Weir’s Week: daffodils, knighthoods and a pricey pigeon

Racing pigeon <em>Picture: ingridtaylar</em>
Racing pigeon Picture: ingridtaylar
By Stewart Weir

The Ayrshire derby between Kilmarnock and Ayr United at Hampden to decide who went forward to the League Cup final didn’t really live up to the hype. Pity the game wasn’t as entertaining as Kenny Shiels’ comments afterwards.

The Killie boss didn’t show much delight in his semi-final win, more interested instead to slate and berate his yellow-kitted opponents.

“I am relieved because football was the winner here and the most important thing in this industry is to provide good football and entertainment,” said Shiels.

“To attack for two hours is not easy but it was like a bunch of daffodils around the penalty box every time I looked.

“I would never be disrespectful to them but football is about entertainment and it is easy to defend in any sport, anybody can do that, close up shop and defend. I have never played like that.

“We have to be respectful, people have paid money to come to watch a fantastic occasion but we need two teams to attack for that to happen.”

Yes, I agree. I have often mistaken Kilmarnock for Porto, until they kick off. Or if you really screw your eyes up, there is a passing resemblance to Barcelona – again until a move breaks down after two passes.

It’s easy to slag people off for their tactics – especially when, for over 100 minutes, your team has been completely ineffective.

While football is about entertainment, it has to be sold as being entertaining. Something the Killie boss hasn’t done in his summation of the game.

I could have gone to see the game at Hampden, but it was a cup semi-final and not too many of those have been thrillers over the years.

It also wasn’t too appealing when pitched against live TV action, starting with Liverpool and Manchester United, then Crusaders against Coleraine in the Irn Bru League Cup final from Northern Ireland, followed by Brighton against Newcastle United again in the FA Cup, and concluding with the Serie A clash, Juventus v Udinese.

And, best of all, you can turn off whinging, moaning, bleating managers. Or should I call them salesmen?

I don’t know how many people were interested in the women’s final at the Australian Open tennis. But at best, it was no more than an appetiser for the main course.

Sunday’s men’s singles final between Rafa Nadal and eventual winner Novak Djokovic was a classic encounter. The best-ever Grand Slam final? I don’t know about that. It certainly felt like the longest, probably due to lengthy breaks both were having between serves.

You can though, understand it. Both were out on their feet, and the Djokovic comeback in the fifth set was nothing short of miraculous.

But the best-ever final?

I’m always sceptical of “best-ever” billings. Judgement is cyclical. Many of today’s generation won’t have seen the events of 20 and 30 years ago.

Yes, people can look back, check the record books, and even watch DVDs of past sporting greats. But remember, most times you actually know the outcome and end result. So it’s difficult to capture that feeling of drama, excitement or raw nervousness that a live occasion generates.

Djokovic and Nadal served up classic. But, for me, there have been finals every bit as brilliant.

I watched and marvelled when Bjorn Borg beat the young upstart John McEnroe at Wimbledon in 1980, and again the following year when McEnroe reversed the result, both matches now cemented into tennis and “Wimbers” folklore.

The following year McEnroe lost again, this time to a former young upstart, now old-timer, Jimmy Connors, a match which probably wouldn’t even register with today’s tennis aficionados. But it had to be seen to be believed.

What we are seeing is two – or three if you include Roger Federer – of the greatest players of all-time carving up the Grand Slams between them. So don’t be too hard on old Andy Murray – “old” in as much as he’s a week older than Djokovic.

Mrs Djokovic must have been force-feeding her wee boy to catch up during his first seven days…

The tennis dominated the sporting headlines in the Antipodes. So you might have missed the news that New Zealand amateur Lydia Ko won the women’s New South Wales Open by four strokes on Sunday.

Well done her, even more so because in winning the tournament she became the youngest-ever winner of a professional tournament, aged just 14 – and still an amateur.

But what would she spend the money on? Hardly the things most 14-year-old would buy.

So Sir Fred is now just plain ordinary Fred again. The rights and wrongs of this decision, and whether he should even have had such an honour in the first place, isn’t really something I can be bothered with.

The honours system itself, I have long believed, is flawed. Badly flawed. It was interesting to see Sir Jackie Stewart defending his fellow Scot and friend.

Nothing at all to do with him having been an RBS ambassador for many years.

But Sir Jackie, for all his connections, had to wait his turn before getting his knighthood. The three-times winner of the F1 world championship was rewarded for his efforts behind the wheel only after Stirling Moss, the four-times runner-up, had become a Sir.

What’s that about? I don’t care what Mr Moss did after he gave up racing. But there was no way he should have been rewarded ahead of Jackie Stewart.

And there are even more anomalies in the sporting world. Which, for me, puts the honours system on a par with Ratners…

The transfer window closed last night, expect in Russia where it’s still too cold to open it.

There are always winners and losers on “Deadline Day” – or Jim White Day, as I prefer to call it.

Even those seen as winners can still lose a fortune. But this year’s January sales were relatively quiet, with around £55 million changing hands. Twelve months ago, that same figure equated to Fernando Torres.

In Scotland, St Mirren were the big spenders, coughing up £35,000 to buy Dougie Imrie from Hamilton Academical. That was the only money spent in the SPL.

Most talk was about Nikica Jelavić leaving Rangers for Everton. A case of good bye, good buy.

Those holding their breath to see who would replace the Croat at Ibrox probably passed out, Ally McCoist included.

Forty-eight hours into 2012, McCoist was quoted as saying he needed to bring “bodies” into the club. Yet during January, he brought in one new face, but let six depart – although the majority have gone out on loan.

Which, not surprisingly, has a great many supporters wondering exactly what is going on behind the scenes at Rangers. A question to which even Jelavić didn’t know the answer…

Pigeon racers have often been portrayed as flat-capped Woodbine smokers who work down the pit. Nothing could be further from the truth. The pits closed years ago.

Pigeon racing has always been popular, and even big business. And it has its share of celeb owners, such as Her Majesty the Queen, Mike Tyson – and, in these parts, Duncan Ferguson, who famously named his one-time favourite bird “Coisty”.

This week, though, the sport really hit the big time when Chinese shipping magnate Hu Zhen Yu forked out a world record £207,000 on a Dutch racing pigeon.

Last year, Mr Hu sponsored a race with a top prize of more than £695,000. Now he wants to be a winner.

Importing a pigeon, especially one that expensive, into China can’t be easy, and could be fraught with danger – especially given the dietary habits in that part of the world.

I will be at Murrayfield tomorrow for international rugby’s oldest fixture, Scotland versus England.

A glance at the England side tells you just how much of a transformation has taken place in their ranks since the world cup.

Putting it into simple terms, Scotland’s seven replacements on the bench have 211 caps between them – just 22 fewer than England’s starting XV.

What does that tell you? That Scotland has a lot of experience on the sidelines. Nothing else…

Tweet Stewart Weir with thoughts and comments, @sweirz

Donate to us: support independent, intelligent, in-depth Scottish journalism from just 3p a day