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Jamie Mackie

Tom Daley and Max Brick <em>Picture: An Honorable German</em>

Tom Daley and Max Brick Picture: An Honorable German

By Stewart Weir

Saturday
It was the first opportunity Rangers fans had to both show and voice their support for their club, now perilously close to being their former club.

The game against Kilmarnock saw a clamour for tickets last witnessed in the run-up to the UEFA Cup in Manchester back in 2008. And if that event brought out all that was bad in some elements of the Gers support, then so did Saturday’s show of loyalty.

We didn’t have to wait long until the strains of The Billy Boys were echoing around Ibrox, as some were quick to latch on to, revelling with the texts they were sending. Mistakenly, as it was actually visiting supporters belting out “Hello, hello we are the Killie boys”. Still, an easy mistake to make for untrained news hounds to make.

What was in no doubt was the re-emergence of the F-word, directed mostly – if not entirely – at referee Ian Brines. It was as if some elements of the Rangers following had reverted to (the old) type in this time of crisis.

But, as I had tweeted last week, just who do you fine or take points from when your team is skint and has already suffered a points reduction?

It was unsavoury, and unwelcomed. But then, no officers of the law heard it either. Did they?

The F-word has, or maybe had, been successfully banished from Ibrox. Or at least, from amongst Rangers fans. Because as I mentioned before, seeing Celtic followers at the first Old Firm game of term unfurl a banner declaring “Paddy McCourt’s Fenian Army”.

Again, as I’ve stated before, the F-word is like the N-word. No one else can use it, unless you belong to that ethnic grouping, or culture. Probably got that explanation wrong. But that’s easy to do.

Because of having raised this issue on Sunday afternoon on Twitter, I have to say I was hugely enlightened by what “F” meant to different folks. One tweeter said: “Its a historical term for an Irish Republican. If Rangers fans use that to mean ‘catholic’ then they are clueless.” Which, unless I’m mistaken, is the opposite to what certain church leaders have said.

Someone else offered: “I’m proud to be a Fenian. What those idiots don’t know is a lot of great Fenian leaders and men were not catholic.”

Another involved in the debate reckoned there were few 19th-century Irish historians contained in the stands at Ibrox. Which I would agree entirely with, but would say something not dissimilar about Celtic Park.

Another Hoops fan said: “Don’t see what is confusing about it. You know that they are using it in a derogatory manner. We use it in its traditional meaning” – as explained by this contributor who added: “Depends on the context. If a Celtic mate called me a crazy Fenian in a football sense, its banter.”

All of which, I have to say, took most of an afternoon to explain, several times over, and differently on each occasion.

Then, just when you think you’ve heard the last of it, does BBC Sportscene frontman Rob Maclean (the SFA agenda-setter) not get a fearful bashing on Twitter, because of what people believed he had said, rather than what he actually broadcast around referee Brines and that F-word.

What causes most offence to Celtic folk are references to blood, and whatever prefix or suffix some wish to attach to the F-word. And I couldn’t agree more.

Equally, though, the word shouldn’t be used to taunt or goad others, regardless of how justified you might think it is. Scotland doesn’t need the F-word. So why not just ban it once and for all?

Sunday
Boxing lives on hype. It always has. Staged aggro at press conferences is all part of the selling process, but occasionally it goes a wee bit too far. Actually, make that a big bit too far.

Calling the weekend eventful for British boxer Dereck Chisora would be an understatement. It began with him slapping Vitali Klitschko at the weigh-in for Satuday’s heavyweight title fight, earning him a fine from the World Boxing Council.

He then decided to spit water over Vitali’s brother Wladimir, the WBA/IBF/WBO champion, as the introductions were taking place in the ring ahead of his points loss to Vitali.

But what came afterwards was shameful and comedic. The after-fight press conference turned into the real fight of the evening, with Chisora stepping from the platform to confront former world champion David Haye, who had taken the opportunity to noise up the Klitschkos.

Take a look. There were those who believed this was all staged, one big act to sell tickets to Haye vs Klitschko I, Klitschko II or Chisora. Forget that. These two went for it because they hated each other’s presence.

In an instant, Chisora lost all respect he might have gained from going the distance minutes earlier, while Haye might have lost his career, whether as a film performer, a pundit or a pugilist.

It was embarrassing, dangerous and damaging to boxing and its image. But it was nothing new. I remember more than quarter of a century ago it all kicking off when Errol Christie and Mark Kaylor got a little too close at a photoshoot to promote their forthcoming title fight.

They ended rolling about in the street, and made as many headlines in their day as Chisora and Haye did. The British Boxing Board of Control had their say, and their share of the money from the two of them. But back then we didn’t see it four times an hour for a day-and-a-half afterwards.

In 1985 it was done, dusted and dealt with. You’d struggle to find video of it. Something we won’t be saying 25 years from now about Chisora and Haye.

Monday
Scotland coach Craig Levein names his squad for the forthcoming international against Slovenia with some names omitted.

Levein obviously doesn’t fancy Ross McCormack of Leeds United. Sixteen goals this season wasn’t enough to get him a place – and, as he fumed to Ronnie MacKay in the Scottish Sun: “[You have] Craig Mackail-Smith who is not playing for his club, Jamie Mackie is not playing for his club and David Goodwillie is not playing for his club.”

So, they’ll be fresh for Scotland, then …

Another to miss out, again, was Wolves in-form striker (three words that cannot be attached to anyone else who qualifies for Scotland) Steven Fletcher.

One has to admire Levein. He’s sticking to his guns – namely, that until Fletcher says sorry, and tells Levein personally, and first, he won’t be considered.

Just as there is a fine dividing line between genius and madness, so there seems to be little between stubbornness and stupidity.

What will happen next? My betting is that Scotland will need to win their last five games by 4–0 or more to qualify for Brazil, Fletcher will get a recall, fail to score, and then get the blame of Scotland’s non-participation in 2014.

Can I suggest that Fletcher might do it publicly, but in the presence of Levein? Something along these lines I think would greatly impress everyone.

Tuesday
Rangers owner Craig Whyte has been called many things of late. A hearing in London described him as “thoroughly unfit”, while a court in Glasgow referred to him as “wholly unreliable”.

Today, he could have been branded as “slightly forgetful”, “bewilderingly clumsy” or even “abundantly absent-minded”.

See, after denying he had mortgaged off Rangers’ season ticket money to fund his takeover at Ibrox, Mr Whyte suddenly remembered he had profited to the tune of £20 million plus VAT for three years’ worth of tickets, and not £24.4 million over four years as had been reported weeks earlier by the Daily Record.

Obviously, Mr Whyte had been completely thrown by the Record’s figures and increments of time. In his prepared statement, Whyte said regretted not being “more transparent”.

Not actually the case. Because quite a few have seen right through Mr Whyte from the off.

Wednesday
In other news, the diving World Cup is taking place at the London Aquatic Centre, the warm-up (or hose-down) event ahead of this summer’s Olympics.

While Tom Daley is in action, I’m surprised at the non-appearance of Sone Aluko and Garry O’Connor

Thursday
And administration at Rangers claims its first big-named casualties as director of football Gordon Smith and chief operating officer Ali Russell depart.

While Russell only spoke of his chance to serve the club, Smith launched a broadside at the “owner”, stating: “I was brought in by Craig Whyte but because his control and reputation has been damaged by recent disclosures, I feel my own position has been undermined by association”. Damning, if you ask me.

But spare a thought for Australian internationalist Matt McKay. Because while Smith and Russell were reportedly the “first big-name casualties”, Rangers had already agreed a fee with South Korean club Busan I’Park for McKay.

While he hasn’t departed yet, it tells you something of the impact McKay failed to make when the COO’s departure make more headlines than that of a first-team squad player …

Friday
Leaving Ibrox around the same time was a dossier, on its way to Strathclyde Police, containing the findings of administrators Duff & Phelps.

Forced into administration, Rangers have a “wee” tax bill approaching £15m, a “big one” which could be anything up to £75m, and no trace of the £33 million that Craig Whyte says he put into the club’s coffers.

Add up all those figures – and what is owed to other clubs, or what has been hawked off to outside agencies – and you’d need a record-busting EuroMillions win to cover Rangers’ debt.

Although you need two quid to buy one of those tickets …

Tweet Stewart Weir with thoughts and comments, @sweirz

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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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By Stewart Weir

Saturday
Few players over the years have galvanised opinion quite like El-Hadji Diouf. In these parts, while visiting as a Liverpool players, he endeared himself to the Celtic support by gobbing on one fan who had playfully patted him on the head. For that he was fined £5,000. And Spit the Diouf (who really should be introduced to Bob Carolgees) was at it again a few years later when he spat at an 11-year-old Middlesbrough fan. Must make you something of a hardman in Senegal.

This weekend though, if it were possible, Diouf stooped even lower after QPR striker Jamie Mackie suffered a broken leg in a challenge with Blackburn defender Gael Givet. Diouf, it is alleged, abused Mackie as he lay on the pitch.

Of course Diouf denies it.

But you have to think that something must have been said to rile the QPR players and management to that extent. QPR defender Bradley Orr and goalkeeper Paddy Kenny posted comments on Twitter, Orr suggesting; “Never come across a more repulsive human being than E-H Diouf!” adding “The things he was saying were disgusting! The lad has just broken his leg! You horrible disgusting man E-H Diouf! Your time will come!” Kenny waded in with: “So gutted for the boy Mackie, football can be horrible sometimes, and that **** Diouf will get it one day, what goes around comes around.”

Mackie’s fingers still worked, enabling him to Tweet; “Proper disappointed that e diouf was in my ear while I’m on the deck with a broken leg.”

QPR youth coach Marc Bircham called him a “scumbag” while their boss, Neil Warnock, called Diouf “a sewer rat.” Even this early in to 2011, El-Hadji Diouf is off a few Christmas card lists …

Sunday
Not so much the king is dead as the King is back. Twenty-four hours after Roy Hodgson departs Anfield, Liverpool re-instate Kenny Dalglish. And all is well in the world with Liverpudlians, Scousers and Kopites – if you ignore their team. Within half-an-hour of being back on the bench, Dalglish finds out just exactly what he’s let himself in for as a penalty in the first minute and a red card for his captain end Liverpool’s FA Cup challenge against Manchester United.

If that was bad, Wednesday must have been a whole lot worse as Blackpool completed a league double over their coastal rivals. Many questions directed at Dalglish between those matches centred around how he would cope with managerial life a decade after he had last fulfilled that role. He intimated he had mellowed, and their was the jovial quip about Ryan Babel not being capable of mocking up the picture (of referee Howard Webb in a Man U kit) that landed him in hot water with the FA. And oh how the journalists laughed. I wonder if they’ll be so jolly if, or when, Kenny goes in the huff, and they end up having a press conference a city centre pub you wouldn’t frequent other than by accident …

Monday
Rangers beat Kilmarnock 3-0 in the Scottish Cup. Nothing out of the ordinary there. Not so with the attendance in that game. A stinking, if not stupid night for a game, coupled with live TV and a refusal from Kilmarnock to reduce the ticket prices, meant just 13,215 visited Ibrox, the lowest crowd there in 25 years. And if the years have hurried past, that makes it pre-Souness! There is a time and a place for live football. But shifting a match to a Monday just for TV is typical of the way regular fans are being abused. Overkill is killing interest in the game.

Tuesday
FIFA’s Ballon d’Or Puskas Award – the very wordy title for their Goal of the Year – was won by Bayern Munich midfielder Hamit Altintop for his volley while playing for Turkey. It was a great strike and polled more than 40% of the online vote, beating by a distance the likes of Giovanni Van Bronkhorst, Lionel Messi, Samir Nasri and Arjen Robben. But I bet you there’s another one, or two, or several, just like that one over the coming year. I doubt however if you’ll see another quite like the incredible back-heeled volley netted by Glentoran’s Matty Burrows (see below). The only reason I can think he didn’t win was that many would have considered it a freak or fluke goal. But he meant it all right.

Wednesday
Back on the subject of overkill, Manchester United’s FA Cup fourth-round clash with Southampton has been selected for live television coverage by ITV.

No surprise there in what was something of a mediocre draw. And no shock either than Fergie and his lads are again live and exclusive somewhere. Indeed, the shock would have been all the greater had the Old Trafford giants not been alive and kicking in the FA Cup. For believe it or not, Manchester United’s visit to the south coast will see them play their thirtieth – that’s 30 for those who wish confirmation – successive live FA Cup dating back to their 0-0 draw with Exeter in January 2005.

Like Barnum & Bailey coming to town, everyone turns out to see them, so TV executives have less chance of embarrassing gaps in the stands, as there were at Ibrox on Monday. And if they happen to be the hosts, Old Trafford is always full all of the time. And for those reasons, here’s to Sir Alex chalking up yet another record.

Thursday
More bullets in the post for Celtic personnel, with Paddy McCourt the target for a few rounds, just like team-mate Niall McGinn and manager Neil Lennon. It brings in to sharp focus just how many eejits there are still out there who would target individuals just because of where they came from and who they play or work for..

Friday
Browsing on my mobile. I spot a line online somewhere connecting Kris Boyd, the once-prolific former Rangers striker and now out-of-favour with Middlesbrough, with Turkey. I am not sure whether this was in relation to a move there, or how those in England view him …