Weir’s Week: 5th March 2014

Ibrox Stadium

Rangers win the Scottish Football League Division 3 title, something they were expected to do all season, although when it arrived it was something of an anticlimactic moment. Nearest challengers Queen’s Park lost to Elgin City at Hampden, handing the championship to Ally McCoist’s men who earlier in the day had drawn a blank, both in terms of score and inspiration, at Montrose.

rangers1-300x300Still, nothing should be taken from the fact that Rangers did what had been expected of them all along, and by a margin and a half. Performance wise, yes, they could have been better, much better. But the end result, rather than the manner it was achieved, is all that the record books will show.

Amongst the fans, there were those trying to show how much it meant to them, stating they would and could party just as they had done on similar days when the Ibrox club had won in the top flight.
There were many others however, who were just happy to say job done, now for next season and whatever that may bring. All in all, I found the celebrations all rather subdued, and I even had something to gauge it by. In Larkhall, even with more sets of signals added in the village since the last title was accrued, not one of the green traffic light lenses was removed post-victory. Progress.

Or maybe just as a mark of respect to Charles …

You can but marvel at Lionel Messi. Against Celta Vigo on Saturday evening, the Barcelona legend became the first player in Spanish football history to score against every other team in La Liga consecutively, 19 games on the spin. People again ask the question just what has made Messi so good, and the BBC website suggested that it could have been made easy for him by playing futsal during his formative years. For the uninitiated futsal is like five-a-sides, with a slightly smaller, heavier ball. In fact, the BBC do a decent sales pitch for the game

Sorry to break the news though, but this futsal theory is nothing new. That was probably why I and others met Brazilian legend Jairzinho at Love Street umpteen years ago. It sounded a perfectly good idea then, it sounds the same now. We must just be slower than others on the uptake …

Chelsea FC LogoEaster Monday, and while the other ITV regions across the land get to see the Chelsea-Manchester United FA Cup replay, Scotland are treated to a double-helping of death, firstly with Murder, She Wrote, then with an episode of Midsomer Murders. As a nation, we are just over a year away from deciding our destiny. Yet, we cannot be trusted to watch foreign football on the off chance it turns us against our domestic product which fewer people than ever actually get to see on the telly.

Scotland, in 2014, will be held up as some kind of centre of sporting excellence, with the Commonwealth Games and the Ryder Cup. But yet the people cannot see prime-time soccer? Better, obviously, to give the common people ideas on how to solve murders and mysterious deaths. Or maybe it was to make us feel safer on Police Scotland’s first day.

And I find myself in the company of Archie MacPherson in the Scotland Tonight studio as we discuss the appointment – and fall-out – from Paolo di Canio’s arrival at Sunderland. I commemorated his departure from Swindon Town back in February, But the hiring of di Canio was all too much for some in the North East given the Italian’s fascist tendencies. David Miliband, or the losing brother as some might recognise him, and the one who is giving up on politics and the UK, gave up on his club, standing down as vice-chairman after di Canio’s signing.

Stadium of Light, Sunderland afc CroppedMeanwhile the Durham Miners’ Association demand the return of the Wearmouth Miners’ banner, on permanent display at the Stadium of Light (so called in honour of the Davy lamp), located on the former site of Wearmouth Colliery. “Our banner represents the Durham miners’ long struggle for the rights of the working class, rights which were annihilated by fascism in Germany, Italy, Spain and Chile,” said current miners’ union leader Dave Hopper. “We have a sacred obligation to the millions who were wiped out by Hitler, Mussolini and Franco to oppose fascism wherever and in whatever context this evil creed raises its head.”

An honourable stance, one I am not too far removed from personally given my late grandfather sailed around the oceans chasing Germans. But extreme politics at either end of the spectrum has the ability to cause devastation. Take the coal industry itself. And no, I’m not talking Mrs Thatcher here, more the fanatical socialism that started an unwinnable strike.

Archie and me don’t have the hours it would have taken to properly answer the questions posed by host Rona Dougall, but I do get the chance to make my point that there is a certain hypocrisy within the media, that having basically said nothing about di Canio’s arrival at Swindon, they are over the story like a rash now he has become ensconced at Sunderland.

And the reason? Look no further than the attraction, and the circus, that is the English Premier League. If it doesn’t involve England’s top flight, then basically, it’s hasn’t happened, as no-one is rightly bothered what goes on elsewhere. Even when it comes to fascism in Wiltshire …


Fran Sandaza (Creative Commons)
Fran Sandaza
(Creative Commons)
Rangers terminate striker Fran Sandaza’s contract with the club having been suspended for the previous 12 days following details of his telephone conversation with a bogus agent. That this entire episode has ended with the player sacked only shows the supreme disregard some deranged, attention-seeking individuals have for people’s careers. No wonder the prankster is wondering if this time, he is in just too deep. Certainly, there is some telecommunications law or another that he’s breached. There also might be a few unwritten rules he’s broken. Time will tell.

But Sandaza is hardly blameless, a victim of his own stupidity and perhaps, desperation. Sandaza’s misdemeanour has come at a time as Rangers gear up for next season. Given the non-return on Rangers investment, costing £4.5k a week and £1.5m over the next four years, the wrong time for the Spaniard. And somewhat fortuitous, or just coincidental in terms of timing for the club …

This Saturday’s Football Focus comes from the (English) National Football Museum in Manchester. To mark the occasion, the BBC had asked viewers and readers to recall their favourite strips of all-time and gave some examples of the most famous, and infamous.

Anyone who has watched football over the years will instantly recall their most memorable shirts. As a kid, Udston Primary’s ‘Blackburn Rovers’ kit took a bit of beating, although St Ninian’s red tops with yellow and green bands was always the one you wanted to wear having a game doon the park. God help you if any teachers, jannies or priests saw you!

I remember thinking ‘wow’ when seeing my first Ajax kit when the St Ninian’s boys arrived back from an Easter trip to Holland, and the first time I witnessed live the famous, big ‘D’ on the Moscow Dynamo jerseys. Very plain in white and blue, but hugely emotive.

Of the current crop, St Mirren’s black and red away number is quite smart, as was Motherwell’s recent blue shirt, probably made more attractive because they are a contrasting alternative to the norm.

Borussia Monchengladbach Historic ShirtMy all time favourites had to come from the 70’s. Borussia Monchengladbach had a smasher with the green and black panels down the front, not dissimilar to one Crystal Palace had with the claret and blue with amber trim. My favourite (only because I had one which eventually disintegrated after 200 machine washes) was St Etienne, circa ’76, emerald green with the blue, white and red Adidas stripes down the sleeves.

The kind of football top that made you stand out from the crowd – not what you wanted sometimes growing up in South Lanarkshire! And the worst? Dead simple. ‘That’ Celtic away top, from 1991, when they were sponsored by People’s. I was never sure if Umbro had given the design job to school kids in primary one, or if they’d got a job lot of material from Remnant Kings and patched it together, or if someone just did it as a piss-take to see if a club would actually wear it.

Once seen, never, ever forgotten …

Celtic manager Neil Lennon will defend himself against an SFA charge of misconduct for “repeated use of offensive, insulting and abusive language” during Sunday’s SPL match with St Mirren.

“I’ll speak to the club officials and lawyers. We’ll come up with a defence to defend myself as best I can,” said Lennon.

I’m not certain or sure what Lennon allegedly said. I didn’t hear it. What I will ask, is was it any worse or more offensive than what many tuned into on Sunday afternoon in the aftermath of the 159th University Boat Race? Those who tuned in early for Songs of Praise would have been upset to hear winning Oxford cox Oskar Zorrilla coax his crew to triumph on the Thames.

“Be f***ing tenacious”, “that’s the f***ing stuff” and as his team crossed the finish line, “f***, yeah!”, and a few other encouraging expletives, were all part of his repertoire, hardly what most viewers expected.

So while Lennon faces the Hampden beaks and a possible ban, again, Zorrilla had the Beeb apologising on his behalf. Is that what a f***ing University education entitles you to?