games going.

But, I feel this was a chance missed. In the Juniors, the West of Scotland Cup is a genuine favourite, and is seen as second in importance only to the Scottish Junior Cup. Why not a senior West of Scotland Cup, and, while we're at it, similar competitions in the other three regions – East of Scotland, Central Scotland and North of Scotland. Again, if such competitions were used to get the clubs to play their home-bred, Scottish players only, it would boost the development of young Scots.

Even make then an Under-23 competitions – we need to do more development beyond Under-20; and, taking it on, we could even have a supplementary competition for the four regional cup winners.

Such competitions would be good, season openers I feel, to ease the clubs up to speed for the important league campaign.

Speaking of which. I say, not for the first time – we have too-many “senior” clubs in Scotland. I would like to see us going to a maximum of two senior leagues, 24 clubs tops, playing in Scotland-wide league competition.

Below that, concentrate on the local aspect, with local leagues, maybe even with an Under-23 or Under-25 general age limit. Eight guys on the park at any one time, would have to be below the upper age limit. That way, you give guys the chance to make a name, but you do not, as you see now, see players moving around on an annual basis between the various lower league teams in their area.

With local leagues, we could better integrate the junior and senior non-league clubs into a properly-functioning pyramid system.

And, while I am flying this kite – England and Wales, with a population of 55 million, has 92 senior league teams. Scotland, with 5 million of a population, has 42 – the economics of that simply do not compute.

You can say: “But, it's aye been that way”, all you like. It still will not make it sensible.

The Lisbon Lions - 1 out of 61 is terrible

Scottish clubs have contested the European Cup for 61 seasons, since 1955-56. We have won it once – back in 1966-67, when our league set-up was a 16-club top-flight, under-pinned by a 20-club second division.

Ten of the top 12 clubs in that 1966-67 Division 1, as it then was – Celtic, Rangers, Aberdeen, Hibernian, Dundee, Kilmarnock, Dundee United, Motherwell, Hearts and Partick Thistle, in their 1966-67 finishing order - are still in today's Premiership. So, not a lot has changed in 50-years, Scottish fitba is largely, the way it has aye been.

We are stagnating, for how much longer will the Hampden “blazers” allow this to continue?

Wednesday, 19 July 2017

Awe Right Lasssies - Gerrintaerum

SCOTLAND'S Women open their 2017 European Championship Finals campaign tonight with a match against England. As ever, the English media – or at least those parts of it interested in Women's Football, are giving the impression “The Lionesses” only have to turn-up to win the thing.
Anna Signeul - Scotland's Coach
Scotland Goalkeper and captain Gemma Fay
 If the definition of insanity is: repeatedly doing the same thing, and hoping for a different outcome; then the English football media is collectively insane – we've had this same notion for 12 World Cup and 13 European Championship campaigns since, seemingly, England won the Men's World Cup in 1966 (you don't hear much about that, do you).

Now, that same pressure which has done for several golden generations of top talent such as Alex Stepney, Steve Foster, Tony Dorigo, Darius Vassell, Emile Heskey and Rickie Lambert is being put on the Women. To be fair, England's Women do appear to be a good squad, with a genuine chance of going far, if not winning the thing, but, how will they cope with the whole England Expects thing?

To be honest, IF we had all our big guns available – Kim Little, Jenni Beattie etc, I would expect us to give them a real game and, following the usual pre-match impression of an England v Scotland game – based on my 50-plus years with the Tartan Army: if we all play well and one or two of them have an off-day, we win; otherwise, expect England to win – I approach tonight's match in Utrecht more in hope than expectation.

But, come 7.45pm, I will be there, in front of my television, ready for yet another 90 minutes of emotional roller-coaster ride. Awright Lassies – gerrintaerum! And, the best of luck.

THE BETFRED CUP, as the League Cup is now identified, is now underway, after last night's second group games. Once upon a time, the League Cup winners gained entry into the following season's European competitions, but, no longer.

Well, since the chance to start your season early and be booted-out of Europe before the Glasgow Fair is to be denied the winners – why doesn't that intellectually-challenged think tank in Hampden's corridors of powerlessness do something radical about it.

I appreciate economic reality is gradually causing our so-called top clubs to stop hiring cheap European “talent”, although one or two club still seemed wedded to this flawed concept. But, the reliance some outfits have on young English loan talent worries me.

Any way, why not, for the Betfred League Cup, boost Scottish talent – by making it a Scots only competition? Require every club to field an all-Scotland-qualified squad. If they say they cannot, tough, then handicap them, by penalising any club not fielding an all-Scottish squad by one goal for every two non-Scots who gets onto the field.

That way, local boys would be getting a chance to show what they could do.

But, would some of the bigger clubs go along with it?

Let's face it, it might persuade a few more fans to turn up and see what level of young, home-grown talent their club had. It might boost interest. What's to lose?

It;s not as if the powers-that-be have not already experimented with the competition. We've had all-in rounds, we've had groups, we've had seeding – this event is used to tinkering, so, why not tinker in a really radical way?

THE CONFIRMATION that Gary Lineker is, in the eyes of the BBC, worth twice as much as Scottish football hardly counts as bombshell news. We've been minor partners in BRITISH sports broadcasting for years.

Gary Lineker - he earns the market rate and good luck to him

OK, the money floating around in English football these days is obscene. It's the most over-funded, over-rated league in the world. English players and managers barely get a look-in, and, whereas, once upon a time the English clubs were owned by butchers, bakers and candle-stick makers, who put their spare cash into their local club, perhaps out of a sense of civic duty and altruism, today. English clubs are owned by Russian oligarchs, Saudi sheiks and Asian wide boys – old Bob Lord of Burnley must be spinning in his grave.

Scotland cannot compete with this over-hyped league next door, but, at least, a shite game in Scotland is a damned sight cheaper to watch than a shite game in England, so let's be thankful for small mercies.

I suppose, we will simply have to, until enough of us waken up and vote for Independence, thole being an occasional after-thought to England. Unless, we really stand up for ourselves and force the BBC to devote more time, energy and resources to Scottish – and Northern Irish and Welsh football.

Why should Football Focus be all about English football. It is on the British Broadcasting Corporation? The Scottish Government ought to be getting the Beeb telt, just as Belfast and Cardiff should be in there too getting a fairer portion of the sports broadcasting budget. Time tae gerrintaerum!!

PLEASED to see wee Chris Burke joining Kilmarnock. It doesn't seem all that long ago since he was starring in yon BBC Scotland documentary, about the young Rangers's players about to make waves at what was then Murray Park. Another youngster who featured in that series is Peter Leven, now Burke's assistant gaffer at Rugby Park.

Chris Burke in Scotland Action

Burke has had a good, if not great career, he is approaching the 500 games mark and I reckon ought to have more than his seven Scotland caps, since his debut in the Kirin Cup in Japan in 2006. I wish him well at Killie.