Weir’s Week: From Murray Park to Murray Mound

Henman Hill, Murray Mound, Murray Park – or somewhere Picture: Rod Allday

Saturday
The early 80s were a special time in Scottish football. The New Firm of Aberdeen and Dundee United didn’t need enforced relegation or liquidation to break up the Old Firm.

They were on a high domestically and in Europe, and at international level we were World Cup regulars. We’ll be pushed to see anything like it again.

We probably punched above our weight. But knocking people out while much smaller than even us were Northern Ireland.

They qualified out of our group to go to Spain in 1982 where they out-performed the Scots by reaching the second phase, and in 1986 they headed out to Mexico having finished group runners-up to England.

You had to admire them, given their resources and the fact untold damage was being done to the fabric of their society by dregs of that same society.

Their team was full of heroes, from Pat Jennings and Gerry Armstrong, to Billy Hamilton and Norman Whiteside. Amongst them was one Alan McDonald, the young QPR stopper.

Sad news then on Saturday that, at just 48, McDonald – a title-winning manager while at Glentoran in 2009 – had died while out playing golf.

If he is remembered for any one thing it should be his post-match interview after that 1985 draw at Wembley, which is featured in this tribute from BBC Northern Ireland

In these days of clichés, clones and those who toe the party and corporate line, it will for evermore be refreshing to hear a footballer tell it the way he sees it.

Sunday
Remember the relief throughout England that they had avoided Spain in the quarter-finals of Euro 2012?

I alluded to it last week and mentioned that they could still play the defending champions, if they beat (probably) Germany in the semis, but only if they first dealt with Italy.

Something they failed to do, although they did take the contest all the way to penalties – thus prolonging the agony by an extra hour at least.

No, not the extra time and the penalty misses. Oh no. The having to listen to Mark Lawrenson prattle on, trying to crack unfunny one-liners and making observations more akin to those of a primary schoolboy.

License payers’ money well spent …

Monday
And it’s announced that a criminal investigation is to be launched into Craig Whyte’s takeover of Rangers Football Club in May last year.

A Crown Office spokesman said: “The procurator fiscal for the west of Scotland will now work with Strathclyde Police to fully investigate the acquisition and financial management of Rangers Football Club and any related reports of alleged criminality during that process.”

And what about before that process?

Tuesday
Wimbledon is well under way and today is the day the great British hope starts his quest to be the first home champion since polo shirt manufacturer Fred Perry.

Will this be Andy Murray’s year, or is he destined to be Scottish again before the end of the second week?

The big debate is what to call that lump of earth, which has become “Murray Mound” having previously started out life as “Henman Hill”.

I do prefer the latter. After all, there should be something to commemorate Henman’s efforts at Wimbledon given he never got his name on the champions’ board …

Wednesday
The first of the Euro 2012 semi-finals takes place with Spain, the holders, facing Portugal. Too much at stake perhaps and the contest fizzles out into a goal-less draw. Penalties!

And that is where it all unravelled for the Portuguese.

Their plan – and they admitted they had one afterwards – was to leave talisman skipper Cristiano Ronaldo to take the fifth and final spot-kick.

Unfortunately Bruno Alves smashed the crossbar with his effort allowing Spain substitute Cesc Fabregas to ping home the winner in-off the post.

So Ronaldo stood around idle, denied his moment. Me, I’d have had him taking one of the first few. A banker. I think I said that right …

The excuse later was that Ronaldo was down to take the crucial final shot, when all the expectation and pressure was on the taker – and not the crucial final shot, when all the eyes of the world and the spotlight was on the taker.

Sorry, but I just don’t buy the latter …

Thursday
Police investigations, player walkouts (or walkaways, to be more accurate), ownership challenges and fan demonstrations are the precursors to the first day’s training back at Murray Park for Rangers beleaguered squad of players, totalling an unlucky 13 on their first day of the new term.

Shambolic as it looked, it was only a sidebar on the near-pathetic events unfolding in Glasgow when the new Rangers were being forced upon unsuspecting and unwanting First Division Scottish League clubs.

The reason was simple. The SPL chairman had cooked up the excuse that Rangers had to go (but not too far) because their clubs faced a boycott from their own fans if the Ibrox outfit (or what is left of it) hung around in the top tier.

So the decision was made fire Rangers all the way down one league (thus giving them the best possible chance of a speedy return in a season) – and sod those First Division clubs whose fans were equally upset by the arrival of Rangers and threatened a similar revolt.

A shambolic outcome. But then, this is what you get when you try to juggle “sporting integrity” with financial needs. Think of it like throwing a jug of napalm up with one hand, and a lit firework in the other – with moral-fibre toast the likeliest outcome …

Friday
We’ve known all along. But a day after it emerged that David Beckham wasn’t in Stuart Pearce’s Team GB, so word filters out there will be no Scots players in the men’s British Olympic football squad when it is announced on Monday.

All the way through, the SFA had maintained a stance of not supporting the national cause in case they lost their independent national identity. Which I suppose makes a change from just losing.

That was their excuse, and they stuck to it. Or was it just a hugely calculated piece of spin-doctoring because they knew no Scots were ever going to be among the first 18 available players from these shores?

Or 19, if you include Beckham …

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