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Easter Road

Saturday
Watching football matches through Twitter – or at least the response of fans to what is happening on the pitch or on TV – is really entertaining at times. Aston Villa found themselves 2-0 up against Manchester United, earning Villa boss Paul Lambert praise and compliments.

“I knew it was only a matter of time before he worked his magic,” said one supporter, while another concluded “Lambert was always the man for this job.”

Three goals for United though saw pleas to “sack this dud Lambert” and claims “he’s no SAF (Sir Alex Ferguson) is he?”

Entertaining indeed, although not as enjoyable as watching the game live. Unless you were a Villa fan …

Sunday
Just a few days after Celtic become unofficial World Club champions after beating Barcelona, arguably the greatest team in the world who happen to be neither champions of Spain or Europe, St Johnstone roll up at Parkhead and earn a draw against the Scottish champions. So, using the logic of some, the Perth side – having taken a point in the East End of Glasgow – must be better than Barca. Yes?

Hey, don’t call me daft. I didn’t start it ….

Monday
When I first hear of the 16-10-18 formation, I think Craig Levein must have gone metric or something. But this actually represents the breakdown of the SFL’s proposal for League reconstruction, the 18 in the third tier actually being sixteen in reality, augmented by youth sides from Celtic and Rangers.

An interesting concept, as is having 42 senior clubs in a country with a population of approximately five million. That has never made any sense to me.

The more I look at the 16-10-16 lay-out though, the more I think that middle division could disappear totally. I know I’ll get shouted down. But in an age (and it has been an age) when everything is becoming leaner and meaner, to be continually adding clubs to get the numbers to stack up makes no sense whatsoever.

Tuesday
And high-flying Hibs confirm they have sacked their stadium announcer for what they describe as ‘breach of contract.’

His crime? To play the song ‘Taxman’ by The Beatles, which some overly-sensitive sorts at Easter Road thought was too much of a poke at rivals Hearts and their on-going problems with HMRC.

For most folk, it seemed a completely disproportionate response to what was no more than a jibe at those across the city. Personally, I think he should be praised by his choice of music. But let’s be honest, MC’s and PA’s have been at this lark for years.

Did other members of their union at various grounds play ‘Daydream Believer’ by The Monkees for its artistic and musical content, or because supporters could sing along and insert insults and the line ‘shite football team’ without damaging the tune?

The role of stadium announcer is obviously one where you have to be quick-witted, but also keep your wits about you. Years ago, I remember being at Fir Park one night for a Motherwell – Rangers game where the man in the box was having a few microphone and speaker problems. A few blows, clicks and taps were met with silence. A shout of ‘testing, testing,’ broke up, but a twiddle of a few knobs, and ‘testing one-two, one-two-three,’ rang out around the ground, if a bit loud. Volume adjusted, he spoke again, this time crying ‘Hello, Hello …’ You can guess what the away support joined in with.

Another night at Ibrox, the announcer asked for a car to be removed,

“A blue Vectra, registration number V383BSY. That’s V for victor, 383, B for Bravo, S for Sierra, Y for Wanky …”

Doesn’t pay to be too clever sometimes.

Wednesday
I’m in the STV studios early for a look at Peter Smith’s exclusive on the detail behind the Rangers share issue ahead of ‘Scotland Tonight.’ So my attentions are elsewhere rather than in Scotland’s annihilation of Luxembourg, or in the Sweden-England international.

It’s not until later I’m made aware of Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s wonder goal, or as it was quickly billed, ‘The Greatest Goal Ever’. Really? Judge for yourself.

Personally, I don’t think it was the best ever. Nowhere near it.

What I will say though, is that it is probably the most spectacular effort scored in a Wednesday international against a goalkeeper 18-yards off his line, in injury time, from a player spouting confidence from the hat-trick he’s already scored.

So yes, the greatest goal ever – in that category …

Thursday
I may have mentioned in the past the interview technique of former Rangers striker Rod Wallace. Whatever you asked, his reply was just a repeat of your question, prefixed with either ‘yes’ or ‘no.’

Today, Celtic scoring sensation Tony Watt is put up for interview having penned a deal to keep him at the club until 2016. The new kid in town, perhaps. But I couldn’t help think I’d heard this interview (or something like it) before.

STV’s Keith Downie asked; “People will think, ‘you’re the next big thing,’ scoring a couple of big goals and you’ve got a new contract. How do you, one, prove that, and how do you also keep your feet on the ground?”

Watt replied; “My feet will never … at least I never got ahead of myself and I just need to keep my feet on the ground. I’ve got to deal with the pressure and people saying ‘I’m the next (big) thing …’

Still he’s young, and he will learn, although some wouldn’t want that.

I can still remember a colleague (who will remain namless) leaving a press conference with Richard Gough saying “he’s just too clever for what we need!”

Friday
Unlike countless professional rugby players, I’m not really a fan of ‘I’m A Celebrity’ and only watch it for the sporting content, and the hope that the celebs get so hungry they eat Ant and Dec.

The sporting interest this year is supplied by multiple world champions from boxing and darts in the form of respective giants David Haye and Eric Bristow.

Last night Bristow showed his mental arithmetic skills by adding up people’s ages to win a prize. This of course is nothing compared to how fast ‘the crafty Cockney’ can rhyme off every permutation of every finishing shot-out from 170 downward, I’d guess quicker than it takes most to throw a dart.

Still, fellow contestant Helen Flanagan looked bewildered at Bristow’s mental agility. Then again, she is a girl who looks bewildered with life …

Helpful for Scotland qualification <em>Picture: alexvc26</em>

Helpful for Scotland qualification Picture: alexvc26

By Stewart Weir

Saturday
Scotland’s Ricky Burns beats Michael Katsidis on points to win the WBO interim lightweight title, his first contest at that weight.

It was a disciplined performance from the Lanarkshire fighter – featured in Weir’s Week previously, not so much for his pugilistic skills but for his artistry. Body art this is, tattoos in other words.

I’m sure he still has space for another couple. However, while he outdid Katsidis on points, the Australian probably won when it came to ink, appearing to have a massive sundial etched on his back. Impressive.

No point in Burns trying for the same. Compared to Queensland, there isn’t much sun in Coatbridge…

Sunday
Saturday’s loss at home to Dunfermline Athletic is all too much for the Easter Road board, who bid farewell to manager Colin Calderwood after just 13 months in the job.

Calderwood had replaced John Hughes, who had replaced Mixu Paatelainen, who had replaced John Collins, who had replaced Tony Mowbray, who had replaced Bobby Williamson, who left in April 2004.

Six managers in seven-and-a-bit years. But by Tuesday, chairman Rod Petrie will claim to have received over 40 applications for the vacancy.

Two things stick out there. If none of the above lasted very long in Leith, why do Hibs think they’ll find better this time around?

And secondly, Petrie didn’t go into specifics about who had applied. I mean, 40 applications is different from 40 applicants. Could there be one man who has sent his CV in two-dozen times? Is anyone that desperate?

Apart from Rod Petrie…

Monday
And the SFA’s performance director Mark Wotte has plenty to say about the state of the Scottish game and where it might be headed.

“You have to set your goals high. How can Uruguay be world no.4 and Scotland not?

“It would be crazy to say Scotland will reach no.4 in the rankings, but you have to believe that you can change things.”

And he’s right. But in the past umpteen years we’ve heard a lot from Dutchmen and how they might change the world, or at least Scotland.

Back in 1995, Rinus Michels was part of Ernie Walker’s SFA “Think Tank” before it sprung a leak. Dick Advocaat was introduced by Rangers in 1998 and will be best remembered, not for unearthing fantastic talent, but for spending fortunes to deliver domestic success.

Now Wotte, the former Southampton manager, is planning great things for Scotland youth.

Fundamental to his performance strategy is the appointment of seven regional performance coaches to work out of appointed schools that will house the most talented kids in the region. He expects that, by 2020, this will have provided six or seven players to the senior squad.

I’m a Dutchmen if it does – but then we all might be…

Tuesday
Just a matter of days after the world found out about his illness, former world heavyweight champion Joe Frazier succumbs to liver cancer.

His passing brought back memories of the halcyon days of the early 1970s, when Frazier formed an historic triumvirate in the heavyweight division, alongside Mohammed Ali and George Foreman.

In many people’s eyes, Frazier was an imposter, merely keeping the world-title belts warm for Ali who had been out of commission, banned by the boxing authorities for refusing to go to Vietnam.

However in March 1971, Frazier hammered the unbeaten Ali – and so, instantaneously, became one of the most famous faces on the planet.

Not just in sport. Up there with the US president, Her Majesty the Queen, and Robert Redford. For that was the standing of the world heavyweight champion at that time.

I had a good chat on-air in the wee sma’ hours with talkSport’s Mike Graham. And what was apparent to both of us was that, despite the moving tributes written and broadcast, so many of those penning or airing those words weren’t around when Frazier and Ali were at their collective peak, and so really had no idea just how big they were, as celebrities, as personalities and as icons.

Maybe that also had something to do with the fact that there were only two versions of the title and there was only one champion – and that everyone had the opportunity to see them in action, albeit on the BBC the following night when most knew the outcome.

A far change from nowadays, where there are so many different divisions of the same weight division, with the action entirely divided up amongst various satellite and pay-for-view networks. Will the current title holders be mourned the same way. I very much doubt it.

Wednesday
A few hours after airing my views on boxing with Mike Graham, I’m back on the airwaves, this time on BBC Radio Scotland with Kaye Adams debating the Scotland national team being full of non-Scots.

Jordan Rhodes, son of former Dunfermline goalie Andy, is the latest Englishman to be “Jockified”, in his case under the “schooling” rule to join the likes of Matt Gilks, Phil Bardsley, James Morrison, Jamie Mackie and Craig Mackail-Smith as adopted Scots, qualifying under various criteria from parents, grandparents, schooling, a liking for Tunnock’s caramel wafers, or owning a West Highland terrier.

Me, I don’t have an issue with it. Scotland might as well play to the same rules and regulations as everyone else. Why handicap yourself by only playing “true-born” Scots, when some “true-born Scots” want to play for other countries, like the Republic of Ireland for instance?

What I do take exception to are those who have played under-21 football elsewhere, then use Scotland as a flag of convenience to become full internationalists. That, pulling on one jersey and then swapping it for another, I just cannot work out, other than believing such folk are just completely mercenary.

All of which reminded me of an evening watching Champions League highlights several years ago, during which I was bemoaning the lack of Scots participating.

“There’s one,” said the better half.

“Eh?”

“And another.”

Asked where exactly, she pointed out “them with the Scottish names” – Benni McCarthy from South Africa and Roy Maakay, a Dutchman. And, at their best, I would have happily taken either as honorary Scotsmen…

Thursday
Snooker supremo Barry Hearn gives an interesting interview to the Yorkshire Post where he admits to blackmailing players

Hearn has been under fire from the likes of Ronnie O’Sullivan, with the former world champion critical of the tactics employed by Hearn to get leading players to play in lesser Players Tour Championship events.

“I made them ranking events to actually force the players into playing,” admitted Hearn.

“Ronnie is quite right that it is a form of blackmail, and I put my hands up and plead guilty. When I don’t do that blackmail, like at a recent invitational event in Brazil, nine out of the top 16 didn’t travel because they probably thought it was a long way to go.

“I should have made it a ranking event and that would have justified Ronnie’s case.”

If Barry is pleading guilty to blackmail, could this start a trend amongst other managers and promoters who might want to admit to charges of neglect, deception, embezzlement, gross mismanagement and the likes?

I’m sure there are several players who could offer up names and suspects…

Friday
The eleventh of the eleventh is a poignant day for many, when those who have made the ultimate sacrifice for their country are remembered.

This week, international associations and players from the Home Nations demanded the right to wear poppies on their shirts. After the intervention of various people, including Prince William, FIFA relented and will allow poppies to be worn on armbands.

FIFA had deemed that the poppy symbol contravened their law on political and/or religious messages on shirts.

However, the poppy is not political, and neither is it religious, although some would argue against both of those truths. It is simply a mark of respect.

FIFA just didn’t get that, and probably still don’t. But then given how that organisation is run, who runs it, and what they’ve managed to miss in recent times, we shouldn’t be surprised they didn’t understand something as simple as paying one’s respect to those who died for their county.

Tweet Stewart Weir with thoughts and comments, @sweirz

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<em>Picture: Fir0002/Flagstaffotos</em>

Picture: Fir0002/Flagstaffotos

By Stewart Weir

Saturday
Manchester, red or blue, had cause for celebration today. A point secured at Blackburn winning United the Premier League title, a goal at Wembley enough to give City their first FA Cup win since 1969. So all happy, then.

Well, not everyone. The last ten minutes at Ewood Park was a bit of a farce, as United settled for the point they needed and relegation-threatened Blackburn for the point they wanted. It was reminiscent of several years ago when Rangers won the title at Easter Road (or, more accurately, Celtic lost it at Fir Park) when Hibs didn’t want to concede another goal or they would have missed out on Europe and Rangers weren’t interested in adding to Nacho Novo’s strike.

City’s win over Stoke City gave them their first pot since the League Cup in 1976. Seems like yesterday!

Of course, if I’d spent £350 million assembling a team, and my goalscorer Yaya Touré was on £220,000 a week (mental arithmetic says that’s £10m a year, which is mental), I’d be expecting to not only win the FA Cup, but the Premier League, the Champions League, the Eurovision Song Contest, Horse of the Year Show, Crufts, a Grammy or two, an Oscar, the US presidential election and the National Lottery at least several times over.

Maybe that shows how easy pleased some people are…

Sunday
It was billed as “Helicopter Sunday”, a day when the ever-changing drama unfolding in Kilmarnock and the Parkhead area of Glasgow deemed air travel as the quickest form of transport.

But the reality was that the SPL could have saved themselves a small fortune in aviation fuel and delivered the silverware to Rugby Park on foot.

Those who had wondered all these years what was actually said in Celtic’s pre-match huddle will be keen to know that, on Sunday, the final words were “Rangers are one-up!”

Not true of course, as the games kicked off simultaneously just to add to the occasion, with the outcome also known simultaneously less than seven minutes later. The title was going back to Ibrox for a 54th time, making it three-in-a-row, and a fitting send-off for Walter Smith.

Kyle Lafferty, much maligned at times, grabbed the match ball with a hat-trick, taking his tally to seven goals in the last six games and maintaining his record of scoring on the last day of the season, just as he did at Tannadice and Easter Road.

Playing away on the final, title-deciding day of the season in three consecutive years? That might be considered cause for a conspiracy in some places.

Lafferty’s goals were important. But arguably no more vital than those from Kenny Miller who hit 21, a phenomenal contribution when compared to the SPL’s other goal machines, especially given that he only lasted half a term before bailing out of Ibrox for Turkey.

Celtic did pick up a trophy on Sunday evening, when Emilio Izaguirre – who already had the Scottish PFA and Premier League awards on his mantelpiece – was similarly honoured by the Scottish Football Writers’ Association. Better than Allan McGregor over a season?

I don’t think so. Not even by a point…

Monday
Honestly, you wait for one bus to run over a trophy, then two come along in the space of a few weeks.

Copying the example set by Real Madrid’s Sergio Ramos, who managed to get the Copa del Rey lodged under a double-decker, Ajax goalkeeper Marteen Stekelenburg fumbles the Eredivisie plate with similar consequences. Admittedly, it does look like a very ornate wheel trim, but there was no need to do this to it.

Stekelenburg is a target to replace Edwin van der Sar at Old Trafford, which could force his transfer fee up by a few million. Not because he’s worth it, but with the number of trophies United win, insurance cover could be astronomical…

Tuesday
An historic day. Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth, visits Dublin – which, by chance, would also host the Europa League final the next day.

Not the usual thronging crowds around for a royal visit, and what did go on was kept in check by the Garda. Of course, if you look at the bigger picture, their job was made a lot easier, not by a lack of interest, or detailed intelligence, or assistance from their British counterparts, but by PSV Eindhoven.

Elsewhere, there appears to be some consternation emanating out of Rugby Park over the number of Rangers fans who filled the stadium for Sunday’s game.

I assume they were Rangers supporters, based on the attendance being 16,173 against a season’s average of just 6,427 (figures courtesy of the SPL’s own website).

Kilmarnock expressed regret at the number of away fans present in home sections at Rugby Park, putting their unhappiness down to safety, segregation and security issues.

It should be noted this had nothing to do with Kilmarnock being unable to charge Rangers supporters, who had bought empty “Kilmarnock” seats, an extra fiver. Of course it didn’t…

And talking of Old Firm fans, Celtic manager Neil Lennon urged supporters to stop offensive songs, saying: “In recent times, there has been a re-emergence, from a small minority, of some of the singing and chanting which is simply not acceptable.”

These songs have at times been inaudible to the human ear and can usually only be picked up by TV and radio effects microphones around the pitch.

BBC Scotland’s Bigotry, Bombs and Football documentary, scheduled for the following evening, highlighted the measures being taken by Strathclyde Police, and both Rangers and Celtic, to curb sectarian behaviour.

Reporter Reevel Alderson revealed that in three years, across their entire area, Strathclyde Police have arrested 800 people for sectarian behaviour. In the past seven seasons, Rangers have banned 548 supporters for a similar offence, and in the past five seasons, Celtic have banned six season-ticket holders for sectarian or offensive behaviour.

Does this mean that (a) Rangers should police Strathclyde, (b) Neil Lennon has drawn attention to a problem that doesn’t exist, or (c) Mark Twain (or was it Disraeli?) was right about lies, damned lies and statistics?

Wednesday
Talking of Strathclyde’s finest, their long-running investigation into alleged match-fixing allegations against snooker players Stephen Maguire and Jamie Burnett is at an end.

Bookmakers alerted authorities to “irregular betting patterns” around the match, which took place during the UK Championship in Telford in November 2008. They had taken numerous bets on the outcome of the match being 9–3 in Maguire’s favour.

Maguire won by that margin. But suspicion was raised by a black missed by Burnett which would have made it 8–4.

And since then, both players have been subjected to scrutiny, rumour-mongering and innuendo.

But all of that should now be put to bed. A Crown Office spokeswoman said: “Following a full and comprehensive investigation the case was reported for the consideration of Crown Counsel who, after careful consideration of all facts and circumstances, decided there is insufficient evidence to justify a criminal prosecution.”

I spoke to both players ahead of the recent world championship, where it was plainly obvious that neither had anything to say, other than how sick they were, because they had nothing to say in the first instance.

I’m guessing here, but after two-and-a-half years, and regardless of the online accounts across Scotland opened on a particular day, you would have thought something would have come to light – if there was anything to come to light.

I’m sure it’s purely coincidental that this news comes just a week after Taggart was made redundant.

Even so, you have to wonder what the game’s governing body is scheming up when WPBSA chairman Jason Ferguson said; “We are treating this case very seriously. We will now be given access to the evidence connected with the case, and our disciplinary committee will review that evidence thoroughly.”

And who do they have on that committee. Hercule Poirot, Jack Regan, Miss Marple?

Or do World Snooker want to bid against Rangers to police Strathclyde?

Thursday
And it’s congratulations to Gary Anderson for winning his first televised PDC title, landing the Premier League with a 10–4 final win over world champion Adrian Lewis at Wembley.

Given the venue, and given the reception Lewis got in Glasgow a few months back, I’m sure he glanced over his shoulder a few times to see if there were any advanced divisions of the Tartan Army making a pilgrimage back to their old haunts.

Brilliant as Anderson did in winning, and in finishing runner-up to Lewis in the world championship final, it’s sad he maybe isn’t getting the recognition he deserves.

If you asked most punters to name a Scots darts player, how many would answer “Jocky Wilson”? But then again, he did make it big.

Friday
London 2012 organisers reveal that they have received more than one million requests for seat tickets for the Olympic men’s 100 metres final – yet only 8,000 will get to carry the Olympic torch for a mile on its journey around the UK. So further enhancing our reputation of being a nation of armchair sportsmen and women…

Tweet Stewart Weir with thoughts and comments, @sweirz

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The Copa del Rey – a bit bashed <em>Picture: Erik1980</em>

The Copa del Rey – a bit bashed Picture: Erik1980

By Stewart Weir

Saturday
Semi-final weekend in the respective premier knockout cup competitions either side of the border, with one tie holding a slight advantage when it came to national interest. And you’ve guessed – it wasn’t Motherwell–St Johnstone.

On a day when Wembley was filled with the blue and red of Manchester, Hampden looked somewhat sorry only a quarter-filled – or, more noticeably, three-quarters empty – with the “hordes” from the shires of Lanark and Perth.

Motherwell deservedly won 3–0, with Saints ‘keeper Peter Enckelman the unfortunate recipient of the “Estate Agents Award”, presented to the man who did most to sell a semi.

But while Jamie Murphy and John Sutton scored crackers, you couldn’t help but notice the empty seats around Hampden, which raises the question – as ever – of why a match like this is ever taken to the National Stadium.

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Justification for building it appears to be the only answer. Because with just under 12,000 deciding the big day wasn’t that big in reality, Tynecastle or Easter Road would have made much better sense.

In the south, City shocked United. The next day, Aberdeen and Bolton were just shocking.

Sunday
From Steeltown to Steel City. I know it began yesterday, but given that it lasts a mere 17 days, there was always going to be time to catch up with the action from Sheffield and the Betfred.com World Snooker Championship.

Saturday brought two big stories. One came before a ball was potted in anger, and was so big it even made the front page of the Scottish Sun. It was the collapse, or near-collapse, of 110sport, snooker’s biggest management stable and a twice-former employer of mine. Indeed, in healthier times, I once was a board director there.

It is a sad state of affairs, which is about all I’m willing to say on the matter as I am restricted for space, something that won’t be a problem when my tale comes out in book form. Take that as the first plug.

Damned or doomed, 110sport’s demise was of their making, nothing to do with events conspiring against them, bad luck, chance or fate.

And certainly not a curse – although the second big snooker headline from the weekend could fall into the category.

No first-time winner of the world title had ever successfully defended the title in Sheffield, hence “the Crucible Curse”. And as if by magic, or other powers we cannot explain, title holder Neil Robertson crashed out, beaten 10–8 by Judd Trump, who this year looks to be fulfilling the potential everyone knew he had.

Speaking to Stephen Hendry last week, he believed Robertson could have been the one to break that trend. But he also conceded that few, other than the person who returned the cup from the previous year, could appreciate the enormity of the task and the expectation around being champion – because regardless of who you are, what you’ve done or how well you are playing, all anyone wants to mention is the dreaded curse.

So the next first-time champ, whoever you may be, be afraid… be very afraid!

Sunday also saw Mandy Fisher, who founded the World Ladies Billiards and Snooker Association 30 years ago, resign as chairman, chairwoman or chairperson (delete where applicable).

Fisher, 49, began the women’s circuit in 1981 and her commitment has been the main reasons it has survived this long. That said, it has always been the very poor relation in the snooker family. While the winner of the world title (an event open to men and women) pockets a quarter of a million, ladies winner Reanne Evans won just £1,000 for retaining her world title in 2010.

“Mandy’s heart was always in the right place,” said former WLBSA secretary and tournament director Jane O’Neill, “[but] there were always the knockers.”

Which many give as the reason why women can’t play…

Monday
And still in Sheffield, Barry Hearn, the Don King of snooker, unveils announcement after announcement for next season.

A ranking event staged in Australia in July (on the back of Robertson’s success), a World Cup in Bangkok, a biennial event where Scotland will be defending champions (and holders since 1996 when since the tournament has been absent never mind bi-anything), and a new format for the Premier League as it becomes a World Snooker event,

Sky Sports will broadcast an event for the next three years, prize money on the circuit will rise to over £6m (although it was once above that) and there will also be the Brazilian Masters, with traditional rules, namely unwaxed balls…

Hearn did however threaten that he wants players to come forward to record a new version of the Chas ‘n’ Dave “classic” Snooker Loopy, which reached number six in the chart 25 years ago.

Who will step up? Hopefully not some clown.

I can also exclusively reveal the song might be revamped to include an instrumental halfway through, just in case Ronnie O’Sullivan doesn’t turn up for his verse.

Tuesday
And the sale of Rangers takes another twist after the club’s chairman, Alastair Johnston, questioned the ability of would-be owner Craig Whyte to fund the reigning Scottish champions to the level required.

Whyte has been reportedly trying to purchase David Murray’s 85 per cent stake in Rangers since last November, thus wiping out their debt with Lloyds Bank.

However, Johnston and some of his fellow board members also want to see money spent on the team.

“Based on the documents we have only been able to review within the last week,” Johnston said, “we are disappointed that they ultimately did not reflect the investment in the club that we were led to believe for the last few months would be a commitment in the purchase agreement.

“Given the requirement to repay the bank in full under the proposed transaction, there appears to be only a relatively modest amount of money available that would positively impact the club’s operations, especially as it relates to an urgent requirement to replenish and upgrade the playing squad.”

As much as he is disappointed, there isn’t a queue outside Ibrox willing to part with £30-odd million to be then told what they should and shouldn’t be doing with their money.

Indeed, there is only one other offer on the table – this sees Rangers FC being exchanged for an apple, a kite (in good repair), a dead rat and a string to swing it with, 12 marbles, part of a Jew’s-harp, a piece of blue bottle glass to look through, a spool cannon, a key that wouldn’t unlock anything, a fragment of chalk, a glass stopper of a decanter, a tin soldier, a couple of tadpoles, six fire-crackers, a kitten with only one eye, a brass door-knob, a dog-collar (but no dog), the handle of a knife, four pieces of orange-peel and a dilapidated old window sash.

That bid offer comes from a Mr T Sawyer, USA. Negotiations are ongoing, although they say there is nothing of significance in the last item listed.

On the field, Rangers ease past an equally dilapidated Dundee United 4–0. So easy was it that striker Nikica Jelavić had to amuse himself in other ways.

And this week’s competition is: from Paul Mitchell’s commentary, what would you pay good money for?

Wednesday
And as if nothing ever happened, Paul McBride QC will not now face legal action from the Scottish Football Association after expressing regret over recent criticism.

McBride had attacked the SFA after Rangers trio Ally McCoist, Madjid Bougherra and El-Hadji Diouf escaped further bans for their part the “Debacle of Parkhead XXVII” (as you can tell, there have been a few over the years).

McBride had represented Celtic boss Neil Lennon over his disciplinary charge and had accused the SFA of bias, publically stating they were “the laughing stock of world football” and “had been shown to be not merely dysfunctional and not merely dishonest but biased”.

Then he changed his mind, mentioning in his excuse note that he recognised “that offence has been taken to my remarks by the Scottish Football Association as an organisation, its council and its staff, and for that I express regret. I have a lot of respect for many individuals within the SFA…”.

What brought about that change of mind isn’t clear. Legal action, or of being reported to his bosses, who could say? Or did the threat of a parcel bomb just focus things a wee bit more?

I should say, I am not making light of what is a serious matter, and particularly dangerous series of events, least of all for the poor buggers collecting and delivering our post. But I’m surprised no one from the cry wolf brigade hasn’t commented on the potential of a conspiracy, given the Royal Mail have been entrusted with the safe passage of these unsafe parcels.

Terrorist officers from Strathclyde Police have conducted searches and enquiries into who is behind these threats, and have focused extensively on Ayrshire – where despite using ultra-modern and groundbreaking profiling techniques, they have been unable to track down the perpetrators as everyone in that area shares the same DNA…

Thursday
And in the wee small hours, Real Madrid return home from Valencia to triumphant scenes where the city celebrates their winning of the Copa del Rey after beating arch-rivals Barcelona 1–0.

Cristiano Ronaldo’s extra-time header gave Jose Mourinho his first trophy as Real Madrid coach. But it was more about what happened on the team coach – or, more accurately, what happened under it – that made this particularly memorable.

It brings back memories of other cup celebrations gone wrong, like the night in 1988 when Dean Richards and John Jeffrey took the Calcutta Cup for a walk down Rose Street.

Of course, Sergio Ramos will be reminded for evermore about dropping that cup off the bus.

But what is the best case of dropsy after a cup final? Steve Morrow, Arsenal’s League Cup goalscoring hero, takes some beating – or rather took a beating.

Friday
Two days to go to the final Old Firm game of the season and Strathclyde Police chief constable Stephen House believes everything from three league points, to the climate and a day off work could brew up mayhem in the west of Scotland.

“It’s a Bank Holiday,” House said, “it is the last meeting of the season – which is crucial for a result – and the weather forecast is hot. That means people will be drunk and they will get injured or raped, assaults go up and so does domestic violence.

“We do not see the clubs as the enemy. We do not blame Celtic or Rangers for the violence. The people who are responsible are those who use knives, fists or whatever other weapons on their fellow human beings.”

And I don’t disagree. I have seen the frightening aftermath of an Old Firm game first hand. But I’ve seen similar scenes throughout the country when there is not a Celtic or Rangers top to be seen.

Not meaning to trivialise in any way the concerns of some, but I do wonder on occasions whether all this reported serious crime is down to the factors the chief constable details, or the fact the same gentleman has vowed to put 1,000 extra officers on the streets.

More cops doing their job usually means more arrests and more frightening statistics. And more calls for more resources for more of the same and more overtime next time.

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Introducing the Utterly Biased View, a column by Stewart Kirkpatrick writing as an individual – not as Editor of the Caledonian Mercury. Any opinions expressed here are not those of the paper – and probably not his either.

(A Hearts fan has written a response to this piece, which you can read here.)

Break open the bubbly and especially the pies. Jim Jefferies has returned to Tynecastle.

The Hearts hero is a footballing legend. He has played a vital part in making Scottish football exciting. Without the new HoMFC manager, many of the key games that bring joy to the heart would not have happened.

I write, of course, as a Hibee.

Strewth, am I glad to see the back of Csaba László. Intelligent, insightful, strong minded and capable of independent thought, he was precisely the kind of manager you do not want your city rivals to have. I haven’t felt this relieved since George Burley got his jotters from Vladimir Romanov.

However, I am very comfortable with Jim Jefferies and not just because he was picked up out of the bargain bucket after being rejected by Killie.

Jim Jefferies is every Hibee’s favourite Jambo for three very good reasons.

He was, lest we forget, captain of the Hearts team that strode out onto their home pitch on 1 January, 1973, innocently unaware they were about to make history. I wonder what went through his mind as the seventh Hibs goal went in? (Interestingly, the Hearts mascot that day was one Darren Jackson.)

I’m not going to pretend I was there. Tynecastle’s capacity must have been close to 500,000 judging by quite how many people claim to have seen the game. And they were all on Sean Connery’s milk round as well…

I was, however, at Easter Road on 22 October, 2000. I had become a father a few days before and when Andy Kirk scored for the Jambos I turned to my mate Mark and said: “I really don’t care how this finishes.” Parenthood had put things into perspective – a perspective that Mika Matti Petteri Paatelainen squashed with a hat trick, accompanied by goals from David Zitelli, John O’Neil and Russell Latapy. I remember the sweetly bitter taste of my Cohiba panatella as we in the East Terracing applauded Hearts’ second goal. The generous cries of “well played” live with me to this day.

Hearts were, of course, managed by Jim Jefferies. I wonder what went through his mind as the sixth Hibs goal went in? (Interestingly, Darren Jackson started the game on the Hearts bench.)

Flash forward to 18 March, 2007, Kilmarnock meet Hibs in the CIS Cup Final at Hampden. Now, Hampden is not a happy hunting ground for Hibees – as one hundred and umpteen years of dismal Scottish Cup failure attest.

As I went through to the game on the HibeesBounce.com bus, I was not optimistic. When Rob Jones scored for us I realised it was just fate being especially cruel and I braced myself for the Killie fightback, which would no doubt be aided by comedy defending.

Hibs' score at CIS Cup finalWhen we were 3-0 up, I allowed myself to relax and dared to think we might hold out for a draw in regulation time. On 77 minutes I thought: “Ah, here it comes,” as Killie scored. But the storm did not strike, instead Abdessalam Benjelloun did.

I only really enjoyed the last few minutes of the game, especially when we scored our last goal and everybody started hugging each other in a Sunshine on Leith version of Woodstock. (If memory serves, there was a very long queue waiting to hug the shapely and utterly hogwhimpering young lady dancing on the seat in front of me.)

Jim Jefferies was, of course, the Kilmarnock manager at the time. I wonder what went through his mind as the fifth Hibs goal went in? (Sadly, Darren Jackson was not involved.)

Now, the prodigal has returned. He has made a promising start: a league defeat and Hearts getting dumped out of the league cup. I know it’s a diddy trophy but it’s a diddy trophy the Yams haven’t won in nearly 50 years.

I don’t know how much power Jim has over picking the backroom staff (or indeed the team) but I’d strongly urge him to hire Darren Jackson as a matter of priority. They’ve done great work together.

(A Hearts fan has written a response to this piece, which you can read here.)