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Artist’s impression of the new centre
Pictures: Reiach & Hall

Scotland’s £30m National Performance Centre for Sport will be centred at Heriot Watt University on the outskirts of Edinburgh. Offering high level support for football, rugby and volleyball, the centre is designed to help Scotland’s athletes excel at elite level and be in operation by 2016. Other sports too will benefit – they include athletics, badminton, fencing, hockey and shinty. The new facility will be financed in part by £25m from the Scottish Government and a further £2.5m from each of Heriot-Watt University and the City of Edinburgh Council.

Artist's impression of the centre's layout

Artist’s impression of the centre’s layout

The centre will have a substantial range of facilities. They include a full-sized indoor football pitch with seating for 500 as well as a full sized grass pitch, again with seating for 500. There will be two goalkeeper training areas with floodlights, two grass rugby pitches, five grass football pitches, three outdoor tennis courts and a nine-court sports hall. The design builds on he existing facilities at the University’s centre for sport and exercise but also incorporates a large fitness suite, along with areas for strength and conditioning, hydrotherapy and treatment. The center will also provide office accommodation for sports governing bodies.

One of the main features in Reiach & Hall design is the centre’s roof. Inspired by the angle and trajectory of one of the greatest goals in football history, it follows the flight of a strike by Brazil’s Roberto Carlos against France in 1997. The complex has been developed “around the athlete”, providing facilities and services aimed at creating a positive impact on the preparation and development of athletes, coaches and volunteers.

Professor Steve Chapman,  Principal of Heriot-Watt University

Professor Steve Chapman,
Principal of Heriot-Watt University

Principal and vice-chancellor Prof Steve Chapman said: “This is tremendous news for the bid team and, I believe, for the future of performance sport in Scotland. We have the go-ahead to create a world class sporting facility, combining the expertise we already have at Heriot-Watt with a tremendous location, design and setting which have proved a winning formula and will continue to do so for Scotland’s up and coming sports men and women.”

Describing the decision as “absolutely fantastic news for Edinburgh”, Cllr Richard Lewis, the Council’s Sport convener, added that “Heriot-Watt University and the capital will provide an excellent home to the next generation of top athletes and those involved in helping them achieve their aims. Our bid enjoyed great support from the community and local sport groups will also be able to take advantage of this world-class facility on their doorstep. I’m really looking forward to working with Heriot-Watt as they develop their plans in detail ready for future Olympians and cup-winners in 2016.”

The site’s excellent transport links was one of the key factors which influenced the decision – they provide easy access to the city, Edinburgh Airport and the wider surrounding area. The Edinburgh bid also enjoyed widerspread support from top sporting celebrities including Olympians Sir Chris Hoy and Sir Steve Redgrave, rugby legend Gavin Hastings, footballer Michael Stewart and Paralympian Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson. Other submissions had been entered by Dundee City Council and a partnership between the University of Stirling and Stirling Council.

Andy Murray in action in his Wimbledon quarter-final against David Ferrer Picture: Nick J Webb

Saturday
I remember watching a few late matches at Wimbledon over the years. Ironically, the two I recall best were both on Thursday evening semi-finals, one when Roger Taylor (before he became drummer for Queen) lost to Jan Kodeš, the other when Björn Borg came from two sets down to win (I think against Vitas Gerulaitis).

Both times, the commentary was interspersed with references to how dark it was. On TV screens, it was grey dark, but that was due entirely to the TV cameras playing games.

I can’t remember the matches going past 9 o’clock, although I’ll happily stand corrected. The fact was, back then, they couldn’t.

Different now, as anyone watching Andy Murray’s match against Marcos Baghdatis would tell you.

Pull the roof over, switch on the lights, and on Saturday evening we were there until 11 o’clock to see the Scot triumph. Well, a little after 11.

Murray rattled off the last set in double-quick time, probably in the knowledge that if he didn’t, he’d be back on the Monday. While Wimbledon has the facilities now, it doesn’t have a late licence. And you can hardly have a lock-in.

11pm was the cut-off point. I waited expectantly to see if it would be like the local snooker hall, where the meter runs out and the lights go off. But Murray beat the curfew – and Baghdatis – by a few minutes.

Amazing in this day and age that you have Wimbledon governed by archaic bylaws. At the Australian Open, matches last until 3am at times. But then, maybe they are used to staging major sporting events.

London might be among the big boys now they have the Olympics. But it’s toytown in reality …

Sunday
Congratulations go to Welshman Jamie Donaldson who wins the Irish Open at Royal Portrush by four shots.

It was Donaldson’s first win after 12 years on the European Tour – at the 255th attempt.

You have to applaud his dedication, and believe in the law of averages …

Monday
The good news, for some, is that Michael Phelps has opted out of the 200-metre freestyle at the Olympic Games.

The bad news is this means he will only chase seven gold medals. The American champion will now concentrate on two butterfly and two individual medley events, as well as three relays.

If successful, it will take his count of gold medals to 21.

Given that Steve Redgrave got a knighthood for five, and Chris Hoy and Matthew Pinsent were similarly honoured for winning “just” four, I reckon Phelps must be a sure thing to be US President some day …

Tuesday
Scottish Football League clubs – all 30 of them – are represented at Hampden as they meet to discuss what they will do with a problem like Rangers.

Rangers of course, shouldn’t be their problem. But given the scheming and conniving going on between the SFA and the SPL, the SFL clubs have been landed with this toxic mess. And it’s too much for some.

Raith Rovers chairman Turnbull Hutton was scathing in his condemnation at the SPL/SFA carve-up, which wants Rangers parachuted into Division 1.

I should point out at this stage that the SPL clubs who don’t want Rangers say their fans will revolt over the “integrity” issues surrounding the Ibrox club being allowed to stay in the top tier. But, hypocritical as ever, they seem to think it’s OK to dump Rangers on Division 1 clubs, despite several warnings of similar revolt among supporters.

Hutton left no one in any doubt what he thought about his SPL counterparts, saying he and his like had been “threatened, bullied, rail-roaded, lied to” and calling the game in Scotland “corrupt”.

Emotive and angry words. The kind that would normally have someone appearing in front of one of the many SFA disciplinary coffee mornings on a disrepute charge.

Not so easy, however, when someone was speaking the truth – and they knew it …

Wednesday
“Surprise, surprise”, as Cilla Black would sing. “Reality hits you between the eyes.” Well, maybe not.

But that’s where Rangers were struck when they were voted out of the SPL.

Rangers had turned up – according to CEO Charles Green – believing they could get a positive outcome from the ballot. Of everyone in Scotland, only Green could have thought that.

Maybe that’s why chairman Malcolm Murray went out of his way with his apology the previous day. He’d have been better saving his breath.

Rangers’ fate (one of several fates they appear to own) was sealed by 11 clubs, just and true, more or less.

Well, not exactly. Ten clubs jettisoned Rangers, the only ones to abstain being Kilmarnock. Of course, they might have had their reasons. After all, they were due to play Rangers – or Club 12 – on the opening day of the season. One last pay day, perhaps? If you don’t ask, you don’t get.

Of course, all clubs had their reasons: integrity, the fans wanted us to do it. And they wanted Rangers punished. But not too much that it might cause them any significant financial damage.

SPL head paper-shuffler Neil Doncaster said it wasn’t right that 41 clubs should be punished because of the behaviour of one. And rightly so.

But maybe if the business models of the majority of those clubs hadn’t been so dependent on Rangers, their enforced demise might not be having such a dire effect.

In all of this, I cannot remove myself too far from the belief that had the SFA – who apparently run Scottish football – had robust, fit and proper methods of punishment in place, then a great deal of the anguish and agony within the Scottish game would never have happened.

To now advocate that Rangers should drop to Division 1 – or an SPL 2 as it might become – is nothing short of a cop-out. And most fans know it.

Thursday
Stuart Pearce’s Team GB football squad had been met with controversy and apathy in equal measures.

Compare his selections to the squad Brazil have named, which includes strikers Hulk, Neymar and Alexandre Pato as well as Marcelo, the Real Madrid wing-back and Thiago Silva of AC Milan.

Those who still fancy Team GB for a medal must believe the Brazilians have bought season tickets for the London tour buses …

Friday
You know how history has a habit of repeating itself in sport?

Well, In beating Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, Andy Murray became the first British male to reach a Wimbledon singles final since Bunny Austin in 1938. And in the Ladies’ event, Agnieszka Radwanska became the first Polish woman to reach a Grand Slam final since 1939.

Should we be keeping an eye on Boris Becker this weekend?

Tweet Stewart Weir with thoughts and comments.

Henman Hill, Murray Mound, Murray Park – or somewhere Picture: Rod Allday

Saturday
The early 80s were a special time in Scottish football. The New Firm of Aberdeen and Dundee United didn’t need enforced relegation or liquidation to break up the Old Firm.

They were on a high domestically and in Europe, and at international level we were World Cup regulars. We’ll be pushed to see anything like it again.

We probably punched above our weight. But knocking people out while much smaller than even us were Northern Ireland.

They qualified out of our group to go to Spain in 1982 where they out-performed the Scots by reaching the second phase, and in 1986 they headed out to Mexico having finished group runners-up to England.

You had to admire them, given their resources and the fact untold damage was being done to the fabric of their society by dregs of that same society.

Their team was full of heroes, from Pat Jennings and Gerry Armstrong, to Billy Hamilton and Norman Whiteside. Amongst them was one Alan McDonald, the young QPR stopper.

Sad news then on Saturday that, at just 48, McDonald – a title-winning manager while at Glentoran in 2009 – had died while out playing golf.

If he is remembered for any one thing it should be his post-match interview after that 1985 draw at Wembley, which is featured in this tribute from BBC Northern Ireland

In these days of clichés, clones and those who toe the party and corporate line, it will for evermore be refreshing to hear a footballer tell it the way he sees it.

Sunday
Remember the relief throughout England that they had avoided Spain in the quarter-finals of Euro 2012?

I alluded to it last week and mentioned that they could still play the defending champions, if they beat (probably) Germany in the semis, but only if they first dealt with Italy.

Something they failed to do, although they did take the contest all the way to penalties – thus prolonging the agony by an extra hour at least.

No, not the extra time and the penalty misses. Oh no. The having to listen to Mark Lawrenson prattle on, trying to crack unfunny one-liners and making observations more akin to those of a primary schoolboy.

License payers’ money well spent …

Monday
And it’s announced that a criminal investigation is to be launched into Craig Whyte’s takeover of Rangers Football Club in May last year.

A Crown Office spokesman said: “The procurator fiscal for the west of Scotland will now work with Strathclyde Police to fully investigate the acquisition and financial management of Rangers Football Club and any related reports of alleged criminality during that process.”

And what about before that process?

Tuesday
Wimbledon is well under way and today is the day the great British hope starts his quest to be the first home champion since polo shirt manufacturer Fred Perry.

Will this be Andy Murray’s year, or is he destined to be Scottish again before the end of the second week?

The big debate is what to call that lump of earth, which has become “Murray Mound” having previously started out life as “Henman Hill”.

I do prefer the latter. After all, there should be something to commemorate Henman’s efforts at Wimbledon given he never got his name on the champions’ board …

Wednesday
The first of the Euro 2012 semi-finals takes place with Spain, the holders, facing Portugal. Too much at stake perhaps and the contest fizzles out into a goal-less draw. Penalties!

And that is where it all unravelled for the Portuguese.

Their plan – and they admitted they had one afterwards – was to leave talisman skipper Cristiano Ronaldo to take the fifth and final spot-kick.

Unfortunately Bruno Alves smashed the crossbar with his effort allowing Spain substitute Cesc Fabregas to ping home the winner in-off the post.

So Ronaldo stood around idle, denied his moment. Me, I’d have had him taking one of the first few. A banker. I think I said that right …

The excuse later was that Ronaldo was down to take the crucial final shot, when all the expectation and pressure was on the taker – and not the crucial final shot, when all the eyes of the world and the spotlight was on the taker.

Sorry, but I just don’t buy the latter …

Thursday
Police investigations, player walkouts (or walkaways, to be more accurate), ownership challenges and fan demonstrations are the precursors to the first day’s training back at Murray Park for Rangers beleaguered squad of players, totalling an unlucky 13 on their first day of the new term.

Shambolic as it looked, it was only a sidebar on the near-pathetic events unfolding in Glasgow when the new Rangers were being forced upon unsuspecting and unwanting First Division Scottish League clubs.

The reason was simple. The SPL chairman had cooked up the excuse that Rangers had to go (but not too far) because their clubs faced a boycott from their own fans if the Ibrox outfit (or what is left of it) hung around in the top tier.

So the decision was made fire Rangers all the way down one league (thus giving them the best possible chance of a speedy return in a season) – and sod those First Division clubs whose fans were equally upset by the arrival of Rangers and threatened a similar revolt.

A shambolic outcome. But then, this is what you get when you try to juggle “sporting integrity” with financial needs. Think of it like throwing a jug of napalm up with one hand, and a lit firework in the other – with moral-fibre toast the likeliest outcome …

Friday
We’ve known all along. But a day after it emerged that David Beckham wasn’t in Stuart Pearce’s Team GB, so word filters out there will be no Scots players in the men’s British Olympic football squad when it is announced on Monday.

All the way through, the SFA had maintained a stance of not supporting the national cause in case they lost their independent national identity. Which I suppose makes a change from just losing.

That was their excuse, and they stuck to it. Or was it just a hugely calculated piece of spin-doctoring because they knew no Scots were ever going to be among the first 18 available players from these shores?

Or 19, if you include Beckham …

Tweet Stewart Weir with thoughts and comments.

David Nalbandian in happier times at Queen's Club Picture: Carine06

Saturday
The Le Mans 24 Hour race is one of the great sporting spectacles.

It is a contest that has captured the imagination for years, even in this country, with the British enjoying their fair share of success, both as manufacturers and drivers.

Scotland’s Allan McNish would again be amongst the frontrunners, part of the hugely impressive Audi works team. In the end they would finish in all three podium places, although McNish would be denied another victory after he tangled with a “slow” Ferrari late in the day.

McNish’s car was repaired and continued, but his accident was typical of the hazards that await the leading cars and drivers.

The reality is that only maybe half a dozen cars are capable of winning the race. The rest, while battling for class honours, become high-speed chicanes, to be negotiated – easier said than done given the disparity in pace amongst the various machines.

Anthony Davidson was another to find out that the slightest touch at 180mph can have catastrophic consequences.

Two fractured vertebrae was the extent of his injuries, testament to the design of these race cars, made to go fast – and last …

Sunday
Around this time 30 years ago the blazers-and-Pimm’s fraternity who ran British tennis would have a few extra snifters to brace themselves for the arrival on these shores of “Superbrat”.

Difficult to believe these days, but once upon a time John McEnroe was the wild child of men’s tennis: volatile, vocal and a hater of authority.

He would almost self-combust with rage when things didn’t go his way, and let rip at those who had made those dodgy calls.

But just when you thought he would completely lose it, McEnroe would take a deep breath (while everyone else held theirs), shake his head, and get on with it.

Compare McEnroe’s colourful moments to the reaction of David Nalbandian at Queen’s last weekend.

Nalbandian, leading Marin Cilic in the final, was immediately disqualified by umpire Fergus Murphy for kicking a panel in front of line judge Andrew McDougall’s seat, injuring him.

If Nalbandian’s outburst (which saw him reported to the Metropolitan Police) was shocking, it was nothing compared to his attempted apology, or the fine levied by the ATP – a paltry £6,400, although he did also lose his £36,500 runners-up cheque.

The good news, though, is that he’s been given a role in Karate Kid III

Monday
Looking for a belated Father’s Day gift with a sporting theme? Danish designer Lauge Jensen’s latest motorcycle creation could be right up your street.

The bike is themed around Wayne Rooney, who donated one of his shirts and his signature for the machine – mounted on the petrol tank and lacquered to preserve the jersey – and a diamond-encrusted gearshift, with 21 black diamonds and one white, to signify the England striker.

And it commemorates his wonder overhead kick for Manchester United against Manchester City two seasons ago.

The bike is up for auction on eBay, with the KidsAid charity set to benefit from the proceeds of the sale.

“I am delighted to be involved in this unique fund-raising project,” Rooney said. “When first approached about the possibility of being involved in the design of a unique Wayne Rooney Lauge Jensen world-famous custom bike I was really excited to have the opportunity to be involved.

“The fact that the funds raised will go to kids in Denmark is a great way for me on behalf of all the players at Manchester United to say thank you for the support we receive from the Danish people.

“The bike we have designed is inspired by my scissor kick against Manchester City last season. The goal has been described as a score of high quality and technically outstanding and it was a target with great force and beauty.

“I hope people will agree with me when I say that the motorcycle has all these qualities and more.”

Beautiful goal, beautiful sentiments, Wayne.

And this will be the same Wayne who that same day was interviewed on Sky Sports News ahead of the Euro 2012 game against Ukraine, where he succeeded in saying “you know” 29 times in an interview of less than two minutes.

Maybe he writes better than he talks, you know …

I also knew – in advance – how the SPL fixture list would pan out after it became known that Rangers would be omitted and replaced by “Team 12″.

Those who follow me on Twitter will know that I was taking bets on Celtic getting a fixture against Team 12 around New Year. And guess what?

So the computer churned out these fixtures and randomly threw out that match for that week. Amazing.

I call it transparency – the ability to see through the blatantly obvious …

Tuesday
England beat Ukraine and qualify as group winners which means they won’t meet world and defending European champions Spain in the quarter-finals.

That’s great news. Just Italy – the 2006 World Cup winners – in the quarter-finals now, where victory would set up a semi-final against Germany for a final place against probably … eh, Spain.

That Ukraine win made things a whole lot easier …

Wednesday
So there will be no Walter Smith consortium at Rangers.

He may have signed off his statement wishing “the new Rangers Football Club every good fortune”, but Smith’s statement contained just enough innuendo and doubt to have Rangers supporters – many of whom wanted Smith to return to the club – wondering once again about the motives of Charles Green and whether he would be able to keep the promises he had made …

Thursday
… but back comes new Rangers chief exec Green with more encouraging words. The man who froze season tickets at last year’s prices has declared that fans’ ticket money for the new term would be “ring fenced” in a secure account until the issues surrounding the club are resolved.

So, he wants fans to cough up when they don’t know who Rangers might be playing. But the Rangers Fans Fighting Fund thinks supporters should rally round the club, renew their season tickets and support the new owners.

Encouraging words all around. Obviously they just haven’t registered with many of the Gers fans I’ve met, who are still trying to read between the lines of that Walter Smith communiqué.

Friday
Chances of Rangers “newco” getting a seat at the top table next season in the SPL are lessening by the day.

Dundee United and Hearts announce what everyone knew anyway, that they would be voting No to “The Rangers” being part of the big league come August.

Motherwell, meanwhile, are planning to give fans belonging to their Well Society a vote on Rangers’ application.

Great to see fans being empowered in this way, where they are able to weigh up the financial implications of excluding Rangers and the morality of the situation, all of which will have played on the minds of supporters.

As quickly as I heard about Motherwell’s plan, so I received a call from a friend who had located a Well Society member known to both of us, who had revealed he will be voting against any newco inclusion.

His reasons? Was it to do with Rangers not paying tax? Double contracts? Employee Benefit Trusts?

Oh no. He wanted Rangers barred because he believed Derek Johnstone dived to win a penalty when challenged by ’Well goalkeeper Stewart Rennie in the semi-final of the Scottish Cup in 1976, a pivotal moment that turned the game from Motherwell leading 2-0 into a 3-2 defeat.

And knowing this person, he isn’t kidding about his reasons.

So don’t let anyone say Motherwell fans haven’t given this plenty of thought. One, at least, has pondered what he would do for the past 36 years ….

Tweet Stewart Weir with thoughts and comments.

A Chinese cat <em>Picture: mattk1979</em>

A Chinese cat Picture: mattk1979

By Stewart Weir

Saturday
It was England against Wales in the Six Nations championship, while in Serie A it was first against second when Juventus met AC Milan.

Two sporting occasions, in distance hundreds of miles apart. But when it came to crucial calls and decisions that ultimately decided the outcome in these matches, there was a world between them.

At Twickenham, the video referee Iain Ramage earned his corn in the closing moments as the hosts pressed for a match-saving try, the Scots official eventually ruling that David Strettle had not grounded the ball.

End of nervous wait, end of deliberation, end of match.

Meanwhile in Italy, Milan and Juventus drew 1–1, although the outcome should have been different.

Football – thanks almost entirely to Sepp Blatter’s befuddled thinking – hasn’t followed the route of rugby, cricket, tennis, NFL and the likes by adopting video technology to assist the officials (but not to take over from them) in making key decisions.

Blatter and co think that throwing more officials – like goal-line assistants who, as far as I can see, see nothing other than new towns and cities across Europe – is the way to solve a problem. And the main and most contentious problem is whether a ball has or hasn’t crossed the line.

That archaic thinking is flawed, when technology would help. It’s not infallible, but it would be better than just guessing. As the linesman most certainly did when Gigi Buffon saved from Sulley Muntari.

Here, judge for yourself. And feel free to tell me exactly how involving a video ref wouldn’t benefit football, even on this one key area …

Sunday
While Wales were celebrating winning the Triple Crown, Murrayfield was hosting Scotland’s Six Nations encounter with France.

France, don’t forget, reached the World Cup final a matter of months ago. So they can play, and showed as much in the second half to beat the plucky Scots.

Plucky, game, unlucky. Heard it all too often.

Under coach Andy Robinson, the Scots have now won just two out of last 13 matches in the Six Nations.

I cannot help but think that if Robinson was in charge of our national football team, questions about his suitability would have been asked long before now, if he hadn’t already been mentioned in a dispatch which included the line “mutual consent”.

And, I can’t think those interrogating would have been fobbed off either by his “but I still believe” reply …

Monday
Andy Murray is in Dubai for the Dubai Duty Free Tournament. I remember I used to go there for the snooker tournament of that name. How things change.

This was Murray’s first outing since his Australian Open semi-final appearance (and loss) – and, for one radio reporter, that was enough to relegate him from world no.4 to just plain old ordinary British no.1. Fine.

Such generalisations usually mean people don’t know what they are talking about, but know it’s probably a safe bet to call Murray the nation’s no.1.

I would put the said radio correspondent in that category. By the same token, anyone referring to Murray as the Scottish no.1 probably belongs in a category all of their own …

Tuesday
Football is a passionate sport, and on occasions emotions can spill over. I suppose that will be the excuse Bournemouth chairman Eddie Mitchell will use when he explains to the FA comments made after his club’s 1-0 loss to Milton Keynes Dons.

Most of us involved in football have heard (or even used) rather fruity language when things don’t go to plan.

Few of us, unlike Mitchell, have decided to use BBC Radio 5 Live’s 606 as the platform.

Mitchell swore three times live on-air (“bollocks” and “f*cked” being his best efforts) before presenter Mark Chapman gave him a red card.

Mitchell accepted the FA’s charges of using “improper language”.and requested a private hearing, which will be held before 13 March. Obviously in private, so as not to offend any audience.

Hear Mitchell in full flow here. And it’s OK, the Beeb bleep machine has been edited in …

Wednesday
Scotland have a pre-World Cup qualifying campaign friendly against Slovenia. I find that the match is not being shown on any of the channels I subscribe to (either by law or choice).

So I decide to spend the £5 I have saved by not watching this meaningless contest (rendered such because the national coach won’t pick the best players available to him) and purchase five Lotto lucky dips.

Imagine my shock when I won, which is more than Scotland did.

So I am now a fiver better off than when I started, whereas I was guaranteed to be a fiver down if I’d invested in Premier Sports.

I recall getting all hot under the collar when a Scotland qualifier was shown on Channel 5 at a time when people in the shadow of Hampden couldn’t watch it because they couldn’t get a signal.

Now, I get the feeling no one is really too bothered where Scotland matches appear – or more accurately, disappear.

When you see signs up outside pubs stating “We are NOT showing the Scotland game”, you have to wonder if broadcasters or armchair fans are interested in these friendly games, or Scotland.

Anyway, that win on Wednesday has seen me qualify for EuroMillions on Friday. Wish me luck.

Thursday
Mark Allen is already a few hundred quid down this season after giving some frank views at a post-match press conference.

And, from his more recent spat with authority, that the Northern Ireland cueist either hasn’t learned or won’t be dissuaded from speaking his mind.

In China for the Haikou World Open (headings like “world” always help when you are selling an under-valued product for above the going rate) Allen didn’t hold back on Twitter.

“Journey a nightmare. People are ignorant. Place stinks. Arena’s rubbish, tables poor, food is horrendous. Other than that I love China.”

He continued: “Dead cat found this morning. Any wonder this place stinks. Must be dead cats all round the town.”

And he added: “This place is horrendous. It just baffles me how world snooker continuously go out of their way to put tournaments on in the middle of nowhere.”

However, he showed some remorse later. “As usual people jump on the hate-Allen bandwagon. Might’ve been a bit harsh a few hours ago in my tweet. Not all Chinese people are ignorant. I stand by everything else though.”

The sport’s governing body, World Snooker, later described his remarks as “extremely disappointing”.

And to think these guys thought they got it bad in Prestatyn …

Friday
I thought I’d finish this week with a quiz.

Is Craig Whyte
a) Rangers owner?
b) still welcome at Ibrox?
c) “thoroughly unfit”?
d) “wholly unreliable”?
e) a billionaire?

Answers when the administrators can find them …

Tweet Stewart Weir with thoughts and comments, @sweirz

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Racing pigeon <em>Picture: ingridtaylar</em>

Racing pigeon Picture: ingridtaylar

By Stewart Weir

Saturday
The Ayrshire derby between Kilmarnock and Ayr United at Hampden to decide who went forward to the League Cup final didn’t really live up to the hype. Pity the game wasn’t as entertaining as Kenny Shiels’ comments afterwards.

The Killie boss didn’t show much delight in his semi-final win, more interested instead to slate and berate his yellow-kitted opponents.

“I am relieved because football was the winner here and the most important thing in this industry is to provide good football and entertainment,” said Shiels.

“To attack for two hours is not easy but it was like a bunch of daffodils around the penalty box every time I looked.

“I would never be disrespectful to them but football is about entertainment and it is easy to defend in any sport, anybody can do that, close up shop and defend. I have never played like that.

“We have to be respectful, people have paid money to come to watch a fantastic occasion but we need two teams to attack for that to happen.”

Yes, I agree. I have often mistaken Kilmarnock for Porto, until they kick off. Or if you really screw your eyes up, there is a passing resemblance to Barcelona – again until a move breaks down after two passes.

It’s easy to slag people off for their tactics – especially when, for over 100 minutes, your team has been completely ineffective.

While football is about entertainment, it has to be sold as being entertaining. Something the Killie boss hasn’t done in his summation of the game.

I could have gone to see the game at Hampden, but it was a cup semi-final and not too many of those have been thrillers over the years.

It also wasn’t too appealing when pitched against live TV action, starting with Liverpool and Manchester United, then Crusaders against Coleraine in the Irn Bru League Cup final from Northern Ireland, followed by Brighton against Newcastle United again in the FA Cup, and concluding with the Serie A clash, Juventus v Udinese.

And, best of all, you can turn off whinging, moaning, bleating managers. Or should I call them salesmen?

Sunday
I don’t know how many people were interested in the women’s final at the Australian Open tennis. But at best, it was no more than an appetiser for the main course.

Sunday’s men’s singles final between Rafa Nadal and eventual winner Novak Djokovic was a classic encounter. The best-ever Grand Slam final? I don’t know about that. It certainly felt like the longest, probably due to lengthy breaks both were having between serves.

You can though, understand it. Both were out on their feet, and the Djokovic comeback in the fifth set was nothing short of miraculous.

But the best-ever final?

I’m always sceptical of “best-ever” billings. Judgement is cyclical. Many of today’s generation won’t have seen the events of 20 and 30 years ago.

Yes, people can look back, check the record books, and even watch DVDs of past sporting greats. But remember, most times you actually know the outcome and end result. So it’s difficult to capture that feeling of drama, excitement or raw nervousness that a live occasion generates.

Djokovic and Nadal served up classic. But, for me, there have been finals every bit as brilliant.

I watched and marvelled when Bjorn Borg beat the young upstart John McEnroe at Wimbledon in 1980, and again the following year when McEnroe reversed the result, both matches now cemented into tennis and “Wimbers” folklore.

The following year McEnroe lost again, this time to a former young upstart, now old-timer, Jimmy Connors, a match which probably wouldn’t even register with today’s tennis aficionados. But it had to be seen to be believed.

What we are seeing is two – or three if you include Roger Federer – of the greatest players of all-time carving up the Grand Slams between them. So don’t be too hard on old Andy Murray – “old” in as much as he’s a week older than Djokovic.

Mrs Djokovic must have been force-feeding her wee boy to catch up during his first seven days…

Monday
The tennis dominated the sporting headlines in the Antipodes. So you might have missed the news that New Zealand amateur Lydia Ko won the women’s New South Wales Open by four strokes on Sunday.

Well done her, even more so because in winning the tournament she became the youngest-ever winner of a professional tournament, aged just 14 – and still an amateur.

But what would she spend the money on? Hardly the things most 14-year-old would buy.

Tuesday
So Sir Fred is now just plain ordinary Fred again. The rights and wrongs of this decision, and whether he should even have had such an honour in the first place, isn’t really something I can be bothered with.

The honours system itself, I have long believed, is flawed. Badly flawed. It was interesting to see Sir Jackie Stewart defending his fellow Scot and friend.

Nothing at all to do with him having been an RBS ambassador for many years.

But Sir Jackie, for all his connections, had to wait his turn before getting his knighthood. The three-times winner of the F1 world championship was rewarded for his efforts behind the wheel only after Stirling Moss, the four-times runner-up, had become a Sir.

What’s that about? I don’t care what Mr Moss did after he gave up racing. But there was no way he should have been rewarded ahead of Jackie Stewart.

And there are even more anomalies in the sporting world. Which, for me, puts the honours system on a par with Ratners…

Wednesday
The transfer window closed last night, expect in Russia where it’s still too cold to open it.

There are always winners and losers on “Deadline Day” – or Jim White Day, as I prefer to call it.

Even those seen as winners can still lose a fortune. But this year’s January sales were relatively quiet, with around £55 million changing hands. Twelve months ago, that same figure equated to Fernando Torres.

In Scotland, St Mirren were the big spenders, coughing up £35,000 to buy Dougie Imrie from Hamilton Academical. That was the only money spent in the SPL.

Most talk was about Nikica Jelavić leaving Rangers for Everton. A case of good bye, good buy.

Those holding their breath to see who would replace the Croat at Ibrox probably passed out, Ally McCoist included.

Forty-eight hours into 2012, McCoist was quoted as saying he needed to bring “bodies” into the club. Yet during January, he brought in one new face, but let six depart – although the majority have gone out on loan.

Which, not surprisingly, has a great many supporters wondering exactly what is going on behind the scenes at Rangers. A question to which even Jelavić didn’t know the answer…

Thursday
Pigeon racers have often been portrayed as flat-capped Woodbine smokers who work down the pit. Nothing could be further from the truth. The pits closed years ago.

Pigeon racing has always been popular, and even big business. And it has its share of celeb owners, such as Her Majesty the Queen, Mike Tyson – and, in these parts, Duncan Ferguson, who famously named his one-time favourite bird “Coisty”.

This week, though, the sport really hit the big time when Chinese shipping magnate Hu Zhen Yu forked out a world record £207,000 on a Dutch racing pigeon.

Last year, Mr Hu sponsored a race with a top prize of more than £695,000. Now he wants to be a winner.

Importing a pigeon, especially one that expensive, into China can’t be easy, and could be fraught with danger – especially given the dietary habits in that part of the world.

Friday
I will be at Murrayfield tomorrow for international rugby’s oldest fixture, Scotland versus England.

A glance at the England side tells you just how much of a transformation has taken place in their ranks since the world cup.

Putting it into simple terms, Scotland’s seven replacements on the bench have 211 caps between them – just 22 fewer than England’s starting XV.

What does that tell you? That Scotland has a lot of experience on the sidelines. Nothing else…

Tweet Stewart Weir with thoughts and comments, @sweirz

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Novak Djokovic <em>Picture: angela n.</em>

Novak Djokovic Picture: angela n.

By Stewart Weir

Saturday
I can’t recall mentioning handball too often in the past. But for the handball fan out there you’ll have been viewing the sport’s 15 minutes of glory of an evening on British Eurosport with highlights of the 10th European Championship from Serbia.

I’ve been taking it all in – although, to be honest, usually while wondering where the hell the tennis has gone.

One thing I have worked out is that handball does possess the singularly most-useless position in sport, that of goalkeeper.

Have you actually seen one make a save? I have, but not on a regular basis – and if they do, 99 times out of 100 it’s because it was a bad throw.

One thing is for certain: you’ll never hear a commentator referring to any of that ilk as the Buffon or Schmeichel or Goram of handball.

If that qualifies as the singularly most-useless position in sport, then the singularly most-useless sportsman this weekend was one John McDermott.

He took to the ring in Liverpool, in what was a title fight for the English heavyweight championship, but more importantly, the final eliminator for the British heavyweight title.

McDermott had challenged three times for the Lonsdale belt, unsuccessfully on each occasion.

And he would be denied a fourth attempt, knocked out in just 73 seconds by Olympic bronze medallist David Price. That timing, by the way, included to mandatory counts of eight, and a final count to 10.

Three good hits by Price, and McDermott went down each time.

Now, I have said often that boxing is the toughest game in the world. The training alone would be too much for most fit athletes, though not a category I would place McDermott in.

Oh yes, he had bottle, and he had heart. But most of all he had bulk, weighing in at a mere 19st 5lbs. A real heavyweight, if not quite in peak condition…

Talking about fighting, wasn’t it nice to see confirmation of how much of a 1980s time-warp some Aberdeen fans are stuck in as they arrived in Glasgow ahead of the Rangers game looking for a ruck.

Not heard much outcry from MSPs on the matter. But then, it wasn’t an Old Firm game…

Sunday
Now I do recall mentioning the road to the Super Bowl last week, and this Sunday evening (and Monday morning our time) was dominated by the AFC and NFC Championship finals.

In the first, New England Patriots were crowned AFC champions as they beat Baltimore Ravens 23–20.

And they will play New York Giants, who beat San Francisco 49ers in overtime thanks to a field-goal kicked by Scots-born Lawrence Tynes.

The ball had barely parted the posts before Tynes was trending on Twitter – not because of his 31-yard kick, but to see how he managed to escape Greenock as a kid.

Tynes was the hero. But he owed everything to the holder, Steve Weatherford – who, from a bad snap, collected the ball off the ground, planted it, turned the laces away from the kicker and then stuck a finger on top to hold the ball upright – all in the space of less than a second – to make Tynes’ job as simple as possible.

No wonder Weatherford (no.5) looked rather chuffed.

Monday
And I’ve just heard that next season’s Scottish Cup final has been moved from its traditional Saturday slot to Sunday, 26 May. What!?

The switch is to comply with UEFA rules that prohibit any television conflict with the Champions League final, which will be held at Wembley the day before.

Maybe so, but wasn’t there another Saturday that could be found?

I have learned to accept, accommodate and put up with most fixture times. There isn’t a day of the week, or quite possibly any time slot between 11am and 10pm, that I haven’t seen a football match kick-off.

But shifting the showpiece of the Scottish season to a Sunday, for me, is a non-starter.

The Cup final should be on a Saturday. England manage it, and they are more likely to have teams in the Champions League final than we are.

It all seems very convenient. And the biggest beneficiaries of any switch would again be the broadcasters. Surprise, surprise…

Tuesday
Congratulations are in order for Ross Ford, announced as captain of Scotland for the forthcoming Six Nations campaign.

With injury ruling Kelly Brown out of the spring Tests, coach Andy Robinson turned to the 27-year-old who has impressed during Edinburgh’s run to the last eight of the Heineken Cup.

I hope he gets a decent run in the role – we all know how easy it is to trade in a Ford…

Wednesday
So Alex Salmond sets the question no one yet knows the answer to, namely: “Do you agree Scotland should be an independent country?”

I can’t help thinking that if the SFA had asked a similar question of all those many friends within FIFA that we’re always being told we have, then some of our guys might have made it into Team GB for the Olympics.

Oh, that’s right, some of our guys plan to go anyway.

Thursday
Always nice to see footballers putting something back into their local communities, and that is especially true of Inverness Caley Thistle’s French duo of Grégory Tadé and Kenny Gillet.

They spend some of their own free time at Millburn Academy in Inverness, teaching the youngsters French.

A great idea and one that could be rolled out across the county, starting with English, with special lessons in the classroom for ex-footballers, especially those who are now making a living as TV pundits.

And the first lesson? Where and when the word “did” should be used instead of “done”.

Detention may be required…

There was punishment of a different kind dished out to snooker player Mark Allen, who was fined by the game’s authorities for swearing during a press conference at last month’s UK Championships in York.

As I reported at the time, Allen took exception to changes made by snooker supremo Barry Hearn, telling the assembled media: “The players don’t really matter, so f*** the players.”

That one expletive cost Allen £250. Now they know the going rate, I’m sure one or two players might have a couple of grand’s worth the next time they want to let off some steam.

Friday
Andy Murray loses to Novak Djokovic in the Australian Open. I know, it maybe wasn’t the time for the estate agent nickname gag (after selling another semi).

Disappointed as I am, I can take some comfort from the experts who say that it will only be a matter of time before Murray wins a Grand Slam title. Then I think about what has been said, and the head shakes.

It’s Murray’s luck – or lack of it – that his moment in time happens to coincide with the that of three of the greatest tennis players ever to drink Robinsons Barley Water.

Djokovic is world no.1 just now. But it could just as easily be Rafa Nadal or Roger Federer.

Unless there is a complete set of freak results, chances are Murray will run into at least one – if not two – of them through the semis and final of any Major.

That’s a tall order, taller still when you ask if Murray can play any better than he did against Djokovic.

Murray was brilliant. But Djokovic was still better.

It’s no disgrace to lose to the best in the world, the no.1. However, it could be a habit Murray never breaks.

Still, he gave us VFM, especially for the Scots in the audience, vocal throughout, when he led 2-1 in sets.

Out boomed the broad Scots accent – “Come oan Andy” – further proof that we as a nation have supporters everywhere (although maybe not at Westminster).

It reminded me of Scotland’s game against Australia in 1985, the play-off to reach the World Cup finals in Mexico.

The Scots led 2–0 from the first leg, but the trip to the other side of the world for the game at the Olympic Stadium in Melbourne was always fraught with danger – and, of course, there was no real travelling support. There was, however, a Tartan Army in residence, assembled from all parts of Oz and their native land.

I particularly recall one banner high in the stands, which read “Hello Larkhall”.

That, of course, was back in the days when Rangers fans followed Scotland…

Tweet Stewart Weir with thoughts and comments, @sweirz

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Rhythmic gymnastics or Olympic rings? <em>Picture: orijinal</em>

Rhythmic gymnastics or Olympic rings? Picture: orijinal

By Stewart Weir

Saturday
Because of the way their season is structured, January in many ways belongs to the NFL.

En route to deciding their biggest prize, currently we’re in the midst of the play-offs: sudden-death for those who fail, or upwards and onwards to an even bigger challenge – or bigger challengers – next week.

Sport relies on timing, whether a fraction of a second over 100 metres, or a day here or there in a test match. But few sports are played out with one eye on the clock quite like gridiron.

Saturday saw the San Francisco 49ers do battle with New Orleans Saints, complete with passing legend Drew Brees. In the closing minutes both teams looked to have won it, or lost it, depending where you were seated.

To say the end was dramatic is probably the understatement of this season. So judge for yourself – and keep an eye on the clock.

Sunday
Dutch qualifier Christian Kist beats Tony O’Shea to win the BDO World Championship at Lakeside, or Frimley Green for the more geographically astute.

There were hearts in mouths for this one, not because players missed their doubles, but because the satellite signal dropped off for the start of the match.

However, normal service was resumed with Kist holding his nerve to take the title. It remains to be seen whether he will be back next year to defend it.

Some of his contemporaries are ready to jump ship and head for the PDC, with Ted Hankey and Dean Winstanley heading the 160 entries for the 2012 PDC Pro Tour qualifying school which offers any darts player the chance to win a tour card to compete on the PDC’s £5m circuit.

In recent times, the PDC has needed the BDO as a feeder to their series. But the more qualifying schools Barry Hearn stages, the more the BDO’s importance or significance will be eroded.

There is no doubt the standard and depth of talent within the PDC is much greater. But year-on-year I still watch the BDO championship.

The original, though not necessarily the best …

Monday
Opening day of the Australian Open. Six Britons in action, but soon there would be just one. James Ward exited the men’s singles, leaving Andy Murray to face the world on his own, while Elena Baltacha, Heather Watson, Laura Robson and Anne Keothavong all tumbled out the women’s event.

Surely the time has come for us Brits to ask if we can have a wee corner of the draw whereby we can play amongst ourselves, so guaranteeing at least one of the lassies would get to the third round?

Just an idea …

Tuesday
Muhammad Ali turns 70 today. Newspapers, TV and the interweb are filled by flowing, glowing tributes, kind words, his own famous quotes and vintage footage.

Ali’s landmark birthday got me thinking again about those classic contests he had at his peak, especially against Joe Frazier and George Foreman.

For those who were around at the time, the “Rumble in the Jungle” and the “Thriller in Manilla” dominated life, never mind sport.

It’s difficult for many to comprehend just what the heavyweight world championship meant then, or just how colossal Ali was. I’d say confidently that in the early to mid-70s there wasn’t a more famous man on the planet – or certainly not one who could write poetry, play it for laughs and punch like he could, occasionally all at the same time

Wednesday
There was a time when everyone and anyone could turn up for the Olympics, especially if you were paying for it. But those days are long gone, with qualification now required in many instances to reach the greatest show on earth, or at least the biggest sporting event in London this August.

One group which won’t be getting measured for blazers is Britain’s rhythmic gymnastics team – they missed the required qualifying mark.

Sadly, the concerns of Great Britain’s senior rhythmic gymnastics group coach Sarah Binding – voiced in October last year – sadly proved accurate.

Team GB fell 0.273 marks short of the 45.223 target set by their governing body. An appeal to raise that score was refused.

Everything looked on course for the team, coached and assisted in their artistic content by none other than Torvill and Dean, until they messed up in the hoop and ribbon routines.

I’m not an expert in rhythmic gymnastics, but keeping one of those hoops spinning around your hips is a bugger.

And I cannot imagine how hard it was to gift-wrap a present with a ribbon while doing a cartwheel. But others managed it, because they’ll be back in London for the Games.

Thursday
Referees are constantly scrutinised, their every call monitored, dissected, studied and commented upon. Of course, many of them bring it upon themselves.

But few could have made as blatant a cock-up as ref Jan Verhaas. No, we’re not talking football here. This is snooker.

Historically, there have been some major boo-boos by the men in the white gloves who have deserved a visit from men in white coats.

John Williams mistakenly lifted the cue ball off the table and respotted it on the blue spot. In the 1994 UK final, John Street respotted the black ball on a chalk mark, a few inches from its usual home – not that Stephen Hendry noticed either.

And Len Ganley once replaced the balls so that a player had a direct shot on a ball he’d previously been snookered on. So mistakes do happen.

However, at the Masters in London, in trying to get things right, not that they were wrong to begin with, Verhaas got it monumentally wrong – and with disastrous concequencies for one spectator in this arithmetic debacle, namely former world champion Graeme Dott.

Watch for yourself here and listen to John Parrott’s prophetic words

Friday
I remember on his arrival, some broadcaster waffling on that this was no more than the “plugging of a large gap”, and a “short-term fix” to see Rangers through a crisis.

Paul Le Guen had become Paul Le Gone, Walter Smith had been brought in to stop the ship sinking when it needed a crew.

Mixing the services if not metaphors, Smith called up a Dad’s Army reservist, David Weir, into frontline action.

Had Weir arrived at Ibrox ten years earlier, even then there might have been some quizzical looks. But at 37 years old, surely the wise radio voice had got it right. “Short-term fix”?

Today, David Weir bids farewell to Rangers, with a haul of medals and memories from his four “short-term” years.

Had injury not beset him before the league stuff had started, he might still have been filling his customary place in central defence. Unfortunately, he’s had to make way for younger, fitter men. But he will depart Ibrox with the blessing of every fan, for Weir did his bit – and a bit more – for Rangers.

While his longevity, and no shortage of ability, will probably rank higher with others, for me, it was the integrity and standing he brought back to the role of Rangers captain – which he took over in April 2009 – which sets him above others who have been rewarded with that accolade based good attendance and popularity.

In the 140-year history of Rangers, few have earned legendary status in just four years at the club.

Fewer still, however, are remembered as great Rangers captains, something Davie Weir will always be for a great many …

Tweet Stewart Weir with thoughts and comments, @sweirz

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Luiz, Coloccini or Fellaini? <em>Picture: branquinholxpt</em>

Luiz, Coloccini or Fellaini? Picture: branquinholxpt

By Stewart Weir

So 2011 is nearly over and 2012 is nearly upon us. A chance to reflect, look ahead, mourn and laugh at what has gone before. And, of course, the opportunity to hand out some of the most wanted, valuable and cherished sports prizes around, The Caledonian Mercury “of the year” awards – or the Weirdos, as they are affectionately known.

So see if you agree with the inebriated nominations panel on the best and worst sporting contributions of 2011…

Best channel for promoting Scottish sport
BBC Alba.

Best channel for promoting Scottish sport that should have a red button option for the English language
BBC Alba.

Jeffrey Archer False Start of the Year Award
The Scottish Premier League for no one knowing who was playing when for three weeks.

The How To Spend A Fortune And Wonder What It Went On Award
Winner, Craig Whyte (Rangers); nominated, Kenny Dalglish (Liverpool).

Greg Louganis Diving Award
Winner Garry O’Connor; nominated Sone Aluko (who missed out on the award because he got caught).

The Robinho “Working Your Ticket” Award
Carlos Tevez.

Free kick of the year
Wayne Rooney (for his boot at Miodrag Džudović of Montenegro).

Sponsorship Opportunities Now Available Award
Tiger Woods.

Retirement From Sport Announcement of the Year
Ronnie O’Sullivan.

Retirement From Sport Again Announcement of the Year
Ronnie O’Sullivan.

Retirement From Sport That Failed To Materialise Announcement of the Year
Ronnie O’Sullivan.

Group of Death of the Year
The European Championship finals group draw, which matched Germany, Holland, Denmark and Portugal.

Group of Death of the Year 2012
As above.

SPL Manager Who Has To Explain His Own Jokes Award
Kilmarnock boss Kenny Shiels, after his “banter” about a spat with Rangers defender Kirk Broadfoot when he said: “It was the ugly boy from Rangers – the male model from Ayrshire. I think his mascara was running.”

Hansie Cronje Memorial Betting Banker of the Year Award
Salman Butt.

Occasional Top Sports Tipster of the Year
Raman Bhardwaj, STV.

Bookies’ Favourite Sports Tipster of the Year
Raman Bhardwaj.

UEFA Spectator Control Supervisor of the Year
By popular demand, AZ Alkmaar goalkeeper Esteban Alvarado.

Policeman Unlikely To Get Audition For Taggart Award
Strathclyde Assistant Chief Constable Campbell Corrigan for this gem.

Limited Edition T-Shirt of the Year
Liverpool’s warm-up top proclaiming their support for Luis Suárez.

Playing Down Chances of the Year Award
Team GB cycling boss Dave Brailsford who said his riders won’t win eight Olympic golds next summer.

Trying To Look Surprised When Expectations Are Exceeded In 2012 Award
Dave Brailsford.

Ronan Keating “When You Say Nothing At All” Award
John Terry of Chelsea.

TV Sports Programme Living Past Sell-By Date Award
Sports Personality of the Year, BBC.

TV Sports Programme Exceeding Life Expectancy Award
A Question of Sport, BBC.

TV Sports Presenter of the Year With More Influence Than He Could Ever Have Dreamt Of
Rob MacLean of BBC Sportscene for setting the SFA’s retrospective agenda…

Ethnic Ignorance Award
Alan Hansen.

Footballer Being Outplayed By An Animal Award
David Goodwillie of Blackburn Rovers for having to watch a Yak perform.

Most Expensive World Championship To Decide Second Place
Formula One.

Russell Grant Knowing What The Outcome Will Be Nine Months in Advance Award
Anyone who predicted Sebastian Vettel would be F1 world champion. Nominations for anyone who predicted Sébastien Loeb would win the WRC, or who predicted Barcelona would win the Champions League.

The Above And Beyond Award of the Year
Darren Fletcher (Manchester United and Scotland).

Sticks and Stones Award
Steve Kean (Blackburn Rovers).

The Travelodge Don’t Book Beyond The Second Friday Award
Andy Murray (at Wimbledon).

The Deputy Dawg Toe Bone Excuse of the Year winner
David Haye.

Wallace Mercer Memorial Trophy For Calculating The Value Of A Football Club
Vladimir Romanov (Hearts).

Horse Whisperer of the Year
For the reaction Ally McCoist achieved whispering in Neil Lennon’s ear after the Scottish Cup tie at Celtic Park.

If We Could Play The Last Seven Minutes Again Award
Scotland XV versus Argentina at the Rugby World Cup.

Attempted Tackle (and Attempted Murder Charge) of the Year
Ex-Rangers full-back Kevin Muscat of Melbourne Victory for this.

If We Could Play The First Seven Minutes Again Award
Kilmarnock for their performance against Rangers on “Helicopter Sunday”.

Fuel Saving Award
Rangers, for keeping the SPL helicopter grounded on “Helicopter Sunday”.

Waste Of Fuel Award
Rangers’ trips to Malmö and Maribor.

Sports Music Video of the Year
Nottingham Rugby Fairytale of Nottingham (featuring Grand Master Jacko).

Cricket Innings of the Year
Virender Sehwag ODI world record of 219 against the West Indies.

Rolf Harris “Have You Guessed What It is Yet?” Award
Hearts midfielder Ian Black who supplemented his non-wages from Tynecastle by doing some painting work.

The Kirk Broadfoot Services To Cookery Award
Cricketing legend Shane Warne who earlier this month burned his fingers trying to make a bacon sandwich.

David Francey Memorial TV Football Commentator of the Year
Ian Crocker (Sky Sports).

Seemed Like A Good Idea At The Time Award
Bringing English world champion Adrian Lewis and the man he beat in the final, Scotland’s Gary Anderson, to their Premier League darts tie at the SECC after drink had been taken.

Learning from What Seemed Like A Good Idea At The Time Award
Bringing English world champion Adrian Lewis on first in Aberdeen.

The Disappearing Act of the Year
Rafa Nadal for his press conference routine.

Most Tattooed Sportsman of the Year
Scottish boxer Ricky Burns.

Sports Tweet of the Year
“Sh! Frame 14 under way. You could cut the tension with a Black and Decker tension cutter” – from Stephen Fry, as he watched the world snooker semi-final and the majority of the world watched the Royal Wedding.

The Completely Vindicated Sports Performance of the Year
John Higgins, winning his fourth world snooker title a year after being implicated in a betting scam.

Putting Two and Two Together Sports Broadcast of the Year
RTÉ, after that Higgins victory.

Most Disappointed Fan of the Year
This chappie (still to be tracked down) after this miss by Equatorial Guinea against Norway.

Sportsman of the Year
Indian cricket captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni for reinstating England batsman Ian Bell.

Fantasy Transfer of the Year (that failed to materialise)
Ronaldinho to Blackburn Rovers.

Fantasy Transfer of the Year (that did materialise)
Fernando Torres to Chelsea.

Not Using A Parental Guidance Warning Or Flashing Lights Notice During A Broadcast When It Should Have Been Used Award
BBC Scotland, for not cautioning viewers to the appearance of Cillian Sheridan’s Christmas jumper on Sportscene.

David Francey Memorial TV Football Commentator of the Year
Derek Rae (ESPN).

* For those who have noticed two winners of this title, like darts, there are two versions of it…

Party Night Down The Local When A World Championship Broke Out Award
PDC darts.

Breaking A Record We Never Thought Would Be Broken Award
New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees for beating Dan Marino’s 27-year-old NFL regular season passing record.

Recycling Human Bodyparts Award
David Luiz of Chelsea, Newcastle United’s Fabricio Coloccini and Marouane Fellaini of Everton for sharing the same hair.

Donation Of Human Body Parts To A Needy Cause Award
David Luiz, Fabricio Coloccini and Marouane Fellaini to Wayne Rooney.

Multiple winner in various categories including Short Lifetime Achievement Award, Precocious Talent Of The Year, Stupidest Hair Style Of The Year, Silly Hat Award, Not Paying Attention To Public Information Films About Fireworks Award and Thinking He Is Santa Claus Trophy
Mario Balotelli of Manchester City.

Tweet Stewart Weir with thoughts and comments, @sweirz

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Tributes to Gary Speed at Cardiff City Stadium. <em>Picture: Jon Candy</em>

Tributes to Gary Speed at Cardiff City Stadium. Picture: Jon Candy

By Stewart Weir

Saturday
I have seen football played in torrential rain, snow blizzards and pea-soup fog. And I’ve also seen games cancelled and abandoned because of those climatic conditions.

But, I’ve never been to a game postponed or halted for wind, other than for structural or safety reasons. Yet, many a game has been turned into a farce because of it.

I recall one night when Hamilton Accies and Aberdeen battled a gale at the old Douglas Park. There was no football played, and inevitably, when a goal did arrive, it was because the ball was blown off-course, beyond a defender and into the path of a fortunate poacher.

But the game went on. It couldn’t have been too different on Saturday. Motherwell and Dundee United’s SPL tie was stymied by the force of the wind, so much so, that United manager Peter Houston stated it might be another reason for considering shifting the season.

“This weather’s not conducive to any football at all,” Houston said afterwards. “We’ve got to start thinking about summer football again,” he said. “It gets to the stage where it’s not good for Scottish football to play in this weather.”

I’ve never fancied summer football. But to change the calendar because it gets a bit breezy? Give me peace.

I sympathise with Houston. It doesn’t even need to be anywhere near gale force to make a mockery of the players, and short-change the fans. But you can get gales at any time of year. I’ve been to Arbroath, Ayr and Stranraer in August and seen games blown away.

So what next? We can’t play because of bright sunshine? Sorry, but while I can see the valid point you make, like the wind, I can’t see it happening.

Sunday
“Wales manager Gary Speed found dead, aged 42.” I don’t know how many times I read that before it sunk in. Perhaps it hasn’t yet.

I’m not sure whether the shock was heightened by the fact he’d appeared on Football Focus less than a day before, or because of his age, or that he was making a real go of it as Welsh national coach. But it was a shock, and the manner of his death just shocking.

We might never know what happened to a man, who on the face of it had everything; past, present and future. Maybe he saw it differently. What we do know is that no-one saw this coming. This has left many of his friends, team-mates and colleagues broken, shattered and confused, to a man, each thinking that “if only” their friend, team-mate and colleague had asked, they would have helped. And there were plenty out there willing.

For in death, perversely, Gary Speed’s popularity shone. No-one had a bad word to say about him, almost everyone had a different word on him. All of which makes it even more difficult, if not impossible, to comprehend.

I met Gary Speed twice. The first time he was a Newcastle player, on a day off, with Shay Given and another bloke, in their golf gear, coming back from a charity day.

In the queue to pay, I asked him if he’d enjoyed his day, and he spoke to me, telling me where they’d been, what it was for, and how they were dashing back home. Not the sometime-now normal grunt, of pitiful smile some of his ilk greet you with.

A few years on, I met him back stage at the Reebok, two wee boys in tow, like “mini-me’s” following dad after a game. He was doing the sponsors lounge tour. It must have taken him ages, because he spoke to everyone, making the first friendly approach, often to people shy of the “stars”.

Which he was, even though he only ever came across as a really nice person, as he was to everyone who knew him. Making Sunday’s events all the more unimaginable and unfathomable.

Monday
As has been highlighted with the tragic events surrounding Gary Speed, there is tie, a bond, a connection, even a love between those who have played in teams together, and even in opposition. But not always.

There is certainly no love lost between Joe Kapp and Angelo Mosca, the animosity between the two spanning half a century. Sad, although hopefully you will see the funny side of things, which one of this pair just didn’t see.

Tuesday
It used to be that you might get a bit of row brewing around the winner of
BBC’s Sports Personality of the Year – or SPOTY as it’s become.

But now we have a barney just around the announcement of the shortlist.

If I’d been asked to come up with ten nominees, I reckon I might have come up with something close to cyclist Mark Cavendish, Darren Clarke, Luke Donald and Rory McIlroy from golf, cricketers Alastair Cook and Andrew Strauss, runners Mo Farah and Dai Greene, Amir Khan from boxing and tennis ace Andy Murray.

Being honest, I’d have come up with only about five or six, because the rest are just making up the numbers.

However, some are outraged that no women have made that shortlist.

The reason is very simple. None were good enough.

Yes, swimmers Rebecca Adlington and Keri-Anne Payne did well, as Chrissie Wellington who won her fourth ‘Ironman’ world title in October, although I was slightly confused why she didn’t enter the “Ironwoman” event. But against the men, none came close to getting a mention. As I’ve stated, some of the men are in there as padding because at best this is a two or three-horse (stallions only) race.

And by Wednesday, Labour MPs Stella Creasy, Alison McGovern and Joan Walley and the Liberal Democrat Jo Swinson were sounding off. “We are very concerned that, this year, not one single woman has been shortlisted for the public vote,” they said, showing in the same breath how passionate they are about fighting for equality, and their complete ignorance of what actually constitutes a great or worthy sporting achievement.

Wednesday
Celtic lose 1-0 at home to Atletico Madrid in the Europa League, with a goal scored by Arda Turan.

For many however, the culprit was Celtic skipper on the night Berem Kayal, who a day after sticking his nose above the parapets to declare Celtic had better players than Old Firm rivals Rangers, withdrew his head as Turan’s shot flew towards the Celtic goal.

“He misjudged the flight of the ball,” said manager Neil Lennon, defending Kayal from criticism. I have to say, playing hockey and cricket, any time I misjudged the flight of a ball it tended to smack me in the kisser.

Of course, people see things in different ways. Listen and watch goalkeeper Fraser Forster’s view of Kayal’s “misjudgment”’

A tad different to his manager’s take.

Thursday
Having declared my love, or otherwise, for Power Snooker last week, it appears that it’s not as popular now as it once was – like a week ago – amongst some of the players.

The turnaround in favour stems from news that Ronnie O’Sullivan demanded, and was paid, a fee of around £25,000 to play in the Manchester event.

His passion and enthusiasm for the events wasn’t lost on some who commented (mostly on Twitter) at how Ronnie really hyped the tournament in his interviews, and how he’d bought into the concept, when the reality was, the concept had bought into him.

Former world champion Neil Robertson – and one of those guaranteed a minimum of £3,000 – was upset and vocal. “If a tournament needs one player for it to happen, [it] shouldn’t be on at all… I wouldn’t want to see this happening in ranking events because you could see players holding the game to ransom.”

The word Robertson forgot as a suffix there was “again”.

Ronnie admitted a few years ago he almost bankrupted the game because the powers that be decided a decade ago to pay him fortunes just to be the face of snooker.

Ten years on, it would appear, nothing much has changed.

Friday
Almost a fortnight has passed since me and my good chum Mike Graham, talkSport’s nightshiftmeister ruler, imperial wizard and grand pooh-bah of the Independent Republic Of Mike Graham, chatted about football at the Olympics.

Since that July day all them years ago, when the London bid was successful, the home football nations have been at odds about a Team GB, England appearing the singular supplier of talent as the Celtic nations protect their individuality and identity against the evil intentions of Herr Blatter, allegedly.

What Mike and I raised was that despite their vehement opposition to a united team, Northern Ireland, Wales and Scotland could do nothing if a player decided they wanted to be more British than Celtic (and not in a Mo Johnston or Kenny Miller way either).

Wales had a shot flashed across their bows when Gareth Bale declared an interest in being an Olympian, and now Scotland’s Jamie Mackie has voiced similar intent.

Mike and I both came to the same conclusion, namely, whilst rhetoric and their stance may appear brave, what teeth did the Celtic countries have if someone decided they wanted to don the red, white and blue.

Today, now the question has been tabled, we get the answer. A big fat nothing, zero, zilch.

SFA Chief Exec Stewart Regan says he won’t stand in the way of the QPR striker, mainly because he can’t without having some restraint of trade charge levelled against him and the Association.

So good luck to Jamie. And I say that to all the players. But just remember your regular employers, the clubs, might have a slightly different take nearer the time.

It might have been his Olympic dream, but Craig Moore’s insistence that he wanted to represent Australia in the 2004 Athens Games saw him stripped of the captaincy at Rangers and transfer-listed.

Manager at the time at Ibrox, Alex McLeish, wanted Moore for club, while the player wanted country. The latter got his way, and got the Aussie shirt with five rings on it. But then had to find one to wear the rest of the time when the fun and Games were over.

Mackie might not be the first. But then, I don’t think Moore will be the last either.

Tweet Stewart Weir with thoughts and comments, @sweirz

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