Socrates MacSporran

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

Wednesday, 23 May 2018

Socrates' Scheme - How To Improve Scottish Football

AS I wrote in my last blog post, my impetus for writing this series was to show how the total mess the SRU has managed to make of attempting to implement change, via its Super-6/Agenda-3 project, (I will refer to this hereafter as S6A3) might reflect onto football.

[I fear, however, the SRU left the detail to a bunch of front five “donkeys”, the big men who shift the pianos, rather than the smaller men who actually play them. (This is a reference to a French description of a rugby team – eight piano shifters (the forwards) and seven piano players (the backs).]

The whole S6A3 nonsense was kicked-off, allegedly, by Scotland's Australian Director of Rugby, Scott Johnson, declaring the BT Premiership, the top level of the club game, being: “Unfit for purpose.” The problem with this view was, he seemed to be saying the BT Premiership clubs ought to be preparing their players to step-up to the full-time ranks, with the two fully-professional teams: Edinburgh and Glasgow Warriors; the Premiership clubs thought their job was to win their bloody league.

Edinburgh and Glasgow are rugby's equivalent of Celtic and Rangers – competitors, but, without the nasty, sectarianism. They play in the multi-national Guinness PRO14 League, against four Irish, four Welsh, two Italian and two South African clubs, and they play in the Champions Cup and the Challenge Cup – rugby's equivalent of the Champions and Europa Leagues.

But, enough about egg-chasing; what lessons are there for football?

If we take the PRO14 to be (football) Premiership standard, then the (rugby) Premiership is probably League One standard. The clubs are all part-time, and, in truth, only a very few of the players will make it to the higher level, having missed-out as younger players. However, if we look at the SRU's proposals as a means of raising standards, they are laudable.

The over-riding “buzzword” around S6A3 is Sustainability”. This does not mean, as it appears to with football's League One and Two clubs: “If we can draw one or other of the Old Firm in the Scottish or League Cup, we'll be fine for another season or so.” The clubs need to demonstrate they have a strategic plan, both in terms of the playing and financial aspects of the game and their continuing. When the top clubs applied for one of the six franchises, they had to submit their books to Murrayfield, they had to have a strategic plan as to how they would grow their franchise, and, they had to agree to certain facilities:


  • Good floodlighting
  • A 3G or 4G pitch
  • Proper support staff – administrative, medical and strength and conditioning, with good facilities
  • They have to demonstrate how they intend paying for this.

I wager, if the SFA was to put such a proposal to most of our 42 Senior clubs, Tom Johnston at the SJFA would suddenly have a surge in membership applications.

But, why shouldn't the SFA insist that the member clubs install decent pitches and upgrade their facilities?

To hark back to rugby, while the improved results under Gregor Townsend undoubtedly helped, Glasgow Warriors have succeeded in growing a genuine support, partially through offering terrific facilities and: “a great spectating experience” at Scotstoun. Nothing wrong with Firhill – their former home – but, Scotstoun is more-modern and better. Might football benefit from going down this route?

So, to drive forward my hypothesis:

  • The SFA restructures to have a set number of “Senior” clus, say a maximum of 20.
  • It sets-out the criteria for membership of this “Senior” status
  • It invites clubs to apply for these “Senior Football Franchises”
  • These applications, particularly the financial aspects, are scrutinised by an independent board, who recommend the clubs to be invited to participate.
  • If, initially, 20 clubs cannot meet the criteria, they go with those clubs which can, while unsuccessful bidders will be given notice of where they need to improve their applications, and are assured, if you meet the criteria, you will get in, up to a maximum of 20 clubs.

Suppose they succeed in getting 20 applications which meet all the criteria. How then do they operate the conferences? How about:

Jock Stein Conference                               Alex Ferguson Conferences

Celtic                                                            Rangers
Hearts                                                          Hibs
Dundee                                                        Dundee United
St Johnstone                                               Aberdeen
Inverness Caledonian Thistle                   Ross County
St Mirren                                                      Greenock Morton
Kilmarnock                                                  Partick Thistle
Dunfermline Athletic                                  Queen of the South
Hamilton Academical                                 Motherwell
Falkirk                                                           Livingston

Format of the Season – Part One, Regular Season:
  • Each team plays every other team in their conference, home and away – 18 games
  • Each team plays every team in the opposite conference at least once – 10 games
  • 28-game regular season programme to give conference positions

Format of the Season – Part Two, Post-Season Play-Offs:
  • The top three sides in each conference qualify automatically for the play-offs
  • The sides in fourth and fifth in each conference play cross-conference “wild card” games to decide the final two teams for the play-offs. Fourth in one conference plays fifth in the other.
  • These final eight clubs then play two-legged (home and home) knock-out games down to a Grand Final, at Hampden. In the play-downs, the lower-ranked team has home advantage in the first leg of each tie.
  • The losing teams at each level play each other in a one-off game for final league position. The 12 teams not involved in the final eight also play off across the conferences for final league positions.
  • Thus, the top eight finish-up: Finalists – winner and runner-up; losing semi-finalists play off for 3rd and 4th; losing quarter-finalists play-off for 5th to 8th; losing wild-card teams play for 9th and 10th.
  • Those teams which did not even qualify for the wild-card games - 6th to 10th in each conference, play- off against their equivalent in the other conference to decide positions 11th to 20th in the overall league
  • Prize money and European competition places are decided on these final 1-20 placings.

Levelling the playing field
  • Each club would only be able to register 25 players
  • An agreed, high percentage of these players, perhaps 70% would have to be Scottish-qualified
  • Consideration to be given to a salary cap – to assist sustainability of the league

Part Three to follow.



Monday, 21 May 2018

How I Would Change Scottish Football - Part One

I HAVE mentioned before, my old sparring partner Aristotle Armstrong, Scottish Rugby Philosopher, is much mentally-exercised by events within Scottish Rugby, where a head-to-toe new look is being proposed for the club game – and the natives aint happy.


Every now and again, the same scenario is played out in Scottish Football, and I wonder how long it will take new broom Ian Maxwell to start sweeping out some of the dustier corners in the Sixth-floor corridor at Hampden. I suppose, in the evenings, Ian might just be turning over in his mind, some of the bullet points in his to-do list, such as:

  • Hampden: how cheaply can we get it off Queen's Park?
  • Once we've got it – how much will it cost to make it fit for purpose?
  • How the fuck do we pay for all the things that need to be done to it?
  • Rangers: Oh shite! Do I really need, or want to go near that one?

For me, however, I reckon he has other more-pressing concerns, which he ought to be contemplating. For instance, the SRU had introduced a new format to the club game, whereby there will be just six “semi-professional” clubs, operating SRU-sanctioned franchises, playing at a level below the two fully SRU-owned “professional” sides, but above the other ordinary rugby clubs, which will be required to operate on a “strictly-amateur” basis. I.E. no players below the so-called “Super-6” can be paid.

Imagine this system in Scottish Football. The SFA would own the top two clubs – Celtic and Aberdeen; the next six: Rangers, Hibs, Kilmarnock, Hearts, Motherwell and St Johnstone would have to purchase an SFA franchise to be able to play, while every other club below that would be unable to pay their players more than expenses.

You know, it just might work, although the howls of anguish and the opposition to it would make Independence Referendums 1 and 2 and Brexit look like croquet parties on an English vicarage lawn in comparison. So, it is never even going to be suggested, far less discussed.

 

Who Is Afraid of Change? 

 

But, we really SHOULD (again) be discussing change in Scottish Football, but, maybe this time round, we should be actually implementing change, real change, rather than a shuffling of the deck-chairs. Or, how much further down the European pecking order than our current 26th place out of 55 does the SFA have to slide, before something is done?

Of course, one of the problems, perhaps the principal problem with Scottish Football is – the SFA is responsible from everything, from the National Team down to Dukla Pumpherston, but, the SPFL, and in particular its top 12 clubs appear to have too-much influence; while received wisdom is, they take their cue from the Big Two – everything is run to suit them.

For instance, England and Wales, with a population of just over 58 million, supports 92 Football League and Premiership clubs. Scotland, with a population of just over 5 million, supports 42 SPFL clubs. On a pro-rata basis, we ought to have just eight clubs in “Senior Football”.

BUT, received wisdom has it that Scotland has, per head of population, the highest attendances in Europe – despite the shite we have been having served up to us over recent years, we love the Beautiful Game – even when, as with yesterday's Partick Thistle v Livingston game, beauty was in the eyes of the beholder.

Do We Have Too-Many Senior Clubs?
 
So, the question is, how many “Senior” teams can we support and should we have? I honestly do not know for sure, but, one thing I do know, we have to have a cull of the current 42 clubs, and, we have to find a meaningful role for those we cull. But, what to do?

As I understand it, only half, 21 of the 42 SPFL clubs are full-time clubs, therefore fully “professional”. If we are thinking of any change to the format, the commitment of these clubs to being fully-professional, must be safe-guarded. But, in safe-guarding this top level of clubs, we must be certain they are sustainable.

Old Aristotle Armstrong is very much against the SRU's implementation of what he calls: “Stupid-6”. He is not against it in theory, in fact, he thinks it is a good idea to set-up a sustainable top flight of the club game, while he sees benefits from their suggestions for change further down Rugby's food chain; but he feels the SRU as made a right pig's ear of what they have done so far.

So, why doesn't the SFA take a leaf from the Murrayfield play book? Don't be afraid of change, or trying new ideas. Why not try:

  • Two, ten-club Conferences, similar to Rugby's PRO14. *
  • Home and away inter-conference games, with single cross-conference games, giving a 28-game regular season. **
  • Cross-conference play-offs, two-legged affairs, similar to European games, leading to a full end of season “league table” 1-20, sorting-out the European places for the following season. ***
  • Conferences under-pinned by regional “semi-professional” leagues, under-pinned again by regional leagues in which no payments other than strictly-regulated expenses are allowed. ****
  • Standards for club facilities at each level agreed and strictly enforced.
  • Implement and strictly enforce the “Eight-diddies rule” - i.e. either 8 of the 11 players on the park at any one time have to be “Scotland-qualified”, or 70% of a match-day squad have to be “Scotland-qualified.”
  • For competitions which do not carry European qualification for winning them (e.g. the League Cup), only “Scotland-qualified” players can play.
  • Strictly cap squad numbers in the Conferences, but, allow dual-registration with lower league clubs and feeder club arrangements for development purposes.*****
  • At senior conference level - “strict liability” over supporters' behaviour will apply.
  • Look to implement a membership scheme for clubs at the earliest opportunity.
 
These are my initial cogitations on this thorny matter. The items marked with an asterisk *, will be expanded on further in part two of this series.



Sunday, 20 May 2018

Well Done Celtic - There's Nothing Else To Say

CONGRATULATIONS to Celtic on securing back-to-back domestic “Trebles”, a feat which was beyond even the squad against which every subsequent Celtic and indeed Scottish team has been judged – the Lisbon Lions.

This win yesterday took the 2018 Celtic squad past

There is, however, a huge gap between the football world in which the Lions operated, and that in which Brendan Rodgers' current squad does. Back then, Jock Stein was not sated by Celtic being the top team in Scotland – he wanted them to be the top team in Europe. The way football's financial world is skewed towards the bigger nations, with bigger television audiences has mitigated against even huge clubs like Celtic, who happen to play in “small” television markets.

 
Even these immortals, who didn't do back-to-back Trebles

Also, back in 1967, that football market had not had a trickle-down effect on Scotland. Just as finances have hampered Celtic and other Scottish clubs in the overall European picture, the fact Celtic are in the Champions League, with its riches, while no other Scottish club is, hands them a massive financial advantage over the other Scottish clubs.

The Lions, in that annus mirabilis of 1967, won the League by three points from Rangers. The League, back then, was an 18-club affair, each team playing the other 17 twice. That was in the days of two points for a win, one for a draw; at today's three points for a win, their winning margin would have been four points – this season their winning margin was nine points.

But, in 1967, they won the European Cup, albeit back then a short, sharp, straight knock-out tournament, none of today's lengthy group sections, followed by knock-out final stages. Except, back in 1967, with each tie being a two-legged affair, in winning the whole shooting match, Celtic actually played nine games:

Played 9 : won 7 : drew : 1 : lost 1 : scored 18 goals : conceded 5 : matches won % - 78%

This season, between their group games in the Champions League and losing to Zenit St Petersborg in the Europa League's knock-out round of 32, their record was:

Played 8 : won 2 : drew 0 : lost 6 : scored 6 goals : conceded 21 : matches won % - 25%

If we include the three qualifying round games played this season, their record reads:

Played 14 : won 6 : drew 1 : lost 7 : scored 21 goals : conceded 25 – matches won % - 43%

So, has Scottish Football stood still or gone backwards in the last 50-years? Or has the rest of Europe moved on?

I fear, a bit of both. After all, in 1967, our overall club record in Europe was:

  • Celtic – won European Cup

  • Rangers – runners-up European Cup-Winners Cup
  • Kilmarnock – semi-finalists Inter-Cities Fairs Cup
  • Dundee United – last 16 Inter-Cities Fairs Cup
  • Dunfermline Athletic – last 32 Inter-Cities Fairs Cup.

This season, in as near a direct comparison as I can manage:
  • Celtic – eliminated in Last 32 of European Cup, the in last 32 of Europa League
  • Aberdeen – eliminated in Third Qualifying Round of the Europa League
  • Rangers – eliminated in First Qualifying Round of the Europa League
  • St Johnstone – eliminated in First Qualifying Round of the Europa League
In all, 186 clubs participate in the Europa League; where they enter varies according to their national co-efficient and where they are eliminated from the Champions League, but, basically, we do know, Rangers and St Johnstone can be ranked somewhere between 137th and 186th in the pecking order. Aberdeen, somewhere between 71st and 98th. Celtic somewhere between 17th and 32nd.

If we look at UEFA's official clubs and associations co-efficients, Scotland is ranked 26th of the 55 member associations, while our clubs' rankings among the 442 clubs ranked as having an official UEFA club co-efficient are:
  • Celtic ranked 49
  • Aberdeen ranked 236
  • St Johnstone ranked 264
  • Rangers ranked 265
  • Hibernian ranked 267
  • Heart of Midlothian ranked 268
  • Inverness Caledonian Thistle ranked 269
  • Motherwell ranked 270
The next question has to be: What is the SFA and new Chief Executive Ian Maxwell going to do about this sorry situation? Are we going to moger along as we have for the past half century, falling further and further off the pace? Or are we going to stop re-arranging the deck chairs on the Titanic and start bringing-in real change – which makes a difference, and making real progress to getting back to where we want to be, and where a lot of people in Scotland think we should be – back among the top nations and with clubs who are seen as top European clubs?

BUT – top-level football today is a money-driven game, and, as we all know, there is not a lot of money in Scotland. For instance, Rangers are ranked as the 13th best-attended club in Europe, with an average home attendance in season 2016-17 of 49,156; Celtic are ranked 8th in the same league table, with an average home attendance of 54, 726, yet neither club is anywhere near the top 20 listing of Europe's richest clubs.


Ian Maxwell - faces huge challenges

There is your conundrum for new Honcho Maxwell, the “suits” along Hampden's sixth-floor corridor and in the boardrooms of our top clubs – how do we improve things, without the sort of cash available to our potential rivals in England, France, Germany, Italy and Spain?
Well, if we cannot work with as much money as the nations and clubs we aspire to compete with, surely we can work smarter, or, to paraphrase that legendary Avis Car Rental of the 1960s - “We could try harder.”

Doing nothing isn't an option. Neither is simply hoping things will improve. You can bet, Brendan Rodgers will not be resting on his laurels after back-to-back Trebles – let's hope the rest can put in the effort to stop him winning a third in a row.
Scottish football – and Celtic, need a genuine domestic challenge.


Thursday, 17 May 2018

I Actually Feel Sorry For Gareth Southgate

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.








Tuesday, 15 May 2018

Enjoy The Trip Lads - History's Against You Getting Many More Caps

A WEE history lesson. Between 1947 and the mid-sixties, roughly 1964, the SFA would arrange a wee end-of-season treat for the hard-working SFA Selectors. I mean, all those all-expenses-paid trips to England to watch potential Scotland players were a sign of devotion to the game – the pay-back being a place on the summer trip to somewhere warm in mainland Europe.

 

 Sammy Cox - who got his first Scotland cap on a European tour, challenges Stan Mortenson at Wembley


Generally, there would be one Hampden friendly, after the Home Internationals and the cup final, followed by two or three friendlies, against good European opposition, but, as far as possible keeping us away from the really top European nations,who might just skelp oor erses.

What did for these tours was the growth of World Cup and European Championship games, making them harder to fit-in in May and June. However, while they lasted, over that 20-year period, 39 players won their first cap in such friendlies – of these, only 6 managed to accrue a caps total in double figures.

So, I think it is fair to assume, we may not see too-many future members of the SFA's 50-caps-plus roll of honour, among the newcomers Big Eck has named for this season's wee jolly to Peru and Mexico, the playing party for which is:

Goalkeepers: Jordan Archer (Millwall), Allan McGregor (Hull City), Jon McLaughlin (Hearts).

Defenders: Barry Douglas (Wolverhampton Wanderers), Jack Hendry (Celtic), Scott McKenna (Aberdeen), Charlie Mulgrew (Blackburn Rovers), Callum Paterson (Cardiff City), John Souttar (Hearts), Lewis Stevenson (Hibernian).

Midfielders: Stuart Armstrong (Celtic), Ryan Fraser (Bournemouth), Dylan McGeouch (Hibernian), John McGinn (Hibernian), Kenny McLean (Aberdeen)*, Scott McTominay (Manchester United), Jamie Murphy (Rangers)**, Matt Ritchie (Newcastle United), Graeme Shinnie (Aberdeen).

Forwards: Ryan Christie (Aberdeen)***, Oliver McBurnie (Barnsley)****, Lewis Morgan (St. Mirren)***, Matt Phillips (West Bromwich Albion), Johnny Russell (Sporting Kansas City).

*On loan from Norwich City
**On loan from Brighton and Hove Albion
***On loan from Celtic
****On loan from Swansea
Players in italics are as yet uncapped.

The chosen squad is minus several “first picks”, so, even if they play out of their skins none of the as-yet uncapped players is likely to come back as a stick-on to be starting in the more-important games to come next season, but, the tour should allow Eck to pick his alternates and increase his squad depth.

Jordan Archer, should make his debut on tour

I expect, both uncapped goalkeepers to get at least half a game. Callum Paterson has a chance to make the right-back spot his own – although, Eck may still be tempted to perhaps use Kieran Tierney there in the more-important games, leaving Andrew Robertson as the first-choice left-back.

With time apparently having been called on the international careers of Russell Martin, Grant Hanley and Christophe Berra, who have featured either individually or collectively in 47 of our last 50 internationals, Jack Hendry and Scott McKenna have a chance on tour to show they can fit-in beside Scotland captain Charlie Mulgrew. Up front, any goals scored might just help the scorer stay in the squad once Leigh Griffiths is back. It could be an interesting tour.

(Late edit: Barely had I put up this post, than the news came through that Barry Douglas had pulled-out of the tour, to be replaced by Kilmarnock's Stephen O'Donnell - another newcomer.)



I HAD a wee chuckle to myself when one or two of the Celtic Family's media cheerleaders voiced their dissent at the Scottish Football Writers Association awarding the Manager of the Year award to Stevie Clarke, rather than Yer man Brendan.

The best response to the howls of indignation from the ranks of the “Never defeated, always cheated” came from a Kilmarnock fan on their Killie Fans Facebook page, who asked: “If the jobs had been reversed and Brendan Rodgers had taken-over at Rugby Park when Stevie Clarke did – would he have overseen the turnaround in fortunes which Stevie has?

Cue Jonathan Watson as King Kenny: “Maybes aye, maybes naw.”

But, to the supplementary question: “Would a Celtic team managed by Stevie Clarke have won the league?” The answer has to be: “Aye, definitely.”

And that, Celtic fans, is why Stevie deserved to win the award.



A NOW retired mate of mine, released back into the wild after some 40-years on the Herald Sports Desk, took me to task the other day over a piece I had written elsewhere, about the decline in standards among our football writers today.

He explains the perceived decline in the Herald as down to having gone from: “When I started there, we had a 'Token Tim', when I retired, I was 'The Last House Hun'”. He felt, I had, in my piece, listed too-many tabloid hacks as my influences, and too-few broadsheet writers. At least we were agreed on one thing – The Herald is going to Hell in a jet-powered hand cart.

I have to say, Ah hae ma doots about some of them today, but, they earned a stay of execution with that vote for Stevie Clarke.




I ALMOST forgot, but, just about the biggest laugh I had over the weekend – excepting wee Lenny's priceless celebration at Easter Road, was when I read the howlingly indignant interview the Cove Rangers captain gave following Cowdenbeath's win in the League Two promotion/relegation play-off.

The Cove boy, enjoying his 15 seconds of fame went on about The Establishment not wanting his side to go up into Senior Football. Then I remembered, the present President of the SFA, Alan McCrae, represents which club – why Cove Rangers.

Bobby Kinzer scoring - His was the proudest Walk of Shame before Lenny's on Sunday

Speaking of Mr Lennon's Easter Road red card I haven't seen such a triumphant “walk of shame” since, back in the 1980s, Falkirk's Team Solripe toppled the hitherto all-conquering MIM in the Scottish Basketball Cup Final.

Bobby 'Special K' Kinzer, aka “The Fruit Pastilles Man”, because of his appearance in a TV advertisement for the wee sweets, “fouled-out” in the game. (In basketball, after your fifth personal foul, you are out of the game, but can be substituted). His was a cracker, he dunked over the top of wee Alton Byrd of MIM, leaving a size 14 dusty footprint in the middle of Alton's chest and knocking the wee man almost out of the building in the process.

He acknowledged the “red card” with a waze and sauntered off to a standing ovation from his adoring public – rather like Lenny on Sunday.