Ross Country’s Victoria Park in Dingwall

Days after the riots in Amsterdam, Dingwall was a far quieter place as Ross County played host to Celtic, almost entirely due to (having viewed the video footage) not a single undercover tram being on duty!

BT Sport Logo 3Big story of the day was BT Sport capturing the broadcast rights for the Champions League. According Dan Roan, reporting for the BBC, this deal was worth £900m, giving BT Sport the rights to Champions League and Europa League from 2015 onwards, enabling them to show 350 live games a season.

Roan then added; “This afternoon BT’s viewers had to make do with Celtic’s match away to Ross County.”

‘Make do’ with the first British team to win the very competition you had spouted on about? It’s one thing being dismissive of your broadcast rivals. Just don’t come across as being condescending and ignorant with it …

Those who did observe the Ross County – Celtic SPFL game would have probably noticed what they didn’t observe – a minute’s silence.

No minute's silence An oversight?
No minute’s silence
An oversight?
Whether you do, or in their case don’t have a minute’s silence ahead of a football match is entirely down to the individual club. Some of course can’t, and won’t, simply because their fans are hugely untrustworthy at such moments of Remembrance. I mean, how difficult is it to stay quiet for a minute?

What you don’t do is come out the next day with a press statement that makes you look completely amateurish, as Ross County did with a communiqué that said; “The lack of a minute’s silence was not an operational or policy decision but an error of omission arising from a failure to address changes in staff responsibilities, and the matter is being dealt with internally.”

Really? Given that the game was live on TV and therefore governed by timings, and that the club officials would have had dialogue with the BT Sport producers about, er, timings, it is impossible to see how this oversight occurred. The other clue, and you wouldn’t have to be Taggart to pick up on this one, would be the number of people wearing poppies. Someone, somewhere might have picked up on that surely?

Next day, Gillingham were forced to make an almost identical apology for a similar ‘oversight’ and ‘miscommunication’ before their FA Cup tie with Bracknell. So much consternation and upset at both ends of the country. But was it such a calamity, such a disaster? I mean, no-one died, did they??

I watched BBC1 Northern Ireland’s documentary about the song ‘Danny Boy,’ that haunting, melodic Irish ballad, written by an Englishman.

The programme reflected on where and when the song was sung, and fittingly included former world boxing champion Barry McGuigan and how he used the song – sung ahead of his title contest with Eusabio Pedroza at Loftus Road by his father Pat – when uniting two communities as they supported him on his way to the top.

For me, a more poignant occasion was when Dr Sean Donnelly sang Danny Boy, Northern Ireland’s anthem at the Commonwealth Games, after Jim Webb took light-middleweight gold in Victoria in 1994.
Boxers, hard men? Not a dry eye in the house!!

And as we all expected, Terry Butcher is installed as the new manager of Hibs. I wish the big chap well in his new capacity as the Easter Road club’s next ex-manager …

UEFA LogoUEFA fined Ajax £21,000 for fans displaying an offensive banner at their Champions League home game against Celtic. The Amsterdam club were found guilty of ‘improper conduct’ and rightly punished.

For those of a nervous or delicate disposition, look away now. But the message on the banner said ‘Fenian Bastards.’ I can only think the word ‘bastards’ was what upset folk, and in particular UEFA. Because when the ‘F’ word has been displayed on banners around Scottish football grounds in recent times (accompanied by a footballer’s name and the word ‘Army’), the SFA have done nothing.

Probably they were just unsighted or looking elsewhere …

Retirement day today; one planned, one unexpected.

In Mumbai, Sachin Tendulkar took to the middle for possibly the last time in what is his 200th Test match. Arguably the greatest ever Test batsman, the 40-year-old ended the day against the West Indies poised, perhaps, for one last century, a fact not lost with the newspaper headline writers, one declaring; “On 38, with a billion prayers.” It would transpire a billion prayers weren’t quite enough.

Dario Franchitti (Pic from Wikipedia)
Dario Franchitti
(Pic from Wikipedia)
More than a few prayers would have been said a few weeks ago when Scots racing driver Dario Franchitti ploughed into a wall at Houston Grand Prix. From the resulting injuries, news on Thursday that the four-time IndyCar champion had been forced to retire on medical advice.

The 40-year-old’s name wouldn’t necessarily register with some of his countrymen, all of his best work – including three Indy 500 victories – done Stateside. As a result, he maybe didn’t quite get the exposure or coverage he deserved, hence the irony of him making the headline with his near-fatal smash when his greatest achievements we tucked away on wing columns. Not everyone ignored him. The Sunday Mail did make him their Sportsman of the Year a couple of years ago. But then the do have individuals there who do recognise greatness in sport, not just a ball.

No doubt Franchitti will be upset at time being called on his career. But, I am not one who will call this announcement ‘sad news.’ Sadly, I know only too well much sadder ways to of bidding farewell to motorsport …

It will probably take 180 minutes, maybe even extra time and penalties. But tonight sees the first instalment of Portugal versus Sweden for a place in the World Cup finals next summer. In essence, this comes down to a shoot out between Cristiano Ronaldo and Zlatan Ibrahimovic, two of football’s greatest egos.

Amazing though to think that one of this pairing won’t be gracing the biggest stage in the game. But it’s happened before. Just think of George Best, Eric Cantona, Liam Brady, David Ginola, a planeload of Welshmen, David Hopkin …