Weir’s Week: 12th April 2013

Hampden Park
Where Maggie Thatcher was jeered — then forgotten

Saturday
It’s the last round of matches before the SPL divides into a top and bottom six. Kilmarnock’s failure for a second time in a week to gain the win that would have kept them in the top half of the table, this time against relegation favourites Dundee, enables Dundee United to sneak into the upper echelons thanks to a stoppage time winner against Aberdeen. Kilmarnock FC CrestThe United players celebrated as if they’d won something when, to my mind, the reality was they’d traded a mid-table berth and assured mediocrity. And this in a year when there was no Rangers to worry about and when some believed turning up would be enough for second place. A bunch of United fans took exception to my take on events, pointing out that United had indeed won £500k thanks to their top six status. Yes, like players run around worrying about bank balances and profit and loss accounts.

Jings, and to think just 30 years ago nothing but the Championship would do for the Tangerines …

If sixth in an under-strength SPL is worth celebrating, what can we expect next season if we end up with a bigger separation. Players running around joyously at finishing eighth? Don’t laugh. When the bar is constantly lowered in Scotland as to what constitutes ‘achievement’, eighth in some people’s view will be the new first …

Sunday
Grand National LogoThere are plenty of sports that are described as ‘the toughest’ or ‘hardest’ but in all my days of covering sport, few match up to the dangers and risks faced by boxers or jump jockeys. Today is a classic example. Less than 24 hours after winning the race of his life, the Grand National at Aintree onboard 66-1 outsider Auroras Encore, Scots jockey Ryan Mania is being airlifted to hospital having fallen at the fourth flight of the St John Lee Handicap Hurdle at Hexham when riding Stagecoach Jasper. His celebrations (if you discount those at Gala Rugby Club on Saturday night) had to be out on hold as he recovered in hospital from his spill. Even then, he’d still tell you he was one of the lucky ones.

Broken bones, concussions and battered and bruised bodies are the norm in this game, the kind of injuries that would have some sportsmen sidelined for days if not weeks. Yet these guys are back in the saddle as soon as possible, because, like boxers, they don’t earn when they’re idle. Making their chosen ‘game’ doubly difficult …

Monday
Today’s news is dominated by the death of Baroness Thatcher, who for a decade (and more if you listened to some), touched all parts of British life, even Scottish football. I recall the late Jim Rodger once announcing to anyone who would listen, and even those who weren’t rightly interested, that he’d just called the Prime Minister and she’d agreed to do the Scottish Cup draw. It was only when she turned up at Ibrox that most of us (who’d been given Home Office clearance) actually believed him.

Her most famous involvement though came in 1988 when she was Guest of Honour at the Scottish Cup final. Cries of ‘Maggie, Maggie get to f*ck’ rang out around Hampden, although while I recall that, I don’t remember it being as poisonous and full of hatred that some would have you (or like you to) believe. The old press box was busier than normal, full of Special Branch officers with binoculars, surveying the flats that looked into Hampden at that time. And when it came time for the PM to present the silverware to Celtic captain Roy Aitken, there was nothing but cheers and celebrations.

So there you have. No matter how much she was hated and despised by some, she was ignored behind a cup tied up in team ribbons …

Tuesday
Three days after the final whistle blew on the pre-split SPL, the post-split fixtures are announced. But why the delay? Most would have pointed the finger at the TV companies trying to get their way over the schedule of games, as did Celtic in some quarters after Neil Lennon’s plea to have a home game first up after the split. In the end Celtic did get their way, I mean their wish, but that rendered a game against closest challengers Motherwell at Fir Park (what press and neutrals wanted) null and void.

Police at Tynecastle
Police at Tynecastle
But the decision making process was, if truth be known, less about broadcasters and the champions-elect and more about the polis, and when the Friday night matches would be. Dundee police have no worries about Friday night fitba. Edinburgh’s finest by contrast, just won’t entertain games on a Friday evening. A little over a year from now, when Edinburgh could be capital city of a new, fresh-looking, independent nation, it is served by a police force that can’t accommodate Friday night football.

League Division Third World if you ask me …

Bayern Munich LogoBayern Munich wrap up a 4-0 aggregate win over Juventus to book a place in the semi-finals of the Champions League alongside countrymen Borussia Dortmund. Similarly, Barcelona do just enough to beat PSG on away goals, joining counterparts Real Madrid in the last four. Just so I get it right, that’s two representatives from the Bundesliga, and two from La Liga.

So that will make the English Premier League the best in the world, won’t it …

Meanwhile Rangers chief executive Charles Green apologises “unreservedly” for comments of ‘an offensive and racist nature’ in a newspaper article that led to a Scottish FA notice of complaint. As I mentioned to Mike Graham on talkSPORT, If the entire Rangers saga has been the story that keeps giving over the past year, then individually Green is certainly showing similar generosity …

Thursday

Victor Wanyama (Creative Commons)
Victor Wanyama
(Creative Commons)
Celtic midfielder Victor Wanyama successfully appeals the red card received in the 1-1 draw with St Mirren last month. This follows St Mirren striker Esmael Goncalves accepting a two -match SFA ban for the dive that earned the Paisley side their equalising penalty in that match. Good to see that decisions made after that game have been better than those referee Bobby Madden made during it. Although that wouldn’t be difficult …

Friday
Not any great surprise to find Scotland have fallen eleven places in the latest FIFA world rankings after World Cup qualifying defeats by Wales and Serbia. That takes the Scots down to joint 77th place, alongside those giants of world football, Congo.

McBookie offer 3/1 on Gordon Strachan’s team becoming the worst-ever national team, although they’ll have to sink lower than 89th to achieve such notoriety. Of course, Scotland’s slide is entirely down to our run of horrendous World Cup results. Now, who was it who described that Group draw when it was made as being ‘not bad.’

That’s it, it was Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon. You have to believe she knows more about things other than football .