WEIR’S WEEK: 15TH MARCH 2013

Giant Panda Tian Tian at Edinburgh Zoo

Saturday
It has always appeared easier than it looks over the years, playing for Celtic or Rangers in Scotland’s top flight and winning most of the shiny prizes on offer, especially to those who have never really witnessed it up close up.

Celtic LogoThe latest to fall into the trap was some unsuspecting scribbler for The Times, who praised Celtic’s Fraser Forster to the hilt for his efforts over the piece against Juventus in the Champions League, then threw in the comment about just what an easy day the Englishman would have in Dingwall, “an idle afternoon twiddling his thumbs.” Those who saw the second and third Ross County goals as they defeated the SPL champions-elect, may heartily agree with Matt Hughes’ ‘Darlinda-like’ prediction of how Forster would spend part of his day.

If that outcome was a shock, what was shocking was the attendance at McDiarmid Park where just 2,425 turned out to watch St Johnstone beat Kilmarnock and go fourth in the table. If that’s what securing a place in the top six attracts to your abode in mid-March, how many do you think would take an interest in the Saints if they happen to miss out on the top eight of the new proposed league set-up this time next year?

And no, I don’t believe the theory of those missing souls being last-minute Mother’s Day shoppers …

Sunday
There is a good chance the pandas at Edinburgh Zoo broke off from what pandas in zoos around the world do badly, and even an outside chance a few Welshman sobered up sufficiently long enough to watch in disbelief as Leigh Griffiths smashed home Hibs Logoa free-kick in the Edinburgh derby to give Hibs er, a 0-0 draw against Hearts at Easter Road.

Yup, the goal, the great goal, that never was. The one get-out for the incompetent officials was that goal-line technology would have probably missed it was well, given the cameras would have been focused on a foot either side of the line and not five-foot over it. After such a catastrophic error, something good must come out of it. And it looks as if it will, for although results are still at an early stage, we might never see Frank Lampard’s ‘goal’ against Germany in the World Cup ever again …

Monday
HampdenParkAfter a lengthy meeting at Hampden, the Scottish Premier League clubs announce they will vote on league restructuring on 15 April. Keep that date in mind. Because I bet you now, not a day will go past without some twist or turn being reported, or some club or another changing their mind or jumping ship. Or, as my money is on, the whole thing being scuppered by disillusioned SFL teams who will kill-off the proposal by talking it to death and running out of time …

Tuesday
Poor Kyle Hutton. He’s a Rangers player if you didn’t know. And maybe those who support the club, and believe they pay his wages, were still a bit sore at the weekend loss to Annan Athletic at Ibrox, and were just waiting for any unsuspecting player they knew to Tweet around lunchtime on Tuesday that they’d finished training for the day, and were heading off home to watch the rest of a DVD box set. Not what the Bears wanted to read. And some of the responses were certainly not what young Mr Hutton wanted to read either.

Back in 2011, Niall McGinn, then at Celtic, Tweeted he was consoling himself for not making the pre-season trip to Australia with a jaunt to the local Nando’s with a mate. It didn’t take long for Nandos Logosome of the Parkhead faithful to suggest he spent less time scoffing chicken and more time training. It would appear you can’t win.

I don’t have a problem with sportsmen chilling after they’ve trained or practiced. I spent much of my weekend in the company of current and former professional rugby players who knew exactly what they needed to do to stay in the best physical shape possible and how much rest and recuperation they required. Some could have been better at certain things, and some were better than they ever thought possible. But to a man they all knew how much work and dedication they had put in to achieve that standard.

So without really knowing all the background to Kyle Hutton’s day, it’s hard to be too critical. What I do know is that those who have made it to the very top of their profession, didn’t take too Jonny Wilkinsonmany afternoons off to laze with a remote control in their hand.

Like late on afternoon, watching ball after ball after ball split the posts at Newcastle Falcons ground, when eventually I had to ask Doddie Weir who that was that didn’t miss. “That’s young Jonny,” nodded Dod. Jonny Wilkinson practiced himself to a standstill on occasions. But he made himself the best. Made? Because, while he was naturally left-footed, practice made him just as deadly with the right boot. Remember that World Cup winning drop-goal?

I noted over the Festive period one Olympian claiming they had been out and trained on Christmas Day. Well done to them.

Daley Thompson used to do the same, morning and afternoon, so that even if his greatest rival trained on Christmas Day, the double-Olympic champion had still put twice the shift in his closest challenger had. Or then there was Stephen Hendry, who used to practice on a Saturday morning, not because he had to, but because he could. That repetition became second-nature, whether in practice or sinking balls for money at The Crucible. And of course, we all know David Beckham, Gareth Bale and that Ronaldo bloke all woke up one morning to find they could hit unstoppable free-kicks. Well, actually no.

Just like practice made perfect for them, so former Rangers winger Tommy McLean’s accuracy with a dead-ball came from hours and hours of rehearsal, pinging the ball off the crossbar at the local park. If he missed, he would have to chase the ball down a hill. So he didn’t miss. And obviously, given the career he had with Kilmarnock and at Ibrox, didn’t miss having a DVD player either …

Wednesday
I’m left wondering what the next stunt will be from those trying to steer Scottish football towards their utopia, or 12-12-18 as most people know it. Today it’s the news that clubs bidding for promotion to Scottish football’s top flight would not be required to have any seated areas in their stadiums under league reconstruction plans.

This is 2013, isn’t it?

Even a whisper of this news had the nostalgia brigade calling for standing at all football matches, and for new, purpose-built all-seater stadia to be converted to something from a bygone age. Like Football Terracingevery football fan of a certain age, I once stood to watch football. And I’m sorry, but unlike some, splashing around in other people’s piss never appealed to me then, and doesn’t enthuse me for the future. Neither does struggling to stay upright when a goal is scored. Yet some hanker for those good old days.

It didn’t take long for some to claim that removing seating would make space for more fans. What, like St Johnstone would leap from 2,425 to 3,000? Or 5,000? Or just stay the same?

And what would the cost be to convert back to terracing, once the seating was removed, and the levels re-engineered, and new barriers installed, and more stewarding paid for, and local authority licensing regulations met? I imagine quite a few quid. Jeez, going retro will almost cost as much as that modern day goal-line technology we can’t afford …

Thursday
The price of watching live sport varies around the globe. Compared the Bundesliga for instance, the cost of a ticket in the SPL is considerably more expensive, for what is an identical product (i.e. 22 players running around, chasing a ball, with a referee blowing a whistle.) The same could be said of F1. It’s the same sensation at every race track on the planet, getting your eardrums perforated while seeing unrecognisable cars flash past at high speed. Yet some charge a bit more for the privilege. Guess where? While the cheapest race ticket in the championship costs just £13 (for the Malaysia GP), next Sunday’s season opener in Melbourne can be watched for £66, compared to a whopping £145 for the British GP at Silverstone. Who shouted ‘rip off’?

Only races in Brazil and Abu Dhabi are more expensive than Britain, although they come with guaranteed sun …

Friday
So loads of column inches and web pages dedicated to Craig Brown following his decision to stand down As Aberdeen boss at the end of the season, if not before should a replacement be enticed down from Dingwall. A non-exec position awaits on the Aberdeen board for wee Broon. And there is always the after-dinner circuit.

What a billing, “the last manager to take Scotland to the World Cup finals.” That could see him alright for the next five years at least, or given recent history, possibly longer.