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Celtic

Good looking male cyclists more likely to win?
(Picture: Wikipedia)

Saturday
The abuse aimed at Celtic manager Neil Lennon at Tynecastle was everything that is bad about Scottish society let alone Scottish football.

Neil Lennon (Creative commons)

Neil Lennon
(Creative commons)

But how quickly did some attempt to turn this incident into an anti-Irish, racist or sectarian attack? Probably the same people who believe that every act or crime committed within a footballing environment has to be categorised under one of those headings.

I’m sorry, but football does attract it’s share of eejits, idiots, numpties, bampots and wee neds, their actions dictated not by hate, racism or sectarianism, but because they are eejits, idiots, numpties, bampots and wee neds. And usually drunk with it. If only the same time had been spent legislating against them …

Sunday
Scotland kick-off their Six Nations campaign in Dublin, and kept pace with the Irish until just before half-time. Well, it was good while it lasted …

MetLife Stadium 2A bit like the contest at the MetLife Stadium in New York where the Seattle Seahawks crushed Denver Broncos 43-8 to take Super Bowl XLVIII. In a game dominated by stats, perhaps the numbers that resonated most with Scots viewing this TV spectacular was that each 30 second advert during the match cost $4m to air. Or put another way, three adverts is the equivalent of the SPFL’s current TV deal, give or take a few quid.

Of course, this isn’t a true comparison or measurement as the adverts during the Super Bowl come from sponsors. Something the SPFL don’t have to deal with …

Monday
Perhaps it wasn’t expected with his side sitting level on points with Falkirk at the top of the SPFL Championship, but John Brown quits as Dundee boss, confirmed in one of those standard issue press releases.

“Dundee FC and manager John Brown have today announced they are to part company by mutual agreement,” added their statement. Mutual agreement yes. I do wish someone would measure how much mutual respect there was between both sides when someone loses their job. Now, that would be worth releasing …

Michael Laudrup

Michael Laudrup

Tuesday
In Wales, Swansea admit they have “parted company” with manager Michael Laudrup, the Dane leaving the club with immediate effect following a decision that chairman Huw Jenkins said was “taken reluctantly”. Last season, Laudrup won the League Cup and this season, knocked Manchester United out of the FA Cup. But one win in 10 Premier League matches left the Swans facing the prospect of a relegation battle.

Maybe Laudrup’s star has falling a bit. Maybe Swansea are just finding their true level. And maybe, some clubs should just realise how good they have had it at times …

Wednesday
And findings published in the Royal Society journal Biology Letters reveal that good looking male cyclists are more likely to finish first in a bike race than less good looking guys. Scientists came up with these findings after asking men and women to rate the attractiveness of 80 professional elite cyclists who finished the 2012 Tour de France. The study took the form of an online survey, each one containing the photos of 40 of the cyclists in a random order, so confirming a relationship between attractiveness and performance.

I am delighted to say then that my love for Chris Hoy is entirely scientifically based. I’m sure he is equally delighted by that fact …

Caley Thistle LogoThursday
League Cup finalists Inverness Caley Thistle suspend their youth team defender Joe Gorman after he posts a sectarian comment on Twitter. Gorman had viewed Ross Kemp’s ‘Extreme World’ programme on Sky One, which visited Belfast and Londonderry. He then posted a comment stating: “Ross Kemp in Belfast talking about the troubles … wouldn’t you love to open up on all them orange men.”

Just how unlucky was Gorman that folk not only read his comment, but also took screen grabs. And now the polis and Vincent Lunny at the SFA are taking an interest. At least he hasn’t claimed that he was set up, or that his account was hacked, yet …

Friday
Talking of hacking, Eric Djemba-Djemba’s Wikipedia page suffered a bit of rewriting. Remarkable how it remained untouched and unscathed, until he arrived in Paisley. It’s occasionally difficult on Wiki to work out what is fact and what is fiction, but it reliably informed me yesterday that the former Manchester United player and now St Mirren new boy had been educated at Eton.

I’m sure someone will ask him about that at his first post-match presser …

New Zealand celebrate their victory
(Picture from Facebook)

Saturday
I like my boxing, especially meaningful fights. Fitting that bill handsomely was the world super-middleweight title contest between Carl Froch and George Groves.

Carl Froch (Picture from Wikipedia)

Carl Froch
(Picture from Wikipedia)

This was always going to be a belter (excusing the pun) especially after the build-up; no holds barred, no love lost. And it was the same afterwards following referee Howard Foster’s controversial decision to stop the contest in the ninth round with challenger Groves ahead on most people’s cards. Some said Forster was premature in stepping in as IBF and WBA champion Froch unleashed a series of blows on the challenger. Not so Froch, who reckoned Forster had saved Groves’ career; not so the British Boxing Board of Control, who subsequently backed the man in the middle.

I didn’t have a problem with the decision. Forster had a split second to react, all it takes for untold damage to be done to any fighter. I’d much rather be talking next time about the various acronyms who control boxing and who sponsor these titles and belts than the one mentioned when some boxers careers have been ended prematurely. Like RIP …

Sunday
The mantra of playing till the end could have been made for the rugby players of New Zealand. The day after their Rugby League stars held on to their world crown by beating England 20-18 in the final minute of their World Cup semi-final at Wembley.

Ireland_rugbyHeartbreaking for the English, matched on Sunday when their Irish Union counterparts were beaten 24-22, Ryan Crotty’s try well after the 80 minutes had expired tying the contest, Aaron Cruden kicking the clinching conversion, given a second attempt thanks to some overly-keen Irishmen encroaching. That denied the Irish their first win over the All Blacks in 109 years of trying, losing 26 of 27 previous encounters, a draw in 1973 at Lansdowne Road their only ‘success.’

Cruden’s kick did however mean the world champions ended 2013 with a perfect 14 wins from 14 starts. If you want to see the difference between a good team and a great team, watch a re-run of this game – after the clock had gone red. Playing to the end, and beyond …

Monday
After England’s capitulation in the First Test those wondering what’s they’d have to write about with the match finishing a day early quickly got their answer.

Jonathan Trott Returned home from the Ashes Tour (Pic: Public Domain)

Jonathan Trott
Returned home from the Ashes Tour
(Pic: Public Domain)

On the back of a going over with the ball by bowler Mitchell Johnson, and verbally by David Warner, England’s Jonathan Trott leaves the Ashes tour of Australia because of a long-standing stress-related condition. Warner’s comments about Trott (“the way that Trotty got out today was pretty poor and weak”) meet with disapproval from England captain Alastair Cook who branded the Aussie opener “disrespectful” while former Australian skipper Steve Waugh said Warner had “crossed the line.”

Meanwhile current Australia captain Michael Clarke was fined 20 per cent of his match fee for telling James Anderson “to expect a broken arm,” his comments picked up on a stump microphone.

Sledging – the verbal bating that goes on during matches – is nothing new. I doubt even if this was the most serious example of it in Australia-England battles, and neither do I believe the Australians are entirely at fault. Was Anderson and Stuart Broad inviting various Aussie batsmen around for cucumber sandwiches and tea when they dismissed them or beat the outside edge? Oh, they were!

Trott’s departure has put another slant on sledging and there is obvious concern about the matter now going by the comments from Australian pace bowler Peter Siddle about sledging.

“It’s just natural. It wasn’t any different to normal. If it hadn’t of been on the mic a lot people would not have said so much about it. The most disappointing thing is that it actually came up (on the broadcast). It’s not meant to at that time and it is very stiff for Michael (Clarke). There was a lot of other stuff going on and James Anderson was in the thick of it and a culprit for it all happening. Anderson brought it on himself. So fair’s fair.”

Good to end on a conciliatory note …

Tuesday
The shortlist for BBC’s Sports Personality of The Year is announced with winner Andy Murray joined by those making up the numbers, namely athletes Mo Farah, Christine Ohuruogu and Hannah Cockroft, cyclist Chris Froome, golfer Justin Rose, Sir Ben Ainslie from the world of sailing, jump racing legend AP McCoy, British Lions star cricketer Leigh Halfpenny and Ian Bell, the England cricketer.

Andy Murray

Andy Murray

They, beyond anyone else, met the criteria set which were: to reflect UK sporting achievements on the national and/or international stage; represent the breadth and depth of UK sports, and; take into account ‘impact’ over and beyond the sport or sporting achievement in question. Adjudicating on who best met those criteria were BBC representatives Barbara Slater (director of BBC Sport); Philip Bernie (head of TV sport); Carl Doran (executive editor of Sports Personality of the Year) and Mark Pougatch who occasionally pops up on other TV channels but was on this occasion the voice of Radio 5 Live.

The opinions of the written press were gleaned from Alison Kervin, Adam Sills and Dominic Hart, respective sports editors from The Mail on Sunday, The Mirror and The Telegraph, with former nominees Baroness Tanni-Grey Thompson, Dame Kelly Holmes and Marcus Trescothick accompanied by Liz Nicholl, chief executive of UK Sport, former SPoTY host Sue Barker.

And between them, they decided that neither Carl Froch nor Ronnie O’Sullivan, world champions in boxing and snooker respectively, were worthy of consideration. I’m so glad I don’t know as much about sport as that esteemed panel …

Wednesday
I’m working my way through the Scottish independence Referendum White Paper. I thought I’d better read it first before deciding who was going to get one for Christmas. But finally, I’ve reached the ‘Sport’ heading. And what an interesting Q & A it is.

Sport

218. Will Scotland have its own Olympics and Paralympics teams? Yes. Scotland currently meets all of the qualifying requirements of the International Olympic and Paralympic Committees (IOC), other than being an independent state. Arrangements will be put in place to ensure that Scottish athletes were able to compete in Rio 2016 by attending any necessary qualifying events in the lead up to Rio 2016. This work would be undertaken in parallel to the wider governance arrangements required for Olympic and Paralympic accreditation, establishing Scottish Olympic and Paralympic Committees and transferring functions currently undertaken at UK level. It is only through independence that Scotland can have its own teams for the next Olympics and Paralympics.

The White Paper

The White Paper

219. Will independence affect who can play for the Scottish rugby and football teams? No. The criteria to play for Scotland at a sport are set by each world governing body (FIFA for football, IRB for rugby etc) and not by the Scottish or Westminster Governments.

220. Will Scottish football teams still be able to compete in FIFA and UEFA competitions? Yes. The Scottish Football Association (SFA) is already a member of FIFA, the world governing body for football. Likewise, the SFA is also an affiliate member of UEFA (Union of European Football Associations).

221. Will an independent Scotland still be able to host the Open Golf Tournament? Yes. The Royal and Ancient are responsible for determining the venue of the Open. Scotland is the home of golf and Scottish golf clubs will continue to be part of the rota to host the Open championships. Both the 2015 and 2016 events are planned for Scotland.

222. How will an independent Scotland ensure that elite sport continues to secure appropriate levels of funding and facilities? Scotland already has a number of world class competition and training facilities. Our national agency for sport (sportscotland) has responsibility for all aspects of community and performance sport up to Commonwealth Games level. It will be for the Parliament of an independent Scotland to decide how best to generate and deploy this resource to the benefit of Scottish sport in future.

223. Would all Scottish athletes have to compete for Scotland or would they be free to represent the likes of “Team GB”? Athletes are currently free to choose which country they represent providing they meet that country’s relevant qualifying criteria. Whilst the Scottish Government hopes that all athletes who are qualified to represent Scotland will do so, this is a personal decision.

Little did I realise that sport could become so simplified when you are an independent nation, or have nothing to do with football as an industry or business in Scotland. Not sure who was asking the questions (probably the combined might of the SPoTY panel), but I couldn’t help but notice a couple of glaring omissions.

Would the British & Irish Lions become the British & Irish & Scottish Lions? When would Scotland win the football World Cup? Will snooker and elephant polo become part of the school and education curriculum?

Having read this leaflet, cover to cover, we deserve answers …

Thursday
And after UEFA launch an investigation in to banners and slogans displayed by the Green Brigade during the Champions League tie against AC Milan, and the SPFL steal the idea of doing the same in relation to events at last weekend’s Aberdeen game, Celtic chief executive Peter Lawwell responds with a terse statement. Lawwell claimed the incident “was nothing more than clear disrespect for the club and our supporters who now face another UEFA charge.

Celtic Logo“There have now been a number of UEFA charges made against the club during the last three years, relating to behaviour, displays and pyrotechnics – it cannot go on any further. Let’s be very clear. Following the actions of a small minority, these charges are made against the CLUB. It is the reputation of Celtic, our great club and our great fans which is damaged, while others carry on indulging in such behaviour. Regardless of the political views people hold, football stadia, whether it is Celtic Park or anywhere else, should not be used to promote these.”

Strong words, but still only that. As everyone knows, actions speak louder than words. And Celtic’s actions up until now, namely outrage followed threats, followed by, eh, more outrage when it happens again, and more threats, scare no-one.

A good start would checking and searching people entering the ground to see if they are carrying these massive banners. I know, innovative thinking. Personally, I think the talents of the Green Brigade are being wasted here. With such a talent for words they should join the Stadium Scrabble Tour in America. I wonder who’ll be first to Google it?

Cricket Scotland Logo portraitIn other news, Scotland fail to qualify for next year’s World Twenty20 following an eight-wicket defeat by the Netherlands. So, Scotland will stay at home again while the likes of Afghanistan and Nepal (yes, you did read that correctly), will be in action in Bangladesh in March.

I tried desperately not to be too critical. But in cricket, Scotland is going backwards. In 2005 we won the ICC Tournament staged in Ireland, and eight years on we are losing out to nations who most people don’t even know play cricket – and that’s within Afghanistan and Nepal! Questions must be asked – though please, not by the SPoTY panel or independence White Paper authors …

Friday
And a Happy Birthday to Ryan Giggs, 40-years young, still playing for Manchester United. He puts his longevity and youthfulness down to yoga. Not sure about the first bit, but I put his youthfulness down to the fact he’s successfully avoided football management …

The day ends with the shocking news of a police helicopter crashing into a Glasgow pub. Not a time for jokes, unless of course, you are golfer Steve Elkington. You may recall him from The Open at Royal Birkdale when he Tweeted; “Things about Southport England … -fat tattooed guy -fat tattooed girl -trash -ice cream stored guy -Pakistani robber guy -shit food.”

Difficult to see how anyone could surpass those insults, but Elkington did just that minutes after the helicopter came down on the Clutha Bar.

“Helicopter crashes into Scottish Pub… Locals report that no beers were spilt…”

Not surprisingly, big, brave @elkpga quickly removed the tweet, but then explained “sorry … heard it just flopped on top.” A bit like your thought process, Steve …

The Shipyards at Govan and Scotstoun survive

The deal the UK government seems to be offering Scotland is: you can have a shipbuilding industry on the Clyde but only if you vote against independence next year. It follows the announcement from the shipbuilding company BAE Systems that it is cutting 835 jobs from its workforce of 3,200 on the Clyde and ceasing shipbuilding altogether in Portsmouth, with the loss of 940 jobs. It’s all because of a shortage of orders, as work on the Royal Navy’s two aircraft carriers come to an end.

There were once shipyards all along the Clyde (Pic: believed to be Creative Commons)

There were once shipyards all along the Clyde
(Pic: believed to be Creative Commons)

Shipbuilding is one of those totemic industries which defines a country’s manhood. The men of the Clyde are seen as the girders of Scotland’s economy and culture. These were the men who once built a quarter of all the world’s ships, producing from their ranks self-made politicians, film stars and football managers. Losing over 800 Red Clydesiders is a body blow to the personage of Scotia. Their loss is not quite like 800 jobs going in retail or electronics or local government…though of course the economic effect is just the same.

This is why shipbuilding has become a big political issue and has entered the debate over independence. The UK government has thrown a lifeline to the two Clyde yards, Govan and Scotstoun, in the form of a contract to build three navy patrol vessels in the immediate future. And it has dangled the carrot of big contracts in the longer term for a series of new type 26 frigates – if there is a No vote on independence.

Johann Lamont Accused the SNP Government of putting jobs on the Clyde at risk

Johann Lamont
Accused the SNP Government of putting jobs on the Clyde at risk

At question time in the Scottish Parliament on Thursday, the two women of the Clyde, the SNP’s Nicola Sturgeon and Labour’s Johann Lamont, fought like sea lions over the issue. They both have constituency interests in the shipyards. Ms Lamont said the SNP was putting the remaining jobs on the Clyde at risk because no British government would agree to building its frigates outside Britain. Ms Sturgeon said any British government would recognised that the Clyde was the best place to have frigates built and indeed the only place, since Portsmouth was now out of the running. It would make sense for an independent Scotland and the rest of Britain to enter into an international partnership, with other countries too, to have their frigates built on the Clyde.

The whole issue has raised another embarrassing question: why has so little been done to broaden to the base of the Scottish shipbuilding industry? It is almost totally reliant on government contracts, either for the navy or the nationalised ferry service. Why are the North Sea oil companies or the freight shippers or the cruise liner firms not ordering their vessels from Scottish yards? Norway, apparently, has 42 shipbuilding yards producing a hundred boats a year. The Clyde alone used to have 19 shipyards – this was in 1913 when they employed 70,000 men and were launching a ship every day of the year. Now we only have the two BAE yards and Ferguson’s (only employing 150 staff) and a scattering of small yards around the east coast. (And two of those have closed this year: in Buckie and Eyemouth.)

Grangemouth - another totem of Scottish industry

Grangemouth – another totem of Scottish industry

We came close to losing Govan and Scotstoun this week, just as we were close to losing the Grangemouth refinery last week. Both show how Scottish industry is failing to keep pace with change and failing to invest for the future.

By the way, the Grangemouth affair smouldered on this week. The shop steward convenor Stephen Deans not only quit his job at the company but he is also standing down as chairman of the local Labour Party in Falkirk West. And we still haven’t got to the bottom of what went on over the selection of a parliamentary candidate in the constituency. David Miliband has ruled out an inquiry, despite Ms Lamont and Alistair Darling suggesting a further investigation would clear the acrid air.

There was quite a bit of acrid air on Bonfire Night this year. The new all-Scotland fire service reported that it had attended 1,075 incidents and fire crews had come under attack from vandals at 20 of them. Some Celtic fans also disgraced themselves that same Wednesday night by fighting with Ajax supporters in Amsterdam. The team itself went down 1: Nil in what the manager Neil Lennon himself described as an “insipid” performance.

In short it’s been a week when the worms have been eating away at our national pride. They have even attacked the hallowed turf of Murrayfield. Groundsmen have used an unusual tactic against the nematodes, spraying the pitch with garlic. I wonder what the place will smell like when we play against Japan on Saturday.

Inside McDiarmid Park, Home of St Johnstone FC
(Picture from Wikipedia)

Saturday
For all that the main stream media – both in print and over the airwaves – would downplay the importance or significance of social media, I can’t help notice just how many column inches and broadcast minutes are given over to Celtic manager Neil Lennon’s views about Twitter … More the power of football than of social media.

Sunday
St Johnstone LogoAnother Sunday and another live football match from the SPFL, this time Perth where St Johnstone host Motherwell watched by just 2449. I used to listen to Ernie Walker and Jim Farry, thinking they were purveyors of doom and gloom, scaremongering with their warnings of what live television would do to attendances and gates in Scotland.

‘Rubbish’ was my immediate response, naively believing that the true supporter would always turn up. I just didn’t think that the ‘true supporter’ of Scottish football would eventually sit in his living room more than any grandstand, and pick up a remote control before tickets or a scarf.

But hey, a lot of thought went into this ‘successful’ SPFL model, so let’s not be too quick to knock it. At least give it until February …

Monday
This would be the morning after the night before out in India where some of the sponsors potion might well be needed after Red Bull’s Sebastian Vettel clinched his fourth consecutive world title with victory in the Indian Grand Prix, a feat previously on achieved by legends Juan Manuel Fangio and Michael Schumacher.

Indian Grand Prix (Pic from Vimeo)

Indian Grand Prix
(Pic from Vimeo)

The win was Vettel’s sixth in succession, 10th in total this year and he could yet match Schumacher’s record of 13 wins in a single season.

Yet, just as in Belgium, Canada and Singapore, Vettel found his success greeted by jeering and boos, much to the upset of the 26-year-old German.

Unfortunately, brilliant as he and his car might be, like Schumacher before him Vettel is blamed by many for turning F1 into a nothing more than a glitzy, hugely expensive procession, and a great many have just become bored with Grand Pri-zzzzzzzzzzz …

Tuesday
The first League Cup quarter-final is played out in the Highland capital when Inverness Caley Thistle beat Dundee United 2-1 although that appeared to be the least significant action on the night.

Nadir Ciftci

Nadir Ciftci

United had ended the game with ten men after striker Nadir Ciftci had been sent off during a mass brawl. On seeing a replay of his offence – which was near impossible to miss on the TV footage – I commented that such actions (grabbing across an opponents face) in rugby would result in a 16-week ban.

Not according to some on Twitter, who took great exception to the press (and my) witch hunt against Ciftci, with near-fanatical claims of his innocence and that it was no more than ‘handbags.’ What those United fans, defending the indefensible, were not aware of (and to be honest I had only heard whispers of) was that in addition to his sending off for violent conduct, the Turkish striker had also been accused of excessive misconduct for allegedly “seizing” assistant referee Gavin Harris – by the throat.

So rather than just a three-match ban, Ciftci could indeed face a 16-game suspension from the SFA. I’ve tried my best. But it is difficult to underplay the severity of a player trying to throttle a match official and a potential 16-match ban, although I suppose you could categorise it as simply ‘muckle great handbags …’

Wednesday
Boston Red Sox win the World Series. We’re talking baseball here and no, you can’t be out for hitting the ball in to the neighbours garden.

Boston Red Sox LogoI doubt there has been a more hirsute team ever to win a world title – possibly with the exception of the Saudi Arabian side that won the 1989 under-17 World Cup – than the Red Sox, with ‘beards that even the Taliban might admire.’ Not my words but those of PJ Crowley, former US Assistant Secretary of State!

The Red Sox 6-1 Series clinching win over the St Louis Cardinals at Fenway Park was watched by owner John W.Henry, who had seen his franchise go from worst to first in a season. Henry, as you may know, also owns Liverpool. So no pressure on you now, Brendan Rodgers. This week The Arsenal, next week, the World …

Thursday
We live in a litigious society, bombarded by adverts and promises of how to lodge successful claims for tripping, falling, and in the case of TV presenter Andrew Castle, putting yourself in danger by making such adverts while walking around someone operating a lathe without safety glasses on. Tut tut Andy.

Alex Cisak

Alex Cisak

I can only think one of these adverts popped up on the screen one evening when Burnley ‘keeper Alex Cisak was watching. Cisak was injured five years ago while playing for Leicester City’s youth team, breaking his wrist. It was Cisak’s claim that Dr Bhaskar Bhowal allowed him to resume training before his wrist fracture had fully healed – a claim denied by the surgeon.

So Cisak decided to sue the surgeon claiming he had been left in pain after an operation on his wrist. Indeed the High Court was told that the goalie could only save a handful of shots before pain returned and that he was ‘predominantly using his left arm.’ Another satisfied plaintiff. Or not quite.

Barrister John Whitting QC, acting on behalf of the Leicester Hospital surgeon, offered evidence in the form of an unbiased and accurate match report that described Cisak as “agile” and “smart”. Whittling stated: “It is difficult to see how a goalkeeper playing at an extremely high level can get rave reviews if he could only use one arm,” at which point the full-time whistle sounded on Cisak’s case, the goalkeeper withdrawing his claim though he must pay the surgeon’s costs.

Who says newspaper football reports are not accurate evidence?

Friday

Pat Fenlon Picture from Wikipedia

Pat Fenlon
Picture from Wikipedia

After that midweek League Cup loss to Hearts it was only a matter of time before Pat Fenlon parted company with Hibs. What few expected was that it would be a double-departure day with James Traynor, Rangers Communications Director, leaving Ibrox.

It gives me no pleasure to say ‘told you so,’ but I couldn’t see him lasting a year in that role, especially having visited Jim in his bunker beneath the Govan Stand. It was a job fraught with difficulty, made all the more troublesome by those who had actually given him the job in the first place.

Still, better out of it probably. I mean Rangers, not journalism … I think ….

David Beckham
Creative Commons

Saturday
And there are tears before bedtime. Nothing to do with Bonnie Tyler falling short of the mark in the Eurovision Song Contest.

David Beckham Creative Commons

David Beckham
Creative Commons

No, world football bids a fond farewell to David Beckham, who bows out of the professional game after just 847 games when substituted during Paris Saint-Germain’s game against Brest. Having made him captain for the evening, coach Carlo Ancelotti called time on Beckham that evening to allow him a standing ovation in front of 45,000 at the Parc des Princes. Beckham departed on a high, having helped PSG secure the French title, a fourth domestic championship for the 115-times capped England star having helped Manchester United, Real Madrid and LA Galaxy to national league titles.

And to think some 15 years ago, effigies of the Old Trafford youngster were being strung up after his red card against Argentina during the World Cup in France. Seems to have bounced back from that over-reaction, does he not? I always wondered how his career would have panned out if it hadn’t been for Wimbledon (and Scotland) ‘keeper Neil Sullivan’s dubious positioning when Becks chipped from inside his own half to score ‘that’ goal.

Throughout his career Beckham was a bit of a Marmite Man, either liked or loathed, but it would be difficult for anyone to say that as a player, he worked tirelessly to perfect what talents he had.
Given his ability, what he achieved, and the brand he created from his career, Beckham is amongst the greats from his generation.

As I’ve said, not everyone will see it that way, amongst them former England winger Chris Waddle, who didn’t think Beckham would feature in the top 1000 players in English football over the last 40 years. Really? But then, you have to wonder how good a judge Waddle is. I mean, this was the guy who thought he could score a penalty in a World Cup semi-final, and who thought he could sing, and thought that mullet he owned was the height of fashion ….

Sunday
Via TwitterIt’s the final day of the SPL season and an afternoon of celebration for St Johnstone who clinch the final remaining Europa League place when they beat Motherwell and Inverness Caley Thistle come up short against neighbours Ross County. People continually speak of the friendly rivalry between the Highland teams, although the relationship was being stretched last weekend given the reaction of some agitated Caley Thistle fans, and may even have taken a sinister twist going by the reaction of the would-be hitman in the shades. I’m indebted to Ronnie MacKay of the Scottish Sun for the photo, and to another of my eagle-eyed former apprentices, Stewart Todd, for identifying the menace in the Ray-Bans. Judge for yourself

Sunday always sees Hibs ace Leigh Griffiths presented with the Scottish Football Writers’ Association ‘Player of the Year’ award in Glasgow, a worthy recipient, and it would appear, someone who has the ability to laugh at himself. Having been presented with the award, Griffiths went on to thank everyone, but did admit these occasions were coasting him a fortune on baby sitters! Thinking about it, and given his strike rate, maybe keeping him out of the house is saving money him long term …

Monday
Tynecastle StadiumSPL Chairman Ralph Topping says that after an intensive forensic investigation by their legal eagles, there is no case for Hearts to answer in to events surrounding the collapse of their Lithuanian owners UBIG or Ukio Bankas. Given the lack of information coming out of Vilnius, it would have been impossible for the SPL not to decide, at this point in time, that there was no case against Hearts. And for once, many journalists sided with the SPL having also drawn a blank when searching for answers amongst the Lithuanian authorities.

So Hearts dodge an 18-point penalty, and relegation, although they could face sanctions from the start of next season should they go into administration. “So what?” appeared to be the attitude of many Jambos, having guaranteed top-flight status for next term. So what indeed. Although I’d bottle some of that dismissiveness for whenever the administrators arrive from Lithuania asking for the £25m pronto …

Tuesday
And Celtic midfielder Kris Commons announces his retirement from international football after winning 12 Scotland caps. Most people would thank him for his contribution, but did it really merit a headline (‘Commons Retires’) spread across the front page of one daily newspaper? I think not.

Nothing against Commons, but his tally of 12 appearances puts him level with a Celtic legend, the late Bobby Murdoch, a Lisbon Lion, a SFWA ‘Player of the Year’ and the scorer of a wonderful goal against West Germany at Hampden in a World Cup qualifier. But Murdoch came from a generation when your international ‘retirement’ came when you stopped playing, for good. He also belonged to an era where there were fewer games, and, Scotland had a wealth of talent to choose from, not handing caps out for good attendance …

Wednesday

Mick McManus

Mick McManus

I think most people of a certain generation will have been saddened by the news that wrestler Mick McManus had passed away. McManus was one of the best known sporting faces on TV’s through a couple of decades through his appearances on ITV’s ‘World of Sport’ and late-night midweek programmes that were a firm favourite with grapple fans. Twitter was awash with memories of tight-fitting Speedos and outrageous stage names, like Rollerball Rocco, Dynamite Kid and Tally Ho Kaye. Of course, one of the most famous, and infamous names on the bill around then was Kendo Nagasaki.

And who better to comment on the passing of the legendary McManus than the masked mauler. That’s what the Press Association’s Mark Staniforth thought. The response he got could maybe fall into the category of ‘overplaying ones character.’ Here it is here. Those of you who enjoyed the theatre of freestyle wrestling, and want to hear more from Mr Nagasaki (highly amusing interview) you should tune into BBC4 on Sunday evening (10.05pm) for the Timeshift documentary When Wrestling Was Golden: Grapples, Grunts and Grannies. Well worth a watch …

Thursday
Hampden 2Another Hampden meeting, another day of indecision and division. Those who thought there would be peace in our time when it came to the Scottish Football League clubs accepting the proposals set out for reconstruction by the Scottish Premier League, got it wrong, again.

No disgrace in that however. So far, no-one has got it right, starting with the 42 senior clubs in Scotland. So a vote is now proposed for next month when the democratic will of the 30 SFL clubs will prevail. And if democracy doesn’t prevail in favour of the First Division clubs, they’ll pick up their ball and ask to join the SPL’s game.

Which begs the question; Why go though the entire sham of meetings and votes if and SPL2 has been the intention of some for at least two months? Actually, forget what I said about picking up balls. There is a distinct lack of them around just now …

Friday
A Champions League final, a Scottish Cup final, and a Championship Play-Off Final. Plenty to watch, if you are a football fan this Bank Holiday weekend. But, you might want to get out an about. So why not pop along here

Yes, just a few weeks ago, Ronnie O’Sullivan pocketed a cool £250,000 for winning the world snooker title, although as he admitted, his re-appearance on snooker’s biggest stage was only to pay outstanding school fees. I can only imaging that charging thirty quid a pop for his signature is to fund the packed lunches …

Is Snooker still as popular on TV?

Saturday
The world snooker championship breaks out in Sheffield with Ronnie O’Sullivan appearing through the curtain like someone who’d just been away on a Mr Benn-like sabbatical. It wouldn’t be the same without the defending champion, now would it?

Locked FridgeBut some would say that the world championship isn’t the same as it once was. Yes, it’s still at The Crucible Theatre, and yes, it’s still a 17-day marathon. And yes, the BBC still turn up in force, even if on the first day, they successfully manage to alienate countless supporters by ditching coverage of a sport made famous during the 70’s by the likes of John Spencer, in favour of one of that decades most famous comedic characters, Frank Spencer.

Still that broadcast balls-up gave the press corps, which has dwindled in numbers over the years, something to write about, and take their minds off more pressing issues like the above sight. The last thing anyone in the press room, sorry, media centre, needed on the opening day, was to see ice cold bottles of beer waving out of a chained refrigerator. An unforgivable act, unthinkable 20 years ago. See what I mean about it not being the same?

Sunday

Luis Suarez

Luis Suarez

Luis Suarez is talented, near flawless, as a player. The same sadly cannot be said about his character. Last season, he brought shame on Liverpool and his profession after being found guilty of making racist comments to Patrice Evra. Today, his actions bring further shame on his club and trade when he decides to have a bite at Chelsea stopper Branislav Ivanovic.

It was once of the most unbelievable incidents seen on a British football pitch, but nothing new for Suarez who during his Ajax days, munched on PSV’s Otman Bakkal. For that starter, he received a seven-game suspension.

However, if Suarez’s actions were amazing and shocking, so were the comments made in his defence over the coming days. Like the Evra episode, Liverpool fans and club officials appeared to be queuing up to defend what countless saw as being the indefensible, voicing their outrage at the perceived hounding of this habitual felon, and subsequently at the 10-match ban the FA would eventually impose on him.

That’s eighteen games missed in little over a year through suspensions. Yet, it is unthinkable Liverpool would consider getting rid of him, their only player of true class. Which perhaps shows how Liverpool’s standards have slipped, both on and off the pitch.

Monday

New Douglas Park

New Douglas Park

New Douglas Park hosts a meeting of Scottish Football League Division One clubs – plus Dundee and Queen of the South – to discuss league reconstruction, that non-event which continues to threaten to happen.

Over the next few days, I speak to club representatives who were involved in those discussions, and to a man, each of them mentioned the same thing: a word used by Dundee chief executive Scot Gardiner who said, that under the rejected SPL deal, the top-tier clubs would ‘endow the First Division with cash.’ A strange choice of word and phrase, more likely to be used by Russell Brand. Even stranger that he used it three times in the same gathering. To endow, gives a notion of it coming after death. Probably correct then, in the context of the SPL. Or that it is some form of insurance, which could be correct again, given the SPL and their reconstruction proposals have been nothing but one big car crash.

Tuesday
You can’t have a world snooker championship without some controversy and the subject of slow play is raised again after Graeme Dott and Peter Ebdon take over seven hours – and an additional session – to complete their match. Dott perhaps has felt the effects of slow play – some would call it gamesmanship – more than most, having had his world championship success 2006 labelled the dullest final on record, ironically, when playing Ebdon.

“Is Peter cheating?” asked Dott. ” No, because there isn’t a rule and there should be a rule brought in for slow play.

“I think he’s been playing for 25 years and he knows the shot he’s going to play and I know the shot and the crowd know the shot, and he’ll still take maybe over a minute.”

The thought of a shot clock at The Crucible is one many a traditionalist would cringe at. But snooker supremo Barry Hearn probably wouldn’t be one of them, having introduced the concept into his Premier League event a number of years ago. And, as every clock needs a manufacturer, that would mean another sponsorship opportunity to be exploited, I mean embraced …

Bayern Munich LogoWednesday
After Bayern Munich humbled Barcelona 4-0 the previous evening, Borussia Dortmund thump Real Madrid 4-1 in their Champions League semi-final to make the prospect of an all-German final a very real possibility. Just think, 100,000 Germans in London for the final at Wembley. How long would it take before the towels appeared over the seats some asked. I merely wondered, that in terms of tour plans, if there were any copies of Operation Sealion still kicking around …

Thursday
There appear to be a certain amount of consternation out Parkhead way after the announcement of the nominations for the Scottish PFA Player of the Year. Celtic manager Neil Lennon thought it ‘abysmal’ that none of his players had made the last four, listed as Michael Higdon, Leigh Griffiths, Niall McGinn and Andrew Shinnie, or for some, the big boy at Motherwell, the maddie at Hibs, that guy Celtic didn’t want and the Highlander that’s going to Birmingham.

Parkhead Stadium

Parkhead Stadium

But later in the day, SPFA’s chief exec Fraser Wishart revealed that seven Celtic players had received votes, but not enough to get them in to the top four. In other words, they split their vote, and limited their chances. That can happen when a team is full of contributors in a successful season. That can also happen in any democratic vote, a fact totally lost on some.

Of course, as soon as someone moans, others think it’s a good idea to pontificate about it could be better. Some reckoned six nominations would be better. After all, that’s what they do in England. But that’s fine in England, where they have double the players in the top division, and fine if you have some outstanding candidates, as we had this season.

However, those of us who have been around these parts long enough, will recall years where you could have one star turn and several others who just make up the numbers so a we can have an election and not just a coronation. No, leave be at four candidates, but think about printing up a guide to the SPFA’s voting process for the appalled and the apologists …

Friday
With golf being reintroduced back into the Olympics it has thrown up several questions over qualification that just are not covered by any R&A Rules book. Golfers Graeme McDowell and Rory McIlroy face the dilemma of who they should play – Great Britian or Ireland – for come the 2016 Olympics. Indeed McDowell would like the decision on who he represents at the 2016 Olympics to be made by the IOC. It’s impossible to play golf without balls. Pity McDowell can’t show some by making the call himself.

Their future in question….?

We’ve been discussing the issue which most concerns us Scots…..money. The Chancellor George Osborne came north on Tuesday to warn us that if we vote for independence next year we could not count on remaining in the Sterling zone, our banks might no longer be allowed to issue Sterling bank notes and we would probably be reduced to using groats and bawbees as our economy slid the way of Greece and Cyprus.

Pound CoinsActually, he didn’t quite say that last bit, but others did, as they drew inspiration from the Iron Lady’s son. What he did say was scary enough: “Abandoning current arrangements would represent a very deep dive indeed into uncharted waters.” He suggested it might not be “worth it” for the rest of the UK to agree to a currency pact with an independent Scotland.

The Osborne Treasury has brought out a paper outlining four options an independent Scotland might have as regards its currency. We could try to negotiate our way into the Sterling zone – perhaps with a place on the monetary policy committee. We could just use Sterling anyway, without a currency pact. We could join the Euro zone. Or we could issue our own currency, and this is where the “groat” suggestion comes in ( the Scottish four pence piece first introduced in 1357) and the “bawbee” ( the six pence piece first introduced in 1537).

Chancellor George Osborne

Chancellor George Osborne

All of the above, the No campaigners say, would be to Scotland’s disadvantage and would tie our hands more than the present Unionist arrangement. But at first minister’s question time in parliament on Thursday Alex Salmond laughed this off as “scaremongering” and said Scotland’s £50bn a year of natural resources would guarantee our currency’s future. He waved a thick blue report in the air, a report from his panel of economic experts, which recommends that an independent Scotland should do what George Osborne seems to be ruling out: namely, negotiating a place in the Sterling zone.

Highland-Spring-LogoBut politics is the art of the impossible. And so is economics it seems, for while most of us are struggling through hard times, Scotland’s richest 100 citizens have seen their wealth grow very nicely, some by up to 60 per cent. We now have six billionaires in Scotland, according to the Sunday Times rich list. Top of the pile is Mahdi al-Tajir, said to be worth £1.6bn. His business interests are worldwide, mainly in oil and metals, and often in interesting places like the United Arab Emirates, Liechtenstein and the Cayman Islands. Born in Preston in Lancashire, Mr al-Tajir is classed as Scottish because he owns an estate in Perthshire and the bottled water company Highland Spring.

Next on the list comes the whisky families, the Grants and the Gordons, then Sir Ian Wood the Aberdeen oil magnate, then the Thomson family, owners of the Dundee Courier. The last two to make it into the billionaire bracket are the transport tycoon Alastair Salvesen and boss of the engineering company Clyde Blowers Jim McColl. But Lord Laidlaw, the conference organiser, is pretty rich at £770m. So are the bus entrepreneurs Brian Souter and Ann Gloag. JK Rowling is number 9. And the poor old Duke of Sutherland comes in at number 10 with a mere £525m to his name.

Giant Panda Tian Tian at  Edinburgh Zoo

Giant Panda Tian Tian at
Edinburgh Zoo

Strangely missing from the Sunday Times list is Sir Tom Hunter, the sports shop entrepreneur and philanthropist but perhaps he’s given away all his money. And Sir Tom Farmer, another famous philanthropist, appears to be down to his last £132m.

But these aren’t the only money spinners in Scotland. Edinburgh Zoo’s pandas appear to have restored the zoo’s financial fortunes, making it the second most visited tourist attraction in Scotland, after Edinburgh Castle. Visitor numbers were up more than 50 per cent on the year before the charming couple arrived in a diplomatic bag from China. This week, incidentally, they “mated” with a little help from zoo staff.

And since we are following the money, I suppose I have to mention football. Yet again, the professional clubs have failed to agree on a reform of the league structure. Largely, I gather, it’s a dispute over money but in the impenetrable babble of the game it’s difficult to tell . And the shenanigans at Rangers Football Club have taken another strange twist which would challenge the best shake charmers in India.

The man who “saved” the club Charles Green has resigned as chief executive amid claims that he was in cahoots with the former owner Craig Whyte over the purchase of the club. Mr Whyte in turn is now claiming ownership of Rangers’ assets and , through another company, has reported Mr Green to the Serious Fraud Office. Meanwhile, a new chief executive has been appointed, businessman Craig Mather from Nottingham, who now has to steer Rangers back to respectability and up from the third division to which it was consigned last year because of its financial chicanery.

The absence of Rangers has meant a more or less automatic victory for Celtic in the Premier League and it duly took its title last weekend with a resounding 4-1 win over Caledonian Thistle. The manger Neil Lennon declared he was the “happiest man in the country” and I hope he was not talking about money.

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 .

Saturday
The conclusion to 2013 Six Nations Championship was one to remember as WRU Logo Chamions 2013Wales beat England handsomely to land the title, and deny Stuart Lancaster’s team a Grand Slam. It was one of those games that made you smile, not just because of the manner in which the Welsh won, but because so many experts called it so completely wrong.

The word ‘narrow’, or the phrase ‘just a few points’ were regularly used when it came to predicting what might separate these sides at the end of 80 minutes. The 27-point winning margin the Welsh achieved kicked all predictions in to touch.

“England’s bubble has been burst,” said World Cup-winning coach Sir Clive Woodward. And he would know. For there was a man who regularly had his balloon pricked as he went for titles and Slams while in charge of England. In 1999 it was Scott Gibbs who did the damage at Wembley, while a year later in the rain at Murrayfield, Andy Nicol led the Scots to a memorable, if unexpected, Calcutta Cup win, so denying England the Grand Slam. In 2001, with the competition fragmented by foot and mouth, England fell at the final hurdle again when confronted by Ireland, and the following term, while it wasn’t in the final game, France halted English title ambitions. Sir Chris HoyWoodward came good in 2003, delivering the World Cup. So, Stuart Lancaster, that’s how you overcome disappointment.

Down Under, the F1 season starts in Melbourne, albeit a damp one which means that final qualifying isn’t completed until the morning of the race. As part of the big day, a bunch celebrities raced around the Albert Park circuit in Mazda 6’s, amongst them Olympic legend Sir Chris Hoy, who managed to finish second in his race, but only after knocking the corners off his car during practice. The phrase ‘one careful owner’ doesn’t apply to these cars, especially the one in Frame 3!

Sunday
Seldom on March 17, is St Patrick ever overshadowed by another saint. But today it’s St Mirren’s day as they beat Hearts 3-2 to take the Scottish League Cup, the club’s first major trophy since 1987.

St Mirren LogoWe’ve all known for sometime that the Cup competitions present the best opportunity for clubs outside Glasgow’s big two, to collect some silverware. St Mirren’s success at Hampden meant that six different clubs have won the last six domestic knockout tournaments. So it can be done. It would just be nice, in the case of the league Cup, if some teams – and some fans – took it a bit more seriously at an earlier stage.

Monday
Any poll, survey, chart or Top 10, 20 or 100 is likely to cause disagreement of one sort or another. The Herald, in what is a quiet week leading up to an unimportant World Cup qualifier against Wales, decide to reveal their 50 Greatest Scottish Footballers.

Davie CooperOn day one, ‘the humble jury of Herald journalists’ create a bit of a stooshie by naming Davie Cooper at No.48, three places behind Pat Stanton. Whether this was an attention-grabbing ploy, or an attention-deficit disorder, I’m not sure. Personally, I wouldn’t have had Stanton on the same page as Cooper, let alone ahead of him. But again, football is about opinions, and they cover themselves by claiming the criteria for inclusion must necessarily be vague.

Interestingly, they quote the great Bob Cramspey. “Once players reach a certain level an appreciation of their relative worth is subjective.” Crampsey, who I sat with for many an hour as he compiled his ‘Ask Bob’ column for the Evening Times, also reckoned Cooper was one of the few players who would be considered watchable by any generation. Which, I think, would be enough alone to see him better than 48th by any standard …

Tuesday
Having already sacked Steve Kean in September and Henning Berg in December, Championship side Blackburn Rovers axe manager Michael Appleton after 15 games and just 67 days at Ewood Park. It would appear every manager Blackburn employs is of the interim variety. Either that, they’ve signed up to one of those day-to-day rolling contracts …

Wednesday
I wake up to find one of the tabloids proclaiming that a movie is to be made about Celtic founder Brother Walfrid with none other than Daniel Day Lewis in the starring role.

Brother Wilfrid StatueOf course, when it comes to Scottish football at the movies, nothing, not even Greegory’s Girl, can come close to A Shot At Glory, which starred Holywood great Robert Duvall and the legend that is Ally McCoist. The BBC’s Rob Maclean concurred, suggesting the movie even had a cult following. I’m sure that’s what he tweeted.

Whether Brother Walfrid’s tale, about how he set up a sporting club to help poor families in the East End of Glasgow (or the Kelly’s and White’s as they were better known), ever reaches the production stage, it is unlikely to be as bewilderingly surreal as the making of A Shot At Glory, and the sideshow that was Scottish football’s lesser lights being drawn towards the bright lights.

There are certain things you see in life that make you blink twice and look again. Seeing wee Bob Duvall at the Scottish Football Writers Association’s annual dinner in the company of former Airdrie assistant manager John McVeigh was one such moment, as was witnessing Batman (Michael Keating) at Boghead, or Hermann Goring (Brian Cox) at Rugby Park. As my now-deceased former Evening Times colleague Alan Davidson made mention, “this travelling circus might be more entertaining than the movie itself.” Who am I to argue …

Thursday
Pietro MenneaSad news today that Italy’s former 200m world record holder and Olympic champion Pietro Mennea has died, aged 60.

At the Moscow Olympics in 1980, Mennea denied Scotland’s Alan Wells a golden sprint double. Talking to Wells about that race, he once told me; “He (Mennea) was capable of anything. You were never sure what he was going to do. Sometimes, I don’t think he did either.”

It is a measure of Mennea’s ability that in 1979, he set a then-world best over the distance in Mexico, a mark still not bettered by a European athlete. Indeed, it took 17 years before his time of 19.72 secs was beaten by Michael Johnson at the 1996 Atlanta Games, Johnson’s record since bettered by Jamaica’s Usain Bolt.

Farewell to a true sprint great!

Friday
The Craig Levein Effect is still alive and kicking. Still adverts being fired around on social media telling us tickets are still available for tonight’s World Cup qualifier at Hampden against Wales. And to think the lengths people went to just to get briefs for Anfield in 1977 or Cardiff eight years later.

According to former Wales star Mickey Thomas, this is the worst Scottish team ever. Thanks for that Mickey. Yes, Scotland might not be enjoying the qualifying successes achieved a couple of decades ago. But when did Wales last qualify for a World Cup or European Championship finals tournament? Not even in my living memory. You need to go back to 1958 to find a World Cup finals event that featured Wales, a nation that invented the Eisteddfod just so they could win it.

Saturday
It has always appeared easier than it looks over the years, playing for Celtic or Rangers in Scotland’s top flight and winning most of the shiny prizes on offer, especially to those who have never really witnessed it up close up.

Celtic LogoThe latest to fall into the trap was some unsuspecting scribbler for The Times, who praised Celtic’s Fraser Forster to the hilt for his efforts over the piece against Juventus in the Champions League, then threw in the comment about just what an easy day the Englishman would have in Dingwall, “an idle afternoon twiddling his thumbs.” Those who saw the second and third Ross County goals as they defeated the SPL champions-elect, may heartily agree with Matt Hughes’ ‘Darlinda-like’ prediction of how Forster would spend part of his day.

If that outcome was a shock, what was shocking was the attendance at McDiarmid Park where just 2,425 turned out to watch St Johnstone beat Kilmarnock and go fourth in the table. If that’s what securing a place in the top six attracts to your abode in mid-March, how many do you think would take an interest in the Saints if they happen to miss out on the top eight of the new proposed league set-up this time next year?

And no, I don’t believe the theory of those missing souls being last-minute Mother’s Day shoppers …

Sunday
There is a good chance the pandas at Edinburgh Zoo broke off from what pandas in zoos around the world do badly, and even an outside chance a few Welshman sobered up sufficiently long enough to watch in disbelief as Leigh Griffiths smashed home Hibs Logoa free-kick in the Edinburgh derby to give Hibs er, a 0-0 draw against Hearts at Easter Road.

Yup, the goal, the great goal, that never was. The one get-out for the incompetent officials was that goal-line technology would have probably missed it was well, given the cameras would have been focused on a foot either side of the line and not five-foot over it. After such a catastrophic error, something good must come out of it. And it looks as if it will, for although results are still at an early stage, we might never see Frank Lampard’s ‘goal’ against Germany in the World Cup ever again …

Monday
HampdenParkAfter a lengthy meeting at Hampden, the Scottish Premier League clubs announce they will vote on league restructuring on 15 April. Keep that date in mind. Because I bet you now, not a day will go past without some twist or turn being reported, or some club or another changing their mind or jumping ship. Or, as my money is on, the whole thing being scuppered by disillusioned SFL teams who will kill-off the proposal by talking it to death and running out of time …

Tuesday
Poor Kyle Hutton. He’s a Rangers player if you didn’t know. And maybe those who support the club, and believe they pay his wages, were still a bit sore at the weekend loss to Annan Athletic at Ibrox, and were just waiting for any unsuspecting player they knew to Tweet around lunchtime on Tuesday that they’d finished training for the day, and were heading off home to watch the rest of a DVD box set. Not what the Bears wanted to read. And some of the responses were certainly not what young Mr Hutton wanted to read either.

Back in 2011, Niall McGinn, then at Celtic, Tweeted he was consoling himself for not making the pre-season trip to Australia with a jaunt to the local Nando’s with a mate. It didn’t take long for Nandos Logosome of the Parkhead faithful to suggest he spent less time scoffing chicken and more time training. It would appear you can’t win.

I don’t have a problem with sportsmen chilling after they’ve trained or practiced. I spent much of my weekend in the company of current and former professional rugby players who knew exactly what they needed to do to stay in the best physical shape possible and how much rest and recuperation they required. Some could have been better at certain things, and some were better than they ever thought possible. But to a man they all knew how much work and dedication they had put in to achieve that standard.

So without really knowing all the background to Kyle Hutton’s day, it’s hard to be too critical. What I do know is that those who have made it to the very top of their profession, didn’t take too Jonny Wilkinsonmany afternoons off to laze with a remote control in their hand.

Like late on afternoon, watching ball after ball after ball split the posts at Newcastle Falcons ground, when eventually I had to ask Doddie Weir who that was that didn’t miss. “That’s young Jonny,” nodded Dod. Jonny Wilkinson practiced himself to a standstill on occasions. But he made himself the best. Made? Because, while he was naturally left-footed, practice made him just as deadly with the right boot. Remember that World Cup winning drop-goal?

I noted over the Festive period one Olympian claiming they had been out and trained on Christmas Day. Well done to them.

Daley Thompson used to do the same, morning and afternoon, so that even if his greatest rival trained on Christmas Day, the double-Olympic champion had still put twice the shift in his closest challenger had. Or then there was Stephen Hendry, who used to practice on a Saturday morning, not because he had to, but because he could. That repetition became second-nature, whether in practice or sinking balls for money at The Crucible. And of course, we all know David Beckham, Gareth Bale and that Ronaldo bloke all woke up one morning to find they could hit unstoppable free-kicks. Well, actually no.

Just like practice made perfect for them, so former Rangers winger Tommy McLean’s accuracy with a dead-ball came from hours and hours of rehearsal, pinging the ball off the crossbar at the local park. If he missed, he would have to chase the ball down a hill. So he didn’t miss. And obviously, given the career he had with Kilmarnock and at Ibrox, didn’t miss having a DVD player either …

Wednesday
I’m left wondering what the next stunt will be from those trying to steer Scottish football towards their utopia, or 12-12-18 as most people know it. Today it’s the news that clubs bidding for promotion to Scottish football’s top flight would not be required to have any seated areas in their stadiums under league reconstruction plans.

This is 2013, isn’t it?

Even a whisper of this news had the nostalgia brigade calling for standing at all football matches, and for new, purpose-built all-seater stadia to be converted to something from a bygone age. Like Football Terracingevery football fan of a certain age, I once stood to watch football. And I’m sorry, but unlike some, splashing around in other people’s piss never appealed to me then, and doesn’t enthuse me for the future. Neither does struggling to stay upright when a goal is scored. Yet some hanker for those good old days.

It didn’t take long for some to claim that removing seating would make space for more fans. What, like St Johnstone would leap from 2,425 to 3,000? Or 5,000? Or just stay the same?

And what would the cost be to convert back to terracing, once the seating was removed, and the levels re-engineered, and new barriers installed, and more stewarding paid for, and local authority licensing regulations met? I imagine quite a few quid. Jeez, going retro will almost cost as much as that modern day goal-line technology we can’t afford …

Thursday
The price of watching live sport varies around the globe. Compared the Bundesliga for instance, the cost of a ticket in the SPL is considerably more expensive, for what is an identical product (i.e. 22 players running around, chasing a ball, with a referee blowing a whistle.) The same could be said of F1. It’s the same sensation at every race track on the planet, getting your eardrums perforated while seeing unrecognisable cars flash past at high speed. Yet some charge a bit more for the privilege. Guess where? While the cheapest race ticket in the championship costs just £13 (for the Malaysia GP), next Sunday’s season opener in Melbourne can be watched for £66, compared to a whopping £145 for the British GP at Silverstone. Who shouted ‘rip off’?

Only races in Brazil and Abu Dhabi are more expensive than Britain, although they come with guaranteed sun …

Friday
So loads of column inches and web pages dedicated to Craig Brown following his decision to stand down As Aberdeen boss at the end of the season, if not before should a replacement be enticed down from Dingwall. A non-exec position awaits on the Aberdeen board for wee Broon. And there is always the after-dinner circuit.

What a billing, “the last manager to take Scotland to the World Cup finals.” That could see him alright for the next five years at least, or given recent history, possibly longer.