Weir’s Week-and-a-half: SPotY thoughts and red card red mist

Mark Cavendish <em>Picture: Petit Brun</em>
Mark Cavendish Picture: Petit Brun
By Stewart Weir

Saturday 17 December
With holidays and the like, Weir’s Week is a week and a bit this time. So cast your mind back to Saturday week and I’m waiting, just waiting. Because it will only be a matter of time before someone utters the immortal line to become the recipient of the Captain Mainwaring Memorial Trophy.

The famous leader of the Walmington-on-Sea Home Guard was responsible for the now legendary put-down of the young Private Pike, “You stupid boy”.

We haven’t heard it just yet in the world of sport (although my erstwhile colleague Chick Young did deliver the line with some incredulity to a younger member of the press corps in Finland several years back). But we are edging towards it.

A couple of weeks ago at the UK “Lite” Championship, snooker’s Grand Poobah Barry Hearn said he wasn’t worried by “silly little boys” when slated by player Mark Allen.

And today, the papers are full of new Celtic chairman Ian Bankier calling elements of his club’s support “silly little boys” after their antics in Italy.

So we edge ever closer to the first mention of stupid boy, boys, or even Bhoys …

Nicknames in sport have been around as long as sport itself. In snooker, you can’t turn without bumping into someone whose moniker is as famous as they are. We all know who “The Rocket”, “The Whirlwind” and “The Hurricane” is or was.

Boxing too has had its share. Remember “The Cobra”, “The Motor City Hit Man” and the “Brown Bomber” – a tag that could have been invented by Alan Hansen.

Some have been more subtle. Athlete Dave Wottle was “The Head Waiter”, because of how he left it late to make his often-winning run off the last corner, while I liked basketball star Karl Malone, or “The Mailman”, because he always delivered.

And who can forget Chicago Bears’ Super Bowl-winning defensive lineman-turned running back William “The Refrigerator” Perry, a nickname arrived at from his not inconsiderable bulk (a mere 382lbs) and possibly from what was contained within that frame.

Indeed, his winner’s ring – a size 25 – was the biggest in Super Bowl history. No surprise there, given how much he ate.

He was used as an impact player, a specialist in short-yardage gain, virtually impossible to halt in a role where size mattered more than finesse or athleticism.

And many have tried to find a replacement for him, or someone who could emulate his unstoppable presence. On Sunday, many associated with gridiron at all levels eyed-up a latter-day deputy for Perry, although it remains to be seen if proper electrical appliances can be used instead of human equivalents.

When once there was there was anticipation and surprise on the awards night itself, nowadays there is a drip-feed of information in the lead-up to such ceremonies, even with some category winners being announced.

So it is with the BBC’s Sports Personality of the Year, with word that 30 years after his biggest triumph, although maybe not his biggest victory, Bob Champion will be the recipient of the Helen Rollason Award.

Champion of course famously won the 1981 Grand National on Aldaniti, held in the affections of the nation for evermore, given that the horse was once deemed fit only for the knackers’ yard and Champion had battled and overcome cancer just to be there.

The Helen Rollason Award was a fitting tribute to the jockey, who ever since has raised monies for cancer charities.

I would never begrudge anyone such an accolade – although I admit that in the aftermath of the race I wasn’t so forgiving.

Aldaniti won, but second was Spartan Missile, ridden by 54-year-old amateur jockey John Thorne. He looked every part the amateur on the run-in, with a style more akin to the Charge of the Light Brigade.

Through time, it would emerge that the stories around Spartan Missile and Thorne were every bit as touching and moving as those of the pairing that beat them that day – although in the moment, I had just seen the 8/1 favourite beaten, and my fiver going the way of the bookie…

My usual Tuesday night (Wednesday morning, actually) stint on talkSport with Mike Graham finds us discussing, amongst other things, standing at football and children’s names.

On the first topic, while the SPL and clubs might be willing to try safe-standing areas, I’m not. Been there, seen it, done it. And seats are far more civilised, and safe.

On the subject of children’s names, Mike and I note that in Scotland 177 babies were called Kai – the same name Coleen and Wayne Rooney gave to their first-born son.

Now in Glesca rhyming slang, “Kai” is to a certain generation (and beyond) a term used for dancing, as in “up the Kai, Kai Johansen” (the former Rangers full-back).

Of course, I imagine the parents of 176 of those weans would be influenced not by the now-deceased Dane, but by the Rooneys’ choice of branding.

But maybe just one couple would follow the (incorrect) notion of the Beckhams and name their son after where he was conceived, hence at the “kai”.

Could have been worse, I suppose. But Beach Ballroom McTavish would just have been plain stupid …

Scotland’s record cap holder and points scorer Chris Paterson decides to call time on his international career.

The 33-year-old, once statistically the best place-kicker in the world, has amassed an impressive tally of 809 points from 109 international appearances and played in four World Cups – another Scots record.

Pretty damn good considering that, for much of the time, “Mossy” was punted from pillar to post when it came to what position he was selected in.

So many records and achievements. But would they be enough for Paterson to find his way into Scotland’s All-Time Greatest XV?

I don’t think so …

And the favourite, cyclist Mark Cavendish wins BBC’s Sports Personality of the Year title, although the Beeb wouldn’t have had a show had it not been for Sky Sports.

With 169,152 votes, or 49.47 per cent of the poll, it was a bit of a landslide for Cavendish (Team HTC-Highroad), who finished ahead of Open winner Darren Clarke (Raleigh Chopper) and athlete Mo Farah (Raleigh Grifter).

I loved reading a few tweets after this success, saying how Cavendish had put British cycling on the map. Good to see Chris Hoy’s similar achievement in 2008 hasn’t been overlooked …

Nice to see a bit of commonsense has prevailed in Holland, where AZ Alkmaar goalkeeper Esteban Alvarado has had the red card he was given against Ajax rescinded by the Dutch FA.

For those who haven’t seen why he was red carded, watch this.

That incident brought to a halt to proceedings with Alkmaar coach Gertjan Verbeek ushering his side from the field in protest – and disgust – while trailing 1-0.

But how refreshing it was to see referee Bas Nijhuis send Alvarado off, abiding by the letter of football’s laws rather than ask any questions about how an idiot appeared on the pitch in the first instance, or what potential threat he posed to Alvarado or other players.

That is why the authorities dropped the red card that should never have been given in the first place. Can these referees think for themselves or are they programmed?

Admittedly, Alvarado’s reaction was a bit excessive. Just imagine what he might have done to a fare dodger on a train.

Saturday 24 December
Was this the day when the eventual destination of the SPL changed? Rangers lose at St Mirren, costly not only in terms of the points dropped, but also in the red cards collected.

The league leaders led by a goal, then lost two before half-time, but continued to make chances when down to 10, then nine, after Lee McCulloch and Dorin Goian were sent off.

During Rangers’ press for an equaliser, sub Sone Aluko was clipped in the box, enough to put a lesser player down. Or, enough to down a player who hadn’t just come back from a two-match ban for diving on the floor.

I wondered if, even in the heat of battle, Aluko stayed on his feet to avoid such controversy again? Going down could have been costly to him. Not going down, as it proved, was ultimately costly to his side …

It’s Christmas Day, or at least it is until around 11pm when it becomes another sporting day, as usual, with the start of the Boxing Day cricket Test between Australia and India. Beats another repeat of the Royle Family hands down.

What I didn’t expect was a Scot opening the batting for Australia – or should I say an honorary Scot?

Ed Cowan played for Scotland in 2008, our overseas, “hired hand”. Obviously, that interlude over here has greatly assisted his progress to the extent he made his Test debut in Melbourne.

Who am I kidding?

Now it really is Boxing Day, and the traditional card of fixtures south of the border. It leaves the Manchester clubs tied at the top (City ahead of United on goal difference only), but one of the most telling results came at Anfield where Liverpool could only draw with Blackburn Rovers.

I couldn’t help but tweet that approaching his first anniversary on returning to the club as manager, Kenny Dalglish has transformed Liverpool from an average club into a very expensive average club.

Usually, such shouts get you a bit of flak – and, on occasion, outright abuse. But not this time. Indeed, a great many – even some Liverpool fans – sided with my observation.

King Kenny may be worshipped in those parts. But whether he’s fit to govern would appear to be a question more than a few are begin to ask …

Night into morning and my weekly sting with Mike Graham on talkSport. Alex Salmond aside, we talk betting and in particular the odds offered to up by McBookie.

There are some interesting ones for 2012. For instance, Scotland are 20/1 to win their World Cup qualifiers in 2012, but 2/1 to lose their manager Craig Levein.

Talking of managers, Neil Lennon is 4/6 to leave Celtic in 2012, while Ally McCoist is 5/2 to depart Rangers, who are 6/1 to go into administration and 33/1 to go bust – identical odds to Gerald Butler winning an Oscar or Susan Boyle getting married.

So Rangers appear safe, then …

Talking of weddings, Andy Murray has more chance of marrying his girlfriend Kim Sears (2/1) than of winning Wimbledon (7/1).

I’d say Murray has more chance of marrying Rafa Nadal than winning Wimbledon, but I’m not taking bets …

Tweet Stewart Weir with thoughts and comments, @sweirz

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