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How Bleak is the Future for Hearts?

Saturday
Sport features Queen’s Birthday Honours list with the most recognisable recipients being former Open winner Paul Lawrie and Red Bull Formula One team principal Christian Horner who each were awarded an OBE.

Clare Balding OBE

Clare Balding OBE

Amongst the others recognised, nine-time women’s world professional darts champion Trina Gulliver was awarded an MBE, as was Linfield’s Noel Bailie having played over 1,000 games for his only club between 1989 and 2011. And let’s not forget broadcaster Clare Balding, now an OBE and former Olympic sprinter Sir Menzies Campbell, made a Companion of Honour.

It wouldn’t though, be an Honours list of any sort without me having some kind of mump about it. But this time I’ll keep it brief. Where was five-times world snooker champion Ronnie O’Sullivan on the list?

Sunday
Having endeared himself to the British public once and for all-time last year with a mixture of tears and gold medals, Andy Murray only enhanced his reputation by first winning the Aegon Championship at Queen’s, then donating the £73,000 top prize to the Royal Marsden hospital where his friend Ross Hutchins had been receiving treatment for Hodgkin’s Lymphoma.

Andy Murray

Andy Murray

And, he also showed that the austere, dour image is only for match day.

Have a look at this. Would he even get this excited winning Wimbledon?

Monday
There are times when a story doesn’t need words, or they might just fail you. As is the case here. Listen and cringe to what Newcastle United fans can expect for the foreseeable future!

Tuesday
The speculation, the kidding, and perhaps even time itself is up for Hearts as they bow to the inevitable and call in the administrators. Well actually, they call in two lots of administrators. While those involved in the day-to-day running of the club want assistance from KPMG, those with a vested interest (and with £35m of debt outstanding) want there own people in, and opt for BDO.

Tynecastle StadiumThat indecision probably sums up the debacle that Hearts has become in recent times, those in Lithuania pulling in one direction, those in Gorgie just being pulled.

Needless to say the magnitude of this story – on the back of what happened at Rangers and Dunfermline – makes this a national story, and I end up speaking to talkSPORT’s Mike Graham on Extra Time at length on the matter, even though we’d been predicting this day for months.

Despite the delight taken by Hearts fans at the misfortune of others, people can only hope they survive, in whatever shape or form it is, and are still able to take their place – 15 point penalty and all – in the top flight next term. Especially if your name is Doncaster. The irony was the rumoured sponsorship deal for the new SPFL involving high street baker Greggs.

Imagine it. Greggs with no Jam Tarts. I know, I’ll get my coat …

Wednesday
Andy Murray could win Wimbledon and Scotland might win at Wembley in August against England. But for a sporting highlight of the year it will take something to beat Scotland Tonight’s preview of Friday evening’s ‘Kelvin Brawl’, when funny man Greg Hemphill of Still Game fame goes head-to-head with fellow comedian, Burnistoun’s very own Robert Florence.

While Hemphill teams up with Scottish wrestler Red Lightning and Florence is paired with Grado for this tag team contest, they came without their ring partners leaving host Rona Dougall to referee the debate. And as she often says, ‘Here’s one last thing’ …

Royal Ascot

Royal Ascot

Thursday
The Queen’s horse Estimate creates history by winning the Gold Cup at Royal Ascot, the first time in the 207-year history of the race that the reigning monarch has been the winning owner. It’s her biggest winner since Willie Carson rode Dunfermline to victory in two classics – The Oaks and St Leger – back in 1977, Silver Jubilee year. Now, if that lengthy wait doesn’t prove horse racing isn’t fixed, I don’t know what does. What’s that rule about double negatives again? …

Friday
Got to give credit to the BBC website for trying, asking the question if Naymar is the most gifted player in the world? That has to be a categorical yes, given the Brazilians displays in the Confederation Cup (coincidentally being shown on the Beeb) – and also coincidentally, features neither Messi or Ronaldo. Ask the question again in around 12 months …

<em>Picture: Justin Kraemer</em>

Picture: Justin Kraemer

By Stewart Weir

Saturday
Winter happens. And some years it happens more than others. Unless you’re reading this from your holiday home in Barbados, or you’ve emigrated to the Antipodes, you might have noticed we’re in the middle of a cold snap which has played chaos with the sporting calendar. Football is particularly badly hit again, the mounting pile-up of snow causing a similar pile-up of fixtures. Still, it has stoked the debate again about winter shut-downs and the likes.

At one time I was all for it, particularly when spending many an arduous hour, sipping freshly squeezed orange juice while watching Rangers train in Florida. A decade ago, Rangers jetted 3,000 miles just as Scotland began to endure a pleasantly mild January.

Since the referees strike in the last weekend of November, only a handful of SPL matches have been played. Pretty much all of December has been wiped out. And there is still no sign of a thaw.

A year ago, snow set in the week before Christmas and the chaos lasted through much of January. Indeed, the “live” clash between St Johnstone and Rangers at the end of February was another victim of the cold. So, without trying, that’s three months where a case could be made for having a break.

In principal, a winter shut-down seems the right and proper thing to do. Unfortunately – and this always has been the biggest barrier – no-one has a clue the best time to have it.

Sunday
Given the environment in which it belongs, the BBC Sports Personality of The Year awards could easily have been tested for steroids given the size that it has grown to. Several years ago, it was a cosy wee show where the nation (although I always had the sneaking suspicion that it was just England who took an interest) would wait to see what hard-luck story had captured the imagination, and was therefore worthy of a trophy.

These days however, SPoTY has turned into an extravaganza, with Sunday’s gathering at the LG Arena in Birmingham played out in front of 12,000 guests.

Tony McCoy won, his Grand National success obviously tugging at sufficient heart-strings for people to register a vote, although what can’t be ignored was the support whipped up (still legal under Jockey Club rules) from within the racing fraternity. In a ten-horse race McCoy gathered 42% of the vote, an amazing statistic and one which might have the Electoral Reform Society using it as a case study.

If SPoTY has changed in size it has also radically amended just where it pulls its “personalities” from. Winner McCoy’s biggest success this year was in the Grand National, covered by the BBC, while third-placed Jessica Ennis has performed mostly in front of licence payers, which also applies to diver Tom Daley (6th).

But Strictly BBC viewers just wouldn’t be familiar with the best of the rest.
But of the rest, runner-up Phil Taylor is only ever seen on ITV or Sky, the latter also being home the majority of the time for Lee Westwood, Graeme McDowall, David Haye and Graeme Swann, while Eurosport would have a stake in Mark Cavendish and slider Amy Williams (although she did take Olympic gold on the BBC.)

Victory for McCoy (who should slip his election agent either a fiver or a few tips for a job well done) will placate followers of the gee-gees who have always claimed those involved with that industry have never got the recognition they’ve deserved, a view I’ve always subscribed to – ever since the year my vote for Red Rum didn’t count!

Monday
Sam Allardyce’s sacking but a week ago from Blackburn hasn’t so much left a void as a complete mess. While Big Sam was shown the door along with assistant Neil McDonald, coach Steve Kean was kept on, something that obviously rankles with Allardyce. Scotsman Kean is obviously well thought of in football, and the new Indian owners at Ewood Park have shown faith in him by installing him as caretaker manager, which appears to have tipped Allardyce over the edge. “If there was anybody capable of looking after the reins when I left, with all due respect to Steve, it would be Neil,” admitted Allardyce, who is still wondering, and angry, as to who has been two-faced in this saga. But better, Sam, to rise above it, keep your dignity, and say nothing – and watch on as the buggers find out the hard way who really knew what they were doing …

Tuesday
I like my darts. I like my cricket. So I was always going to love Sky’s coverage of the PDC World Championship from the Alexandra Palace when Andrew “Freddie’” Flintoff joined Sid Waddell in the commentary box. Classic TV, with Freddie giving it all the chat and delivering some classic “oooone-hundred-and-eighteeeee” calls. The fans loved it and so too did the producers on Sky Sports News, who ran the feature right through Wednesday. Whatever anyone thinks of master showman and impresario Barry Hearn, he and Sky really have turned darts into the most watchable sport on the box.

Wednesday
At a press conference, SFA chief executive Stewart Regan and its president, George Peat, give their first public reaction to the McLeish Review, the former First Minister’s report into the workings of Scottish football. Peat arrives with a toy dinosaur in hand. “A member of staff gave it to me a few years ago,” smiled Peat. “It adorns my office every day, just to remind me.” Of what George?

That the SFA is a prehistoric organisation? Or that you may be plastic? Or that someday you’ll have to ask who plays at Jurassic Park?

Thursday
When your physics master at school weds your music teacher you have to wonder what will come out of that relationship. Possibly someone who can get a tune out of a Periodic Table. But in my case, it was Scotland prop Euan Murray. So having always taken a biological interest in his career it was good to see him signing a two-and-a-half-year contract with Newcastle Falcons. The 30-year-old had been without a club since being released by Northampton, partly because he refused to play on Sunday due to religious beliefs. That problem shouldn’t arise too often with Newcastle as they mostly play on a Friday evening.

Friday
Friday and Christmas Eve. No, not a couple Tommy Sheridan met at Cupid’s. But one may wonder why his lies and fall merits a mention in this article. It is entirely because of his victory speech outside the Court of Session after winning his defamation case against the News of The World.

Back then, Comrade Tommy proclaimed: “Gretna have made it into Europe for the first time in their lives, but what we have done in the last five weeks is the equivalent of Gretna taking on Real Madrid in the Bernabeu and beating them on penalties, that’s what we’ve done.”

It was a very good analogy at the time, but one that was ultimately flawed.
This tie was obviously always going to be played over two legs, home and away, Edinburgh then Glasgow, so less chance of a real upset.

At Gretna, as with Sheridan, honesty was just a veneer. And Gretna paid the price for living their dream when lying to others, and for believing they were bigger than they were and could take on the establishment. And Gretna were sent down and went out of business. But I’ll stop the analogies there.

What I will tell you is that both he and I were columnists together at the Scottish Mirror a few years back. On one particular day he asked to borrow one of my books, How To Get Three In A Bed.
A few weeks later he returned it. “Not what I was expecting,” he said, to which I replied; “I was surprised you wanted to read a book written by Eric Bristow in the first place …”

Tommy left court last night but realised he’d forgotten something. He walked back in to find the cleaning lady bending over while dusting the judge’s chair. “I’m here for my holdall,” to which the wummin replies “d’ye no think yer in enough trouble already Tommy!”‘

Ho, ho, ho and a Merry Christmas …

Rescued Chilean miner Jorge Galleguillos, 55, hugs the country's president Sebastian Piñera. <em>Picture: Chile's Secretaria de Comunicaciones</em>

Rescued Chilean miner Jorge Galleguillos, 55, hugs the country's president Sebastian Piñera. Picture: Chile's Secretaria de Comunicaciones


By Stewart Weir

Saturday
And of the 33 Chilean miners recently released after two months underground, no fewer than 23 of them turn out to be Manchester United fans, turning up for a tour around Old Trafford and the chance to meet Bobby Charlton ahead of the Monday night game against Arsenal. And according to one of my many “sources close to”, during their visit to the UK, one was heard to ask: “What happened to Sebastian Rozental?”

Sunday
John Higgins won’t forget 2010 in a hurry. With his father, John Snr, battling ill health, that would be enough for any son to contend with, never mind one who is a professional sportsman. But May’s revelations about Higgins being implicated in a snooker betting scam rocked his world. Seventy-five thousand pounds lighter in the hippy, and made idle by a six month ban, the Lanarkshire cueist had plenty of time to ponder how he would resurrect his career when his enforced sabbatical was ended. Winning a tournament first time out in Germany, away from the stare of a home audience and TV cameras, is one thing. Being tested under the glare of bright lights and even brighter interrogators back on home soil, Telford to be exact, would always be a much stiffer test. Higgins however, responded brilliantly to take the UK Championship, beating another former world champion Mark Williams 10-9 by reeling off the last five frames of the final. It would have been a performance and a half at any time. Under the circumstances, it was truly remarkable, possibly his best ever. Within a matter of minutes, his Wikipedia profile had been updated, his latest success inserted. How he must wish other parts could be deleted.

Monday
Revolutionary proposals are revealed for a two-tier Scottish Premier League of 10 teams each. And as part of the reconstruction, play-offs would be introduced, the season would start earlier and a winter break would be built in. Revolutionary or what? Of course, this would be a completely different ten-team top league to the one which was introduced as far back as 1975, which contained ten teams. And a different again two-tier set up to the ten-team, two-tier set-up we had a decade ago. The winter break would not resemble in the slightest the winter break we had up until 2001, and as for play-offs, those games between Aberdeen and Dunfermline in ’95, in 1996 between Dundee United and Partick Thistle, and the following year when Hibs beat Airdrie were not the kind of play-offs we’re now contemplating which appear identical. In my lifetime there have been so many revolutions in Scottish football, the timing of the proposal being the only thing different about them …

Tuesday
There is the real world, and then there is the world of Sepp Blatter, where modern ways will never shove aside traditional thinking, no matter how flawed. So having been an integral part of the process which selected Qatar as the venue for the 2022 World Cup, the FIFA president had obviously thought out every eventuality in taking the biggest show on earth to the desert state, which just so happens to be one of 79 countries within the UN to sanction executing homosexuals. Of course, auld Sepp had his answer for that one, namely, that gay football fans should “refrain from sexual activity” while attending the finals. Not surprisingly, he was pilloried for his comments. But then, given that this is the man who struggles with technology being introduced to his members, he was never going to get his head around other people’s members being introduced elsewhere.

Wednesday
Throughout sport there is a sinister spectre lurking in the background. It has many names, but whether it’s irregular patterns, throwing, rigging or fixing, the integrity of sport remains under threat from some less-than scrupulous associates who seek to profit from inside information, or directly influence sporting contests. A matter of hours after Motherwell lose to Hearts, the Association of British Bookmakers reports it is investigating the number of bets placed on the sending off of Motherwell’s Steve Jennings, who having already been booked, was shown a straight red card for foul and abusive language aimed at referee Stevie O’Reilly late in the 2-1 home defeat. Tennis, cricket, boxing and horse racing (and, lest we forget, snooker) have all come under scrutiny in recent times. So too has football. Remember, dating back to the 1960s in England, players were jailed and banned for life for their part in altering the outcome of selected matches. What needs to be realised is that those from the betting industry now work closely with various fraud squad officers around the land. Some would say an equally unhealthy amalgam between bookies who don’t want to be stung and the coppers who justify their departments by how many collars they make. That an innocuous game at Fir Park can suddenly be headline news shows how diligent those trying to cut out corruption (for whatever reason) are. The heat is off Jennings, momentarily at least. He can keep a low profile for a few days given his red card means he is suspended from this weekend’s match. I wonder if that makes my bet on him scoring an own goal between the 81st and 83rd minute void?

Thursday
It was one of those stories which had to be read a few times to be believed. But Heather Mills, the charity fund raiser and ex-wife of Sir Paul McCartney has been offered a place in the development squad of the British disabled ski team for the 2014 Winter Paralympics Games in Sochi, Russia. “Heather is only at the first stage of a journey that we hope will lead to her becoming a full squad member,” said team manager, Dave Chugg. Yes, she is attractive. But apparently that is his surname …

Friday
“A dog isn’t just for Christmas. There should still be some left over for sandwiches on Boxing Day.” So said the text message I received this morning, allegedly (from the sign-off) sent to me by Celtic’s South Korean defender Cha Doo-ri. I found this offensive, as I’d never have one on a sandwich.