Weir’s Week: Sooty in Madrid, a phantom Scot and the PC brigade

Sooty, scourge of Celtic <em>Picture: barto</em>
Sooty, scourge of Celtic Picture: barto
By Stewart Weir

And it’s England’s turn to kick off their Rugby World Cup campaign against Argentina, which for a while wasn’t so much the Three Lions against the Pumas, as the Pumas against the pussycats.

It was strange seeing England playing in all black. And there the comparisons end between them and the more famous New Zealand variety.

It did not escape my notice minutes into the game that England had problems with their jersey numbers, which were put on by a local Kiwi business under supervision from Nike and England kit staff.

Basically, the numbers evaporated. Obviously, the chalk wasn’t waterproof…

In all, it was a bad week for number manufacturers, as we saw in the Russia versus Ireland football game. Good job when he was packing in advance, the Irish kit manager thought “FTP – felt-tipped pen”.

Or did you think Bob Malcolm was working with the FAI?

11 September, a date that will forever be remembered, a day when everyone recalls where exactly they were when they first heard the news.

It was my first day back in the office after the WPGA International Matchplay at Gleneagles, where Laura Davies took the £110,000 first prize – the 110 representing the fledgling management group who organised the event, which so happened to be both the inaugural, and last.

They were, as a business, heavily involved in what was still the relatively new world of the “interweb” (online hadn’t yet become vogue). On that fateful Tuesday, just after lunchtime, it stopped working, the error codes stating server overload.

Next door, the technicians sat and stood around, intensely peering into their screens. I announced the internet was down and was there a reason why the service providers might be issuing overload warnings.

“A plane has gone into the World Trade building in New York, or something.”

For a minute, and I don’t know why, I had visions of a Piper or Cessna accidentally hitting one of these structures that I had stood in the shadow of a few times. The truth was more horrendous than anyone could imagine.

While the world sat open-mouthed, everyone wondered how this would impact upon them and what they were about. For me, it meant cancelling a press conference I was going to have the next day to promote the Regal Masters, with Stephen Hendry.

I decided to leave telling sports desks and editors about the postponement until the Wednesday morning. There was enough going on in the world without me phoning up about an inconsequential press conference.

Behind my desk on the Wednesday, I first fired out a fax (that’s how we did it then), then an email, and then picked up the phone to do the ring-around.

But before the fax machine had printed off the delivery report, the phone had started ringing with requests – and the odd plead – not to cancel the “presser”.

The reason was simple. With flights throughout Europe cancelled, football teams on European duty had been unable to travel. So, sports editors had pages and airtime to fill.

And my media call was suddenly promoted to being the only sports show in town.

Hurricane Higgins’ stormy daughter Hurricane Katia forced the second leg of the Tour of Britain from Kendal to Blackpool to be cancelled.

The Met Office had issued severe warnings for north-western England with torrential rain and gusts of wind up to 58mph. So it was decided to cancel the stage because of fears over rider safety.

As I tweeted at the time, those conditions can be found during the Glesca Fair fortnight. Thinking more about it, surely the fitting of stabilisers should have been considered first before disappointing the roadside crowds?

I suppose it qualifies for today, given it started today, although it didn’t end until the wee sma’ hours of Tuesday. But the US Open final between Novak Djokovic and Rafa Nadal was a cracker, and well worth staying up for. Just where this win put Djokovic in terms of greatness, who can tell? He doesn’t have the expert press fawning over him like a Federer, or the “people’s champion” tag of a Nadal.

But he is better – having won more – than Andy Murray. However, regardless of what he wins, he will never in a million years carry the same levels of national optimism as the Scot, however misplaced it might be, or has so far proved…

As I’ve already penned, this evening I went to Glasgow’s Pavilion Theatre to see Dancing Shoes – The George Best Story.

It was a most enjoyable evening, with some football faces like Danny McGrain, Gus MacPherson and Danny Lennon in the audience, as well as assorted sporting journalists – well, me and my good friend Gary Keown of the Scottish Daily Express.

There are times, even off-duty, when my anorak is fully zipped up. During the play Best (Aidan O’Neill) hoists aloft the European Cup, I noticed the lead character was wearing white shorts, when actually United wore all-blue on the night. As you can tell, I don’t get out very often…

Sad news arrives that David Francey, once the voice of football on BBC Radio Scotland, had passed away.

His distinctive voice and style kept Scottish football fans of more than one generation glued to their radio sets and transistors, back in the days before we had wall-to-wall TV coverage.

I remember his cry of “It’s a drive”, the inflection – or lack of it – in his voice telling you in an instant whether the effort had missed by inches, or was terracing-bound.

There are many stories – many true, many untrue – about what he did and didn’t say on air. But there were countless people who mimicked his tones.

That there was a David Francey soundalike competition once staged tells you just how famous his voice was – although maybe not that famous. He entered, and only came fourth…

There but for the grace of God and all that, but the Scotsman (and therefore contrived to come up with the headline “Scots duo Michie and Campbell are in the clear”.

There lay a headline within that headline, because I’m sure many of the snooker fraternity were not aware that Jimmy Michie was Scots – the reason being because he isn’t.

Marcus Campbell most certainly is, but Michie would probably claim Yorkshire as his nationality. Still, in these days of writers never mind subs not being entirely worldly-wise on the subject they are asked to write about, it’s a mistake that can be made.

Of course, just because someone sounds Scots doesn’t mean they have been anywhere near the place, especially true in snooker, Take Rory McLeod, whose name suggests Western Isles when West Indies is closer to the mark.

It has happened in football as well. Former Everton and Newcastle manager Gordon Lee was mid-rant when he called a player an “Irish bastard” only to be corrected by the player that he was in fact a “Scots bastard”.

“I was going by your name,” said Lee, to which the player replied: “In that case you must be f*cking Chinese…”.

Not a good morning for Celtic’s new or old Bhoys.

Last night, Celtic’s abysmal European away record was extended when they were beaten 2–0 by Atlético Madrid, the clincher coming from the on-loan Diego. His celebration was puzzling, until it was revealed that it was in tribute to the Sooty puppet he lost as a child. Judge for yourself.

Meanwhile Frank McAvennie will be wondering if he’ll ever be invited back as a talking head after his press conference at Hampden for the Focus On Football campaign was brought to an abrupt halt.

Macca was giving his take on events last season, when he observed; “I just think the government shouldn’t step in – that’s for sure. I think football should be kept out of politics. I honestly believe that. It just gives the so-called ‘PC brigade’ the chance to jump in and want to do this and want to do that and get involved in football. They shouldn’t get involved in football.”

Not what the Focus On Football campaign managers wanted to hear, and they called time on Frank’s take on the world.

An example of the PC brigade jumping in, again? Maybe Frank did have a point…

Tweet Stewart Weir with thoughts and comments, @sweirz

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