WEIR’S WEEK: 22nd March 2014

Saturday
The conclusion to Scotland’s Six Nations campaign was instantly forgettable, a bit like Dan Biggar’s short-term memory after Lions full-back Stuart Hogg caught the Welshman with a cheap forearm smash that was more Hulk Hogan than Kenny Logan.

Stuart Hogg (Pic: Glasgow Warriors)
Stuart Hogg
(Pic: Glasgow Warriors)
Not surprisingly, referee Jerome Garces decided that Hogg was going off, yellow carding him before making it red on review, a decision no-one could complain about.

In changing his mind, with hindsight but mostly with the assistance of the video replay, Garces highlighted wonderfully the benefit of a review process at the highest level of sport. The risk of a bad call on the vast majority of occasions is taken out of rugby, American football, cricket and tennis, simply by using the technology to hand.

If only football would embrace the concept, how many dubious, game changing decisions would be eliminated from what is the biggest sport in the world. But then, those who officiate in soccer don’t make mistakes, do they?

Sunday
The first Grand Prix of the new Formula 1 season takes place in Australia and is, for a change drama-packed with breakdowns and retirements galore.

This was in the main due to the race being the first competitive run for the new 2014 specification cars, with the biggest and most noticeable change coming in the engine noise the cars make. I’m surprised people are critical of the sound, given that from my own experiences around F1, the first thing sponsors provide is a set of ear plugs!

Monday
Rangers progress, finally, to the semi-finals for the Scottish Cup, seeing off that mish-mash of tax inspectors, Asda staff and tradesmen that collectively are known as Albion Rovers.

Albion Rovers  Donated £10,000 to charity
Albion Rovers
Donated £10,000 to charity
The Coatbridge side kindly donated £10,000 of their hard earned wealth to Radio Clyde’s Cash For Kids appeal, a generous act, though I for one would have fully understood if they’d kept the money for one of the many rainy days that sweeps over that part of North Lanarkshire, by which I mean Cliftonhill.

The ground has changed little, or maybe that should be not at all, since I first clapped eyes on it in the late 60’s, watching St Ninian’s in the final of some Lanarkshire schools tournament.

Little had been upgraded or updated (thankfully) by the time my next memorable experience came, in the mid-80’s, which meant breaking out of the stadium having been locked in by the ‘jovial’ groundsman after overstaying my welcome while trying to make various newspaper deadlines as the local ‘stringer.’

Back to the present, and Rovers offered little in the way of resistance or threat as they had done a week before at Ibrox, which I was reliably informed, was down to the majority of their players having worked an eight-hour shift.

That isn’t really an excuse I buy, knowing the fitness levels achieved by countless amateur sportsmen. Of course, that ten grand Rovers gave away to good causes could have easily covered the cost of taking a day or shift off to prepare for facing Rangers.

As they say, sometimes charity begins in the home dressing room …

Tuesday
That Rangers win at New Douglas Park set them up with a Scottish Cup semi-final tie with Dundee United at ‘neutral’ Ibrox. Of course, United were none too pleased at this probability when the draw for the last four took place and complained to the SFA, who filed their protest under ‘B’ for bin.

Dundee United LogoUnited might have had a better case had they highlighted the possibility of Rangers, or for that matter Celtic, being involved in the latter stages of the competition when the semi-final and Final venues were announced, back in October.

They may also have strengthened their hand had they not asked for just 8000 tickets for the semi-final tie at Ibrox, and, had they managed to get some kind of continuity in their argument for moving to another neutral location with a 50-50 split in tickets.

Ordering 8000 tickets then demanding both clubs get an equal share? In effect, United put up a very good case for downsizing the semi-finals of Scotland’s premier knock-out Cup competition and completely underplaying the sponsor’s involvement. Just what Scottish football needs …

The irony in all of this of course was that when Hampden was previously undergoing its many transformations in 1990’s, the Old Firm contested Cup semi-finals on ‘neutral’ venues belonging to their arch rivals. And apart from Rangers manager Walter Smith’s ‘Take 2’ coin-tossing with then-Celtic assistant Joe Jordan (I might explain that one on Twitter later), there was nothing contentious about who would get what.

If only things were that simple today …

Wednesday

Aberdeen's first silverware (Pic: from Vimeo)
Aberdeen’s first silverware
(Pic: from Vimeo)
Is there no end to the celebration and jubilation surrounding Aberdeen’s first silverware in 19 years?

On the back of their hugely significant League Cup success over Inverness Caley Thistle at Parkhead on Sunday, the Dons fans were also congratulating themselves for the social media campaign that carried The Human League’s ‘Don’t You Want Me Baby’ into the iTunes top 5.

Aberdeen fans had subtly changed the lyrics to “Peter Pawlett Baby”, making it their terracing chant for the Final, even though Pawlett missed the final through injury.

The Human League’s Facebook page posted a message that said: “Amazing stuff you Aberdeen FC fans, simply amazing.” It was, and in the process completely blew any notion that Aberdeen or their fans were stuck in some kind of 80’s time warp …

Thursday
I couldn’t help but notice Derbyshire (county cricket club) had just secured a naming rights deal around their home venue in conjunction with the UK’s national training provider for apprenticeships. So from this summer, Derbyshire will now play their home fixtures at the 3aaa County Ground.

I’m not 100% sure how 3aaa will be communicated in a sporting context, as the ‘3 A’s’ belongs to athletics, while Triple A is associated with minor league baseball.

Still, Derbyshire collect a ‘six-figure’ sum for concluding what is described as being an ‘innovative’ sponsorship agreement, in much the same way as all such deals are lucrative and innovative. Namely, the club collects the money and everyone still calls it the County Ground …

Friday
Twenty years ago fantasy football was all the rage. Today it’s called the Champions League.

The quarter-final draw for this year’s tournament left Manchester United – the English champions – and Borussia Dortmund, runners-up in the tournament just 12 months ago, as the outsiders to lift the famous old trophy.

The World Cup in a few months has a lot to live up to …