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Crystal Palace

Celtic — Winners of the Scottish Double 2013

Saturday
JUST under a year ago, Scottish Football Association chief executive Stewart Regan said the Scottish game faced ‘Armageddon’ when clubs voted not to allow newco Rangers to join the SPL.

SFA

SFA

“We are faced with a situation some say is meltdown and some say Armageddon. There are no winners, there are only losers in this,” warned Regan.

So, Mr Regan, if there are no winners, only losers, what category do you come under having pocketed a £33,000 pay rise? It emerged today that the man who has presided over the most shambolic period in the history of football in Scotland, gained a 13.5 per cent rise to take him to a yearly salary of just £280,425.

Put another way, that £33k equates as a 12-month shirt sponsorship deal for a Scottish Football League Division One club.

So, when Stewart Regan next appears on your TV screen, spouting off about the financial constraints in the Scottish game, and how money is scarce, always have at the back of your mind that here is a man who obviously lives, and works, by the mantra, “do as I say, not as I do …”

When it comes to sporting pay days, few deserve them more than professional boxers.

Carl Froch was deserving of the plaudits, his titles, and the increase in his bank balance after beating Denmark’s Mikkel Kessler in an epic contest at London’s O2 Arena to retain his IBF super-middleweight crown. Froch’s performance was brilliant, especially from what was a titanic eighth round onwards, to take a unanimous decision, winning 118-110, 116-112 and 115-113 on the three judges’ scorecards, one of whom, was either watching a different fight or had previously only ever scored cake making competitions …

Sunday

Kimi Raikkonen Grand Prix photo credit: Mark Hintsa via photopin cc

Kimi Raikkonen
Grand Prix
photo credit: Mark Hintsa via photopin cc

There is nothing quite like the glamour of the Monaco Grand Prix. Even though I’ve been to the Principality, and driven and walked the circuit (a stroll greatly aided by the bars along the route), I still haven’t quite worked out how they manage to run an F1 race there.

Today, I feel extremely old. Thirty years ago, I watched Keke Rosberg win. In 2013, it’s the turn of his son Nico to take the chequered flag for Mercedes. Back in 1983, Rosberg Snr ended his race with a massive blister on the palm of his hand, testament to the hundreds of manual gear changes he had to make. Today, all that constantly changing up and down would at best have given Rosberg Jnr sore thumbs. It’s called technological advancement.

One man who might have had something considerably more painful to worry about if Lotus’s Kimi Raikkonen had his way was Sergio Perez. The McLaren driver made a series of aggressive overtaking moves during the race, collecting Raikkonen in one such manoeuvre. It’s not the first time Perez has angered his fellow racers, but the Finn had his own ideas on how to curb Perez’s exuberance.

Asked if the drivers would talk to Perez, Raikkonen said: “That won’t help. Maybe someone should punch him in the face.” Kimi can be thankful he survived the incident, and, that F1 isn’t governed by the SFA, who’d have him wheeled into Hampden to explain his comments …

Today of course, was the SFA’s showpiece occasion, the Scottish Cup final, with Celtic completing the domestic double by seeing off Hibs 3-0. Congratulations to Neil Lennon and Celtic, but it would have been nice to see Hibs end their 111-year hoodoo. It will happen eventually. Once they’ve worked out how to defend …

Monday
Crystal Palace FC LogoA solitary goal from 39-year-old Kevin Phillips is enough to see Crystal Palace defeated Watford in the Championship play-off final at Wembley and secure a place in the English Premier League for next term. The build-up and hype surrounding this game is quite phenomenal, the value placed upon being £120 million. Staggering, given the Champions League Final a few days before at the same venue, was apparently worth just €10.5m to Bayern Munich.

Palace can look forward to £60m next year, even if they finish bottom of the English Premier League, and subsequent ‘parachute’ payments over the next four years (if relegated) of £22m, £18m, £10m and £10m respectively. Puts that TV deal for Scottish football in perspective …

Tuesday
No sooner has Sir Chris Hoy told BBC Radio 5 live he does not want to get involved in the “hornet’s nest” of the Scottish independence referendum debate than he is being stung by criticism following his observation that Scots could find it harder to compete at Olympic level if the country were independent.

Sir Chris Hoy

Sir Chris Hoy

Given that he probably knows more than most about what goes in to producing elite athletes, and presumably an independent Scotland would be interested developing such talent, Hoy’s opinion surely should be considered rather than condemned. No?

Well, no. Despite saying “I don’t want to get drawn into it” Hoy found himself labelled ‘a traitor’ in some quarters for voicing his concerns, and for the merest mention of his pride at being both Scots and British.

Funnily enough, Rangers new boy Jon Daly was also branded ‘a traitor’ by some this week, and he’s neither Scots or British. What’s that all about then?

Wednesday
And Northampton hooker Dylan Hartley won’t appeal against his 11-week ban after being found guilty of verbally abusing referee Wayne Barnes in the Premiership final against Leicester. The Saints’ captain was sent off for swearing at Barnes and calling him a “cheat” after a penalty went against his team. And Hartley’s decision not to appeal ruled him out of the Lions tour to Australia. Costly or what.

Just a suggestion. But if you want some discipline back in football, look at rugby and the penalties they impose. And I don’t mean three points either.

Thursday
Cardiff City FC LogoA mixture of fan power and intense lobbying on social media has forced Cardiff City owners in to giving supporters a say on what colour of shorts the team will wear in the Premier League next season. While Cardiff’s home shirt remains red, the original shorts in the new design were shown as an even darker shade of red. Now fans will be asked if they want to keep that unpopular combo, go for shorts matching the shirt colour, or opt instead for either white or black pants.

I wish there had been a fifth choice – inspired by Sammy Nelson. Younger readers may want to Google him …

Friday
Walter Smith is now Chairman of Rangers. I suppose it was inevitable given that the man he assisted for many years, Dundee United’s Jim McLean, also rose to achieve such office. Radio and TV reporters however, will be hoping Walter doesn’t end his tenure in a similar fashion to ‘wee Jum’ …

Sportacus – or Francesco Totti? <em>Picture: Daniel C Griliopoulos</em>

Sportacus – or Francesco Totti? Picture: Daniel C Griliopoulos

By Stewart Weir

Saturday
And the Six Nations draws to a close with the usual amount of cheers and tears. Scotland beat Italy to avoid the wooden spoon – or, given the close relationship between the two nations, maybe it should have been the ice cream scoop.

But the big event saw England fall at the final hurdle to the Irish, so missing out on a Grand Slam. I mean, they only had to turn up to win, such was the 1990-like pre-match hype. That result meant that Wales had a chance of taking the championship, if they beat France by 28 points.

Who the hell started heaping such expectation on Wales in advance of the match in Paris?

Regardless, it was ill-founded, with the French running out easy winners – so handing, if you have been following things, the title to England. They received the series trophy, not in front of 70,000 spectators at the Aviva Stadium, but witnessed by just a few cameras and photographers in a Dublin Hotel.

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An anti-climax, or what? England had few complaints, despite their rally after the break, soundly beaten 24–8 by an Irish side which had led 17–3 at half-time.

“We won the first half, but England won the second half,” said Irish captain Brian O’Driscoll.

Wait a minute. 17–3 at the turnaround, 24–8 at no-side. Surely Ireland won the second half 7–5?

Poor arithmetic, Brian. Or do you have ambitions to be a future Irish finance minister?

Sunday
Rangers beat Celtic 2–1 to take the Scottish League Cup. But that’s not the football highlight of the weekend.

Fiorentina and Roma playing out a 2–2 draw is hardly a scoreline to set pulses racing. But in scoring two goals for Roma, Francesco Totti (who has more than a passing resemblance to Sportacus from Lazy Town, minus the moustache) reached the landmark tally of 200 goals in Serie A.

To put that in to context, Serie A is more than a century old. But Totti is only the sixth player to reach that elusive mark. Giuseppe Meazza and Silvio Piola from the 1930s, and Gunnar Nordahl and José Altafini from the 50s and 60s, had their double-hundred before Roberto Baggio (the unthinking man’s Stevie Fulton) arrived, some 33 years after Altafini.

A decade on, and Totti has emulated their feat. But at the age of 34, he might not add too many more to his collection and certainly doesn’t have a hope of catching Piola’s all-time high of 274.

Of those still playing in Italy’s top flight, only Alessandro Del Piero is close to becoming the seventh member of this exclusive club.

Indeed, it’s not so much a case of marvelling at who has netted 200 goals in Serie A, as recognising the famous names who didn’t even come close: Gabriel Batistuta on 184, Luigi Riva and Roberto Mancini each with 156, while on 142 is Christian Vieri, who does not make tellies for Panasonic…

But returning to the League Cup, do you realise petrol was only 88p a litre when Celtic last won a trophy? Yes, that long…

Monday
It would have been easy to miss it. But the draw for the Betfred World Snooker Championship took place on Monday, where 16 seeds were matched with 16 qualifiers to decide the first round proper at the Crucible.

There was a bit more razzmatazz about the draw, as there is with most things concerning Barry Hearn. No more the draw being held on the radio (which ended in a cock-up when the same player was drawn against two different opponents), or in secret, as it was a few years ago, the outcome held over for a day before being announced. Did I hear the word “fix”?

But even Monday’s event was a pale and poor imitation of what was once the norm, when the draw took place at peak-viewing time on a Saturday afternoon as a main feature on Grandstand. Snooker may still be as popular, but it just doesn’t feature as near the front of the Beeb’s sportfolio…

Tuesday
No sooner had Rangers placed the Co-operative Insurance Cup in their trophy cabinet, than they heard they would be defending the Scottish Communities League Cup next season.

There probably has never been such an extreme switch in where sponsorship cash has been sourced. From the Co-op – mutual, benevolent, social and community based – to the £1 million promised by Scottish government from pimping, fraud and drugs.

Sorry. It doesn’t come directly from the Scottish government’s activities in pimping, money laundering and the likes. The investment actually comes from cash seized from criminals, through the Proceeds of Crime Act.

The Proceeds of Crime Cup? Now that would get you recognised. I hear the Colombian authorities are looking at having a Cocaine Bowl next season.

And just a thought. After all the brouhaha of the Old Firm game at Parkhead a few weeks ago, could there be a chance in the future where troublesome managers and players – already threatened by authorities and polis alike – might end up as unsuspecting sponsors of a cup competition their teams are entered in?

Wednesday
And Elizabeth Taylor dies. Many mourn her passing. I just reflect on the small fortune she probably cost me over the years.

See, because of her, I fell for the likes of Charlotte Brew, Jenny Hembrow, Linda Sheedy, Geraldine Rees, Joy Carrier, Valerie Alder, Jacqui Oliver, Gee Armytage, Venetia Williams, Penny Ffitch-Heyes, Tarnya Davies and Rosemary Henderson. Not in the way you would “fall” for a movie star.

No. I thought that at least one of them would follow Liz and win the Grand National, just as she did on Pie, by Two Get One Free out of The Local Bakery (that’s not an offer to look out for on your next shopping trip, but the sire and dam), in the 1944 film National Velvet.

So muggins here always thought that the dream world of the big screen might just become reality. Much to the delight of my local bookie.

Ach, he’s not bad really. If I stick twenty quid on them, he does give me 500/1 every year on Kilnockie winning the Scottish Cup.

Thursday
Talking about Hollywood, that thingy called YouTube (or YouYaTube, as the rival Glesca derivative is known) makes stars out of ordinary folk. Just film it, edit and stick it up, and before very long there you are, entertaining people you have never been formally introduced to, who are laughing at your expense.

This blockbuster was sent to me the other day. No animals were harmed in the making of this video. However, the same cannot be said for pies and pints.

Judge for yourself, and please tell me a) if Voiceover Man from The X Factor has anything to worry about, b) if this is not the best hand-off you’ve ever seen and c) do people’s arses look bigger on screen?

PS – Should anyone take exception to this offering, my name is Roddy fae Selkirk…

Friday
I suspect like a great many, I get confused over who can play for who at international level. It’s now become the norm that you can play for anyone, even if you have represented a different country at an under-age level.

Take Victor Moses, sold to Wigan a few years ago as cash-strapped Crystal Palace hawked off any talent they had. Despite playing for England at under-17, under-19 and under-21 level, Moses might play for Nigeria against Ethiopia in the Africa Cup of Nations – which, apart from the word “of”, is ostensibly the same as the old African Nations Cup.

Moses was born in Kaduna, Nigeria, but has dual nationality. He may, quite possibly, have triple nationality. But Ireland are not sure whether they have a claim because of the similarity between national flags.

Anyway, the FIFA police are not happy because protocols and paperwork haven’t been completed, making Moses ineligible, or at least until someone finds a pen.

But hang on. Could Scotland have a claim? I mean, we had Jordan. And Moses would have been nothing without Joe…

Surely Moses is a British or UK passport holder. I’m sure someone at Wigan could have a word with him. Maybe James McCarthy for instance. Oh, maybe not the best choice there.

Of course, Nigeria have bigger problems. Goalkeeper Victor Enyeama has been ruled out of the game because of an ankle injury, and sadly not because he’d accidentally been stuck up someone’s arse…

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